Story By: Erin Zollars
Photos By: Sol Tucker
When you look at these season that Mississippi State has had this season, it looked like the ending of the Tax Slayer Bowl in Jacksonville would be anything but the Bulldogs hoisting the trophy. A rookie quarterback and interim coach… well, yes, that was the scenario that unfolded today at Everbank Field with the Bulldogs putting together a season ending high note for the 24th ranked Bulldogs.
“We knew that’s what he did best,” Bulldogs Head Coach Greg Knox said. “If you go back and look at Mississippi State over the year, when Nick Fitzgerald ran the ball for a hundred yards, we were winning games. So we knew he had to run the ball today.
“We didn’t care if he was a freshman. We didn’t care if he was starting his first game. We knew we could scheme some things up for him to run the ball, and he could have success.”
Thompson, a highly touted freshman making his first start in place of injured quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, ran for 147 yards and three touchdowns.
The Bulldogs scored twice in the fourth quarter, two by Thompson, including a 1-yard plunge with 3:39 remaining that put the Bulldogs (9-4) ahead for good.
Louisville had several opportunities in the fourth quarter to put points up on the board, but failed in the red zone and did not look as dominating as they did in the first half of the game.
Lamar Jackson ran 24 times for 158 yards and a touchdown, breaking the TaxSlayer Bowl record for most rushing yards by a quarterback. West Virginia’s Pat White set the previous mark with 145 yards in 2007. He also broke his own school records for rushing yards and yards from scrimmage.
For Louisville, could this have been Jackson’s last game under center? While he has not declared for the NFL draft, most people have predicted that he will be leaving after this season and could declare in the next few weeks for the draft.
“I’d love to see him come back, there’s no question about that,” Louisville coach Bobby Petrino said. “He really needs to understand where his draft status is, what the finances are that go with that. Him and his mom, we’ll get people around him to help him make the decision.