JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (WTVA/MSU Athletics) - Closing out the 2017 season, Mississippi State (9-4, 4-4 SEC) defeated Louisville (8-5, 4-4 ACC) 31-27 in the TaxSlayer Bowl Saturday at EverBank Field. Coached by an interim staff led by Greg Knox, the Bulldogs put on an impressive display in all facets of the game, highlighted by big plays on each side of the ball.
With the win, the Bulldogs registered their third-consecutive bowl triumph while also improving to 13-8 all-time in bowl games. The Cardinals fell to 11-11 in bowl appearances.
With junior quarterback Nick Fitzgerald out with an ankle injury, true freshman Keytaon Thompson made his first-ever start at quarterback and put on a record-breaking performance in the win. Thompson finished 11-of-20 passing for 127 yards and one interception, while also rushing 27 times for 147 yards and three touchdowns. Ultimately, MSU racked up 404 yards of offense behind Thompson's leadership.
Junior safety Mark McLaurin was named the TaxSlayer Bowl MVP after recording three interceptions on the day, contributing to four total picks the Bulldogs had in the game. MSU also recorded six pass break-ups and six sacks, capping a strong day by the defense.
UL led 21-17 at halftime and 24-17 through three quarters, but State rallied to outscore Louisville 14-3 in the final period on the strength of two of Thompson's three rushing touchdowns as well as two of McLaurin's three interceptions.
Mississippi State will begin its 2018 season under first-year head coach Joe Moorhead with spring practice in March. The Bulldogs open the 2018 campaign Sept. 1, hosting Stephen F. Austin at Davis Wade Stadium.