by CFP Staff
December 22, 2010
Charlie Strong became a bowl winner in his first season as head coach at Louisville when the Cardinals edged Southern Miss 31-28 in a battle of former Conference USA rivals.
In the regular season, the Golden Eagles scored at least 40 points in seven of their final eight games and put at least 50 points on the board in each of their final two games. This game began as though they would manage that feat again when the Cardinals spotted the Golden Eagles a 14-0 lead. However, Louisville regrouped and outscored Southern Miss 31-14 over the last three quarters.
Southern Miss QB Austin Davis threw his 52nd and 53rd career TD passes to break the previous school record of 52 set by Brett Favre and Lee Roberts. Davis also had a touchdown catch in the 2nd quarter that put the Golden Eagles up 21-7.
A 21-21 halftime tie wasn't broken until early in the 4th quarter when Southern Miss retook the lead on Zeke Walters' 8-yard pass from Davis. But that lead lasted all of 15 seconds as Jeremy Wright returned the ensuing kickoff 95 yards to knot the score at 28-apiece.
Chris Philpott's 36-yard field goal with 6:30 remaining ultimately became the game-winning points amid some controversy. Earlier in the drive, an apparent Louisville fumble was ruled otherwise even after the play was reviewed.
Big East teams have won all 3 Beef 'O' Brady's Bowls (formerly called the St. Petersburg Bowl) ever played. CUSA teams are 0-3. This is, by far, the closest a CUSA team has come to winning the game. Rutgers drubbed UCF 45-24 last year and USF clobbered Memphis 41-14 in the inaugural game in 2008.
Louisville continues to trail the series with Southern Miss 10-18-1, but has now claimed the last five contests.
The 'Ville improved to 7-7-1 in its bowl game history while Southern Miss slipped to 9-12.
The Cards improved from 4-8 a year ago to 7-6 overall this season and 3-4 in the Big East. The bowl appearance was Louisville's first since its 2006 season Orange Bowl win over Wake Forest.
Louisville's one-year improvement was largely made possible by a stingy defense which allowed 18 points per game in the regular season and posted shutouts against Memphis and Fiesta Bowl-bound UConn. But Louisville flipped the tables in this one as the defense allowed the 3rd-highest point total of their season and the offense made up for it by posting its fourth-highest point total of the year.
CollegeFootballPoll.com's preseason forecast, based on the Congrove Computer Rankings, had tabbed Louisville to finish 2-10, but nailed Southern Miss' 8-4 regular season record. It projected the Golden Eagles as a 1.28-point pick in this game.