Mississippi State tops Louisville in TaxSlayer Bowl

Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson might have played his final game in college football, and while etched his name into the record books in a few more spots, the TaxSlayer Bowl was not the finest performance from the 2016 Heisman Trophy victor and 2017 Heisman Trophy finalist.

Freshman quarterback Keytaon Thompson, made his first start in place of injured Nick Fitzgerald, rushing for 147 yards and three touchdowns.

The Bulldogs' defense intercepted 2016 Heisman Trophy victor Lamar Jackson four times - three by MVP Mark McLaurin - and sacked him six times.

Jackson had the Cardinals (8-5) on the move late, but safety Mark McLaurin intercepted his third pass of the game.

With the game tied 17-17, Thompson telegraphed an interception to Louisville's Chucky Williams on the Bulldogs' 32 to set up a go-ahead touchdown for the Cardinals. He racked up 111 rushing yards in the first half.

Louisville is entering the TaxSlayer Bowl down two defensive standouts, as cornerback Jaire Alexander and defensive lineman James Hearns have elected to skip the bowl to prepare for the NFL Draft.

Jackson ran 24 times for 158 yards and a touchdown, breaking the TaxSlayer Bowl record for most rushing yards by a quarterback. Players doused Knox, who many expect to join Mullen in Gainesville, and danced shirtless in the end zone.

Louisville answered with a 13-play, 61-yard drive that stalled in the red zone.

Meanwhile, Jackson likely ended a memorable college career with a uncharacteristically sloppy performance filled with plenty of brilliant moments. Jackson has yet to declare for the National Football League draft, but most outsiders believe the dynamic junior will turn pro.

On Saturday, the Pompano Beach native joined Tim Tebow and Colin Kaepernick as the only quarterbacks at the FBS level to rush for 50 touchdowns.

"It sucks not playing, but I'm going to try and help anyway I can", said Fitzgerald. They had an interim coaching staff and were without their star quarterback, but yet it was Mississippi State that looked like the more composed team in the bowl game.

"We knew that's what he did best", Knox said.

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