Mississippi State coach Mike Leach says his team is “a group that kind of roller-coasters up and down.” That has been the pattern for the No. 25 Bulldogs (6-4) this season.
Leach hopes that pattern doesn’t continue when his team faces FCS member Tennessee State (5-5) in a nonconference battle on Saturday in Starkville, Miss., one week after the biggest comeback victory in school history.
The Bulldogs trailed then-No. 16 Auburn 28-3 in the second quarter before scoring 40 straight points on their way to a 43-34 victory.
Will Rogers passed for a school-record six touchdowns, one just before halftime to start the comeback and five in the second half to complete it.
“Utilizing the weapons around a quarterback is the single most important thing they do,” Leach said. “I think (Rogers) is (getting) better at doing that.”
Auburn scored touchdowns on its first four possessions but didn’t score again until a late touchdown after MSU had taken control.
It was the second historic comeback for the Bulldogs this season. The comeback against Auburn eclipsed the previous record-setting rally from a 20-point deficit that produced a 35-34 victory against Louisiana Tech.
MSU followed that game with a victory against a ranked N.C. State team, but then lost to Memphis and LSU.
The Bulldogs beat another ranked team when they knocked off Texas A&M on the road before getting routed by Alabama at home.
They beat Vanderbilt and Kentucky and popped up at No. 17 in the first CFP rankings but immediately fell out after a loss to Arkansas.
Now they’re in the rankings again going into this game just five days before the Egg Bowl game against rival Ole Miss on Thanksgiving night.
MSU isn’t the team in Saturday’s matchup that could be distracted.
TSU coach Eddie George’s name surfaced in a report about candidates to fill the vacant head coaching position at Akron.
“This is the first I am hearing about it,” George told the Tennessean. “I’m just focused on finishing the season strong at Tennessee State.”
George’s first season with the Tigers started strong but has slipped the past two weeks.
TSU also went 2-5 last spring when the Ohio Valley Conference postponed its 2020 season from the fall because of COVID.
But under George, the former star running back for Ohio State and the Tennessee Titans, the Tigers were 5-3 overall and sitting in second place before losing at UT Martin 41-20 two weeks ago and to Austin Peay 36-7 in the home finale last Saturday to fall into third place.
“My commitment is to Tennessee State, and I don’t want to send any mixed messages,” George said. “I am just enjoying my boys, trying to build this program in the right way. I’m just focused on getting my offense back up and ready for the game this week.”
The offense lost quarterback Geremy Hickbottom and running back Devon Starling to injuries during the loss to Austin Peay and finished with just 194 total yards.
“I think everybody has followed his career, especially on the field,” Leach said of George. “It looks like he is definitely doing some good things with some good schemes — kind of aggressive. I’m excited that he chose to coach.”
–Field Level Media