NCF Nation: 2010 St. Petersburg Bowl analysis

Instant analysis: Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl

December, 21, 2010
Instant analysis of the Beef 'O'Brady's Bowl, which Louisville won 31-28 over Southern Miss:

How the game was won: The Cardinals came out flat early and nearly got knocked out by Southern Miss while falling behind 14-0. But in its first bowl game since the 2007 Orange Bowl, Louisville wouldn't quit. Despite getting outgained in total yardage, Charlie Strong's team kept chipping away until taking its first lead with 4:24 left on a Chris Philpott field goal. Special teams were big, as Louisville blocked a field goal and returned a kick for a touchdown.

Turning point: Southern Miss took a 28-21 lead on the first snap of the fourth quarter, and the Cardinals hadn't even managed a first down in the second half to that point. But redshirt freshman Jeremy Wright returned the kickoff 95 yards for a score, and the momentum shifted in a big way.

Stat of the game: Louisville outgained the Golden Eagles 103 yards to 10 in the fourth quarter until Southern Miss' final desperation play from its own 2.

Player of the game: Louisville cornerback Johnny Patrick. The senior got burned for a touchdown early on, but after that he played an outstanding game. He blocked the Southern Miss field goal try, forced a fumble and had several pass breakups.

Best call: Strong gambled and went for it on fourth down and inches in overtime against South Florida late in the season, and the Cardinals lost that game. He resisted the urge on fourth and 1 from the Southern Miss 18, instead opting for the field goal that won the game.

What it means: Louisville finishes with a winning record in Strong's first year by improving to 7-6. Not many people would have predicted that outcome. It should be the start of something big for the Cardinals, who already secured a major recruiting coup while in Florida. Mostly, it was a reward for the 26 seniors who toughed it out through the Steve Kragthorpe era and found some success at the end of their careers.

Louisville beat Southern Miss 31-28 in the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Tuesday night. Here is a quick instant analysis:

How the game was won: Louisville was better on special teams, plain and simple. Southern Miss made too many mistakes that ended up costing it the game. Danny Hrapmann, a finalist for the Lou Groza Award, had a 29-yard field goal blocked in the third quarter. Then after Southern Miss took a 28-21 lead early in the fourth quarter, Louisville returner Jeremy Wright took the ensuing kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown to tie the game. Southern Miss also had a bad snap on a punt early in the game, but Louisville did not take advantage of the miscue.

Southern Miss also had one other critical error: Johdrick Morris fumbled late in the second quarter following a reception, and Louisville ended up scoring a touchdown off that mistake, too, to tie the game. Each time Southern Miss took a lead in this game, Louisville found a way to come back. The Golden Eagles had leads of 14-0 and 21-7 but could not control the outcome.

Turning point: With the score tied at 28, Louisville got a much-needed break. Bilal Powell appeared to have fumbled at his own 20-yard line, but the ruling on the field was no fumble. Video replays showed his knee never touched the ground, but the no fumble call was upheld on review. Louisville ended up driving for a 36-yard field goal from Chris Philpott to go up 31-28. For those wondering, Sun Belt officials worked the game.

Player of the game: Louisville cornerback Johnny Patrick. He was all over the place, with a forced fumble and blocked field goal -- two plays that ended up making the difference in the game.

Best call: Highlight of the night had to have been the reverse pass from Southern Miss receiver Quentin Pierce to quarterback Austin Davis in the second quarter. Davis made a stunning one-handed catch with his right hand extended in the air. He grabbed it, stumbled, kept his legs and got into the end zone for a 17-yard touchdown reception.

What it means: Southern Miss has had plenty of offensive fireworks this season, and definitely has something to build on for next season with the return of Davis, DeAndre Brown, Kelvin Bolden, Kendrick Hardy and company. But Southern Miss has got to get more disciplined. The special teams breakdowns were costly, and the Golden Eagles also had too many penalties once again. They also need more of a killer instinct. Southern Miss lost four of its five games this season by six points or less. Until the Golden Eagles can pull out the close games, they are going to have trouble winning championships.

Record performance: Davis set the school record for career touchdown passes, breaking the record of 52 held by Brett Favre (1987-90) and Lee Roberts (1995-1998).