(Tuesday, December 21st)
Final Score: Louisville 31, Southern Miss 28
St. Petersburg, FL (Sports Network) - Chris Philpott kicked the go-ahead 36- yard field goal in the fourth quarter, and Louisville held on for a 31-28 victory over Southern Miss in the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl.
Jeremy Wright returned a kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown earlier in the fourth to help the Cardinals (7-6) overcome a deficit and secure a winning season in head coach Charlie Strong's first year. Louisville also recorded its first postseason victory since the 2007 Orange Bowl.
Justin Burke threw for 178 yards and two touchdowns for the Cardinals, while Bilal Powell ran for 75 yards and a score.
"It was a total team effort," Louisville head coach Charlie Strong said. "That's what this team is all about."
Austin Davis passed for 205 yards and two scores for Southern Miss (8-5), which was making a ninth consecutive bowl appearance, but lost for the second straight year.
Southern Miss took a 28-21 lead on the opening play of the fourth quarter. The Golden Eagles had driven from midfield to the eight before Austin Davis completed a pass to tight end Zeke Walters on the right edge of the end zone.
But on the ensuing kickoff, Wright made his way through traffic to the left sideline, picked up one final block and sprinted into the end zone to even the game again.
Louisville forced a punt and took over deep in its own territory. Burke led the Cardinals into Southern Miss territory, but the drive stalled and Philpott kicked his field goal with 6:30 to play.
Cardinals linebacker Brandon Heath made a key third-down sack of Davis on the next Southern Miss possession, forcing a three-and-out. The failure to move the ball doomed the Golden Eagles, whose defense stopped Louisville too late. Southern Miss got the ball back with only seconds remaining and couldn't pull off a miracle play.
The Golden Eagles got out to a 14-0 lead on two first-quarter touchdowns. Quentin Pierce had a 32-yard TD reception about three minutes into the game, while Desmond Johnson scored on a 62-yard run with 10:12 left.
Louisville made up the deficit, though, by reaching the end zone three times in the second quarter.
Cameron Graham caught an 11-yard strike from Burke with 11:21 on the clock to get the Cardinals on the board. Southern Miss responded about two minutes later when Davis caught a 17-yard touchdown throw from Pierce, a wide receiver.
But Josh Chichester's 10-yard reception and Powell's six-yard run later in the half allowed Louisville to go into halftime tied, 21-21.
"I think we had chances to make more plays on offense," Davis said. "We missed on a couple plays that keep you up at night."
Johnson ran for 102 yards on 10 carries for Southern Miss...Louisville's Doug Beaumont led all receivers with seven catches for 57 yards...Southern Miss out-gained Louisville, 396-287, but averaged just 18.5 yards on four kickoff returns.
12/22 03:19:14 ET