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After opening ReliaQuest Bowl with a tribute to Mike Leach, Mississippi State kicks late field goal to beat Illinois

Mississippi State lined up in a special formation to honor late head coach Mike Leach at the start of the ReliaQuest Bowl, ending the game with a touchdown.

The Bulldogs defeated Illinois 19-10 on Monday to record nine wins in the season for the first time since 2017. Mississippi broke his 10–10 tie with his 4th second and Massimo scoring his goal on his 27-yard field for Biscardi. MSU then got a TD with no time remaining as Marcus Banks returned a botched 60-yard lateral on Illinois’ last ditch play to score the game-sealing score.

“As a manager, I really wanted to win this game,” MSU QB Will Rogers said after the game. .”

Monday’s game against Illinois was the first game the Bulldogs played since Leach’s death on December 12. His highly influential college football coach had heart problems the day before he died and was taken to hospital in critical condition.

The Bulldogs, days after Leach’s death, made it clear they wanted to play the game, and got the ball first to start the game. Once MSU took the field, the play clock expired as they lined up in a tribute formation to Leach, with QB Will Rogers and nine other players on attack lined up to the left of center.

Illinois denied the penalty.

The formation wasn’t the only tribute to Leach in the game in Tampa. Leach was an avowed pirate fan, and his picture was displayed on the pirate ship of Raymond’s James in his stadium. Bulldog also replaced the school logo on one side of his helmet with a pirate flag in tribute to Reach.

The school band also spelled “Reach” on the ground before the game.

After Leach was hospitalized, defensive coordinator Zach Arnett became the team’s interim coach and was named Leach’s successor after his death. Mississippi State is his 8-4 in 2022, and his 3rd season at the school in Leach has him 19-17. Prior to coaching at MSU, Leach was at Washington State where he was head coach for eight years and at Texas Tech University where he was coach for 10 seasons where he was coach.

Leach’s team went 158-107 in a 21-year career, reinventing how modern offenses play at both the college and NFL levels. Leach’s success at Texas Tech, an air raid offense featuring many passes, changed the way high school football was played in Texas in the 2000s, making football teams at all levels across the country throw the ball. paved the way for the acceptance of They are playing soccer more often than before.

However, it was a running play that set up Biscardi’s winning kick. Mississippi State got the ball back after an Illinois punt with 1:47 left and Simeon Price ran 28 yards to the Illinois 2 before going 77 yards. field goal.

“It was tough. My coach and I were very close,” Rodgers said. “To lose a coach like that and a friend like that is going to hurt and hurt for a really long time. Brothers, to be out there with this group of players says enough about this team. I can’t” and this university. “

A commemorative logo for Mike Leach is seen on the field before the Leriaquest Bowl between Mississippi and Illinois at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida on January 2, 2023. increase. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

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