Mississippi State Wins 1st Game Since Mike Leach Death!

Mike Leach Death: On Monday, in the Bulldogs’ first game since the passing of coach Mike Leach, No. 24 Mississippi State rallied to defeat Illinois, 19-10, in the ReliaQuest Bowl thanks to a 27-yard game-tying field goal by Massimo Biscardi and a 60-yard touchdown return by Marcus Banks on the game’s final play.

Banks scored on Illinois’ fifth lateral after a pass was successfully made, and the Fighting Illini received the ball at their own 29. As the game came to a close, there was a scrum on the field, but after a few minutes, calm returned.

For Mississippi State, Will Rogers went 29 of 44 for 261 yards and a score (9-4, No. 22 CFP). Tommy DeVito completed 23 of 34 passes for 253 yards (8-5) for Illinois.

Illinois’ Reggie Love III gained 53 yards on 12 carries. To get ready for the NFL Draft, Fighting Illini running back Chase Brown, who finished the regular season with 1,643 yards as the second-leading rusher in the country, sat out.

Before Rogers completed an 8-yard pass to Justin Robinson on the opening play of the fourth quarter, which tied the game 10-10 for Mississippi State, the Bulldogs were held without a touchdown.

During the regular season, the Bulldogs scored 32.7 points on average. Devon Witherspoon and Sydney Brown, the defensive backs for Illinois, who entered the game allowing 12.3 points and held six opponents to under 10 points, were unavailable. Before the NFL Draft, both chose to withdraw.

With 2:49 remaining in the second quarter, DeVito scored a 2-yard run to give Illinois a 7-0 lead. With 9 seconds left in the first half, Biscardi’s field goal from 38 yards served as Mississippi State’s retort.

Midway into the third, Caleb Griffin’s 52-yard field goal gave Illinois a 10-3 lead. The first three possessions of Mississippi State were limited to 50 yards, while interceptions stopped the following two from Matthew Bailey and Kendall Smith.

Illinois leads the country in interceptions with 24. One of the memorials to Leach, who passed away on December 12 due to complications from heart disease, was “MIKE,” with a pirate emblem painted between the numbers 20 and 30 on one area of the field.

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Before there was a moment of quiet before the game, the Mississippi State band played the word “LEACH.” The Bulldogs wore a pirate flag on their helmets rather than the team’s logo. The logo on Illinois’ helmet matched the one that was painted on the field.

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