Micale Cunningham threw for 279 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 81 more, and Louisville capped coach Scott Satterfield’s debut season by beating Mississippi State 38-28 Monday in the Music City Bowl.
The Cardinals (8-5) rallied from a 14-point deficit by scoring 31 straight to finish their big turnaround from 2-10 last season. Louisville also finally beat Mississippi State on the field for the first time in six tries, though the series now is tied 3-3 thanks to a pair of forfeits by the Bulldogs in the 1970s.
Mississippi State (6-7) had been trying to finish the season with a three-game winning streak for the first time since 2013 and only the third time since the end of World War II. Instead, the Bulldogs go home having lost a bowl game in each of coach Joe Moorhead’s two seasons.
The Cardinals had four sacks and recovered two fumbles, one returned 31 yards for a TD by safety Khane Pass.
Javian Hawkins led Louisville with 105 yards rushing, and he ran for a TD late. The Cardinals outgained Mississippi State 510-366.
Louisville was poised to take control on its opening drive, going from the Cardinals 3 down the field. Cunningham hit Dez Fitzpatrick on a 19-yard pass only to be stripped of the ball by linebacker Willie Gay Jr., with linebacker Tim Washington recovering for the Bulldogs just short of the end zone.
Tommy Stevens led Mississippi State on a 99-yard drive, and he put the Bulldogs up 7-0 with a 3-yard TD run. Mississippi State added an 80-yard drive and went up 14-0 on a 3-yard TD run by Nick Gibson with 10:19 left in the second quarter.
Louisville finally got on the board with a bit of trickery. Micale Cunningham lateraled left to wide receiver Tutu Atwell, who threw back across the field to a wide-open Marshon Ford, who then ran in for a 33-yard TD midway through the second. Ryan Chalifoux added a 31-yard field goal as the first half expired to pull Louisville within 14-10.
Cunningham put Louisville ahead to stay with a 24-yard TD pass to Devante Peete with 5:01 left in the third. Pass scored when he recovered the ball after Gary McCrae chopped it out of Stevens’ arms. Cunningham added an 8-yard TD pass to Ford early in the fourth for a 31-14 lead.