After a remarkable turnaround with a new coach, the Louisville Cardinals are set to make their second appearance in the Music City Bowl on Monday.
The offense built by first-year head coach Scott Satterfield just might be capable of duplicating the MVP-winning performance of star quarterback Lamar Jackson from four years ago.
Louisville (7-5) and its explosive attack will make the 170-mile trek south to Nashville, Tenn., for the 22nd Music City Bowl, where they will face the Mississippi State Bulldogs (6-6).
Satterfield, the former coach at Appalachian State, earned ACC Coach of the Year honors by turning around a program that went 2-10 last season. The Cardinals went 5-3 in the ACC and finished second in the Atlantic Division behind league champ Clemson.
“It’s really incredible what we’ve been able to accomplish this year,” said Satterfield, who is 3-0 in bowl games. “To be able to win seven is incredible.”
While Louisville doesn’t have any questions about its offense, Mississippi State had to change course at quarterback, putting Tommy Stevens back as the starter when it practiced in Nashville for the first time on Thursday.
Coach Joe Moorhead had announced Garrett Shrader as the starter last week, but the school confirmed that the true freshman was out because of an injury. Shrader started four games — including the regular-season finale against Ole Miss — and came off the bench several times for Stevens, who started the other eight games.
Shrader suffered an eye injury in practice last week during a post-practice scuffle with a defensive teammate, according to 247Sports. Moorhead last week said Shrader had “earned the right to be the starter.”
Stevens has completed 80 of 135 passes for 934 yards, nine touchdowns and five interceptions. Schrader was 88 of 153 for 1,170 yards, eight touchdowns and five picks.
Louisville moves forward with sophomore Micale Cunningham at the helm. He has passed for 1,782 yards and 20 touchdowns in 11 games, also rushing for 401 yards and six scores.
Javian Hawkins anchors the running game with 1,420 yards and eight touchdowns. The 5-foot-9, 182-pound redshirt freshman is averaging 118.3 yards per game — seventh-best in the nation — with a season-best of 233 against Syracuse.
Speedy sophomore receiver Chatarius “Tutu” Atwell has caught 60 passes for 1,125 yards and 12 scores for an offense that averages 32.7 points per game.
In its most point-productive game this season, Louisville scored 31 points in both halves on the road and held off No. 19 Wake Forest on Oct. 12, beating the Demon Deacons 62-59 in the second-highest-scoring game in ACC history.
“I think this is going to be a very physical football game,” Moorhead said. “They pride themselves on running the ball as do we. We need to stop the run and run it well.”
Louisville is 10-11-1 in bowl games and has reached the postseason in nine of the past 10 seasons. Back in the 2015 Music City Bowl, Jackson led Louisville to a 27-21 win over Texas A&M. The then-true freshman accounted for 453 yards of total offense and four touchdowns.
The Bulldogs have also made one Music City Bowl appearance, winning the 2011 contest 23-17 over Wake Forest.
Mississippi State junior cornerback Cameron Dantzler will forego the bowl game and focus on the NFL draft, and senior safety Brian Cole II has opted to skip the Music City bowl, too.
Junior running back Kylin Hill has announced he will enter the NFL draft, but added he will play in Nashville. He tops the SEC in rushing with 1,347 yards on 235 carries (5.7) with 10 touchdowns.
–Field Level Media