Mississippi State sent the first shockwaves through 2020’s strange season and is looking for more of those good moments starting this weekend.
Coming off a 4-7 campaign — 3-7 in SEC play, which tied Arkansas for the worst mark in the West Division — the Bulldogs will host Louisiana Tech on Saturday to start head coach Mike Leach’s second season in Starkville, Miss.
His tenure certainly opened with a high-flying assault.
Transfer K.J. Costello and the Bulldogs passed their way to a 44-34 road victory over defending national champion LSU on Sept. 26 as the former Stanford quarterback set an SEC passing record with 623 yards to go along with five touchdowns in the stunner.
MSU soon was grounded, though, dropping seven of 10 contests before wrapping it up with a 28-26 win over Tulsa in the Armed Forces Bowl, which was marred by a post-game brawl.
On Saturday, Leach will likely go with quarterback Will Rogers, who took over the job when Costello committed a number of turnovers and was also injured against Alabama on Oct. 31.
South Alabama transfer Chance Lovertich also is in the QB mix, but Leach gave an indication last week that he was leaning toward Rogers, a native of Brandon, Miss., two hours south of Starkville.
“If we were to play today, it would be Will,” Leach told the Clarion-Ledger. “It’s hard to tell. Difficult to say. We’ll see.”
A starter for six games, Rogers passed for 1,976 yards and 11 touchdowns with seven interceptions and became the first MSU quarterback to produce at least 30 completions in three consecutive games.
In Louisiana Tech — a Conference USA member also nicknamed the Bulldogs — Mississippi State will encounter a team coming off a 5-5 season and a 4-2 conference mark in 2020.
Head coach Skip Holtz’s squad returns 18 starters — 10 on defense, five on offense and three specialists — from last year.
On defense, linebacker Tyler Grubbs — the team’s leading tackler — started all 10 games and recorded at least nine tackles in eight of them, earning him four freshman All-American team selections.
“We don’t have the opportunity to have a rolling start with starting on the road against Mississippi State,” said Holtz, who holds a 61-41 record entering his ninth season with his Bulldogs. “We’ve got be playing at a high level early.”
–Field Level Media