For a year that was supposed to be a little bit more of a rebuild, Louisville (8-5) certainly feels good with how the season ended. The Cardinals finished off the first season under head coach Scott Satterfield with a 38-28 victory over Mississippi State (6-7) of the SEC Monday afternoon in the Music City Bowl.
Louisville went on a run of 31 striaght points to turn a double-digit deficit into a double-digit lead early in the fourth quarter before the Bulldogs could put another score on the board. Micale Cunningham passed for 279 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 81 yards on the ground. Javian Hawkins rushed for a game-high 100 yards for the Cardinals.
Mississippi State running back Kylin Hill got banged up early in the game, needing a cart to be taken off the field for further evaluation. The good news for Mississippi State was Hill returned to the game. The bad news is Louisville never allowed Hill to be a factor. Hill rushed for just three yards on seven rushing attempts. Bulldogs quarterback Tommy Stevens had some rough moments, including a fumble that was returned for a touchdown by Louisville’s Khane Pass to give Louisville a 24-14 lead in the third quarter.
It can sometimes be too easy to react dramatically to what transpires in a bowl game, but Louisville did show some signs of a program that is poised to take a step forward in 2020. The defense took control of Mississippi State after a tough start to the game (Mississippi State led 14-0 and had a 99-yard touchdown drive following a Louisville turnover). We’re not about to throw Louisville into the category of teams that could challenge Clemson for the ACC Atlantic Division just yet, but the Cardinals could potentially be the second-best team in the division next season.
Louisville opens the 2020 season with an ACC game, although the ACC schedule has yet to be confirmed for next season. The Cardinals will host Murray State on sept. 19, Western Kentucky on Sept. 26, and Kentucky on Nov. 28. Louisville also makes a road trip to Notre Dame on Nov. 21 to complete the non-conference schedule.
Mississippi State’s 2020 season will begin at home on Sept. 5 against New Mexico.
Mississippi State took a 14-0 lead on Lousiville in the Music City Bowl but the Cardinals have scored 10 striaght to cut into the lead before halftime. After 30 minutes, Mississippi State leads Louisville 14-10. The big news for Mississippi State may be the status of running back Kylin Hill.
Hill was carted off the field early in the game but he did return to the game for the Bulldogs. Louisville has cracked down on the dynamic back though, limiting Hill to a loss of 10 yards on three rushing attempts.
Mississippi State quarterback Tommy Stevens has passed for just 44 yards on four completions but has led the running game with 64 yards and a touchdown. Mississippi State’s offense hasn’t had much to show for it after a 99-yard touchdown drive following a Louisville turnover early in the game. The Bulldogs have just 157 yards of total offense, 99 of which came on one possession.
Mississippi State just improved the depth at the quarterback position. Keytaon Thompson has decided not to explore his transfer options any further and will remain with the Mississippi State program, head coach Joe Moorhead announced on Monday.
Thompson has already returned to Mississippi State football practices and has been slotted as the second-string quarterback behind starter Tommy Stevens (who transferred to the program from Penn State to reunite with his former offensive coordinator, Moorhead). Thompson explored his transfer options by entering his name in the NCAA transfer portal one day after Stevens had been named the starting quarterback for the Bulldogs by Moorhead. Such a move by a quarterback not being named the starter has been a common occurrence over the past year, and a handful of transfer quarterbacks have gotten off to stellar starts this season (Justin Fields at Ohio State, Jalen Hurts at Oklahoma, and Jacob Eason at Washington to name a few).
Thompson’s decision to stay at Mississippi State is a nice boost for Moorhead. Thompson is a former four-star recruit from the New Orleans area and he likely would have had some worthwhile options to explore if he wanted. Among those options likely could have been Florida, where former Mississippi State Dan Mullen and a number of former Mississippi State staff members who were involved in his original recruiting now reside. But with Thompson deciding to stay in Starkville, at least for now, gives Moorhead another player with the potential to rely on in the offense. And given Moorhead’s past as an offensive coordinator at Penn State in finding ways to utilize Stevens when he had Trace McSorley locked in as a starting quarterback, perhaps the head coach will find some ways to get Thompson involved in the offense as the season continues.
The instant Tommy Stevens entered his name in the NCAA transfer portal, a possible reunion with Mississippi State head coach Joe Moorhead felt somewhat obvious. Now, according to a report, Stevens could be one step closer to joining the Bulldogs.
Stevens, who is transferring from Penn State and is officially in the transfer portal, reportedly has scheduled three official visits for the next week. As reported by 247 Sports, the visits will begin with Miami Ohio this weekend and continue with a trip to Illinois at the beginning of next week. Mississippi Strate will get the last chance to make a sales pitch next Thursday.
Stevens previously played under Moorehead when the Bulldogs head coach was the offensive coordinator at Penn State. While Stevens was not a starter for the Nittany Lions, Moorhead found ways to get the athletically gifted athlete involved in the offense as a receiver, runner or passer. Penn State scaled back how much they tried getting Stevens involved last season.
Stevens will be eligible to play right away this season wherever he ends up going.
The most likely successor to Trace McSorley at Penn State could be looking to play ball elsewhere this fall. Tommy Stevens, who had been assumed to be the next starting quarterback for Penn State by many this offseason, has reportedly entered his name into the NCAA transfer portal.
Aaron Wilson of The Houston Chronicle was the first to report news of Stevens entering the transfer portal, via Twitter. The Centre Daily Times followed up with a confirmed report.
By adding his name to the transfer portal, Stevens can now make official contact with any other football program looking to add a quarterback to their roster. While this does not necessarily rule out a return to the Nittany Lions in the fall, it seems that most players entering the transfer portal tend to take their game elsewhere when all is said and done. A number of Penn State players have taken advantage of the transfer portal this season, although Penn State has seen players withdraw their name from the portal as well to remain in Happy Valley. We’ll see what the future holds for Stevens.
Stevens backed up McSorley as Penn State’s quarterback the last couple of seasons. Penn State used Stevens in a variety of ways in the offense at times too by sending him out as a receiver at times the last two seasons. Stevens rushed for 118 yards and two touchdowns and passed for 110 yards with a touchdown and an interception last fall. He added just two receptions for two yards after catching 12 passes for 60 yards and two touchdowns in 2017.
As a graduating senior, Stevens will have immediate eligibility in 2019, and he could potentially star at a number of programs in need of a boost at quarterback.
If Stevens is on the move, that likely leads Penn State to put the keys to the offense in the hands of Sean Clifford, who James Franklin suggested would continue to battle for the starting job with Stevens leading up to the start of the 2019 season. That competition would likely be over if Stevens leaves Penn State for another playing opportunity.