Rapid Reaction: SEC suffers first loss, as Louisville defeats Mississippi State in Music City Bowl
Mississippi State’s season ended with a dud Monday in the Music City Bowl. The Louisville Cardinals beat the Bulldogs 38-28.
MSU jumped out to a 14-0 lead and had momentum, but it was all Louisville after that. The Cardinals scored 31 straight points to eventually win.
Cardinals quarterback Micale Cunningham finished 16-of-23 for 279 yards and two touchdowns. Louisville also found production outside of it’s normal offense, as it scored touchdowns on a wide receiver pass and a fumble return on defense.
Here are five MSU takeaways following the Music City Bowl:
1. Lack of momentum: Mississippi State made the decision to bring Joe Moorhead back after a 6-6 regular season, as the Ole Miss “Piss” likely saved his job. However, as you look around the SEC, the Bulldogs may have the least momentum of any program not named Vanderbilt. MSU’s recruiting class is ranked in the top 25, but the program feels like it’s treading water. The program as a whole was in really great shape after Dan Mullen left, but Moorhead’s tenure has been disappointing so far.
2. Willie Gay played well: The Bulldogs linebacker seemed to be everywhere on the field. On Louisville’s first drive, Gay caused a fumble as the Cardinals looked like they were going in for the touchdown. The linebacker punched the ball out from behind, and MSU recovered it on the one-yard-line. MSU scored on the ensuing position and seized momentum. Gay made several other key tackles throughout the game, too.
3. Unfortunate ending for Kylin Hill: The SEC’s leading rusher was very limited due to an ankle injury suffered early in the game. For the most part, Hill was used as a decoy, but when he did get a few carries, he was non-impactful. Coming into the game, Hill needed 45 rushing yards to break the single-season school rushing record. Unfortunately, he didn’t get the record, as he rushed for just three yards on seven carries. However, his decision to actually play in the bowl game and not sit out ahead of the NFL Draft like others is admirable. Hill finished 2019 with 1,350 yards rushing and 2,477 rushing yards for his career.
4. Bob Shoop’s defense made two costly mistakes: Two of Louisville’s touchdowns came on busted plays by the secondary. First, receiver Tutu Atwell hit receiver Marshon Ford for a 33-yard touchdown on a trick play. The Bulldogs’ secondary was fooled and left Ford quarantined. On the second touchdown, quarterback Micale Cunningham hit receiver Devante Peete for a 24-yard touchdown right at the pylon. Peete was also left wide open for an easy score.
5. Offensive letdown: Garrett Shrader is the future for MSU at quarterback, and his absence had implications. Tommy Stevens struggled for most of the game. He finished 17-of-25 for 221 yards, two touchdowns and a costly fumble that resulted in a Louisville touchdown return. Most of his passing yardage came in the second half. MSU’s offensive line was porous, and the receivers didn’t give him much help.