Louisville’s bowl game did not go as planned for Lamar Jackson.
In what many believe will be his final collegiate game, Jackson, the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner, threw a career-worst four interceptions in a 31-27 loss to Mississippi State in the TaxSlayer Bowl. Three of those interceptions were made by MSU’s Mark McLaurin, including one in the game’s final minutes when the Cardinals had a chance to go ahead.
The Bulldogs, playing with an interim head coach and backup quarterback Keytaon Thompson (in his first career start), took a 31-27 lead on a one-yard touchdown run by Thompson, his third of the game. But Jackson and the Cardinals still had plenty of time and regained possession with 3:39 to play.
Louisville quickly moved the ball to midfield, but McLaurin stepped in front of a slant pattern for his third takeaway of the game. The Cardinals got one more shot on offense after MSU turned it over on downs at the Louisville 28, but Jackson was sacked twice and his last gasp Hail Mary pass was broken up, sealing the victory for Mississippi State.
Jackson joined elite company in the game, but it was far from his best performance. He became the third player in FBS history, joining Tim Tebow and Colin Kaepernick, to throw 50 touchdown passes and rush for 50 scores in his career when he scored on a nifty 13-yard score in the second quarter.
He also rattled off a 75-yard run and threw his second touchdown pass of the game late in the second quarter to give his team a 21-17 lead at halftime.
Just your casual 75-yard gain on a QB draw by Lamar Jackson pic.twitter.com/QCSBjEF4XO
— Dr. Saturday (@YahooDrSaturday) December 30, 2017
The second half was a different story.
Thanks to a pair of MSU turnovers, Louisville started its first three drives of the third quarter from the Mississippi State 20, its own 45 and the MSU 32 but could muster only three points. That field goal increased Louisville’s lead to 24-17, but those missed opportunities proved costly for UL.
McLaurin registered his second interception of the game on Louisville’s next drive on a pass that went off a Louisville receiver’s hands. Four plays later, Thompson, who rushed for 147 yards, tied the score at 24-24 with a two-yard touchdown.
Louisville went back ahead with another field goal on its next drive, but couldn’t stop Thompson and the Bulldogs offense. The Bulldogs went 65 yards on 11 plays and went ahead 31-27 with 3:39 to play.
It proved to be the winning score, dropping the Cardinals to 8-5 on the year. On the other side, Mississippi State finishes the season at 9-4 with Joe Moorhead ready to take over the program as head coach.
But the bigger story is Jackson.
Jackson hasn’t made his NFL decision as of yet. If he does decide to go pro, his 13-of-31 passing performance will certainly be scrutinized inside and out. Jackson has done so many remarkable things in his career that it would be unfair to single out this game, especially when you consider the improvements he made as a passer from his Heisman-winning sophomore season to this season.
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