Instant analysis: Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl

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.