Mississippi State to face Texas Tech in Liberty Bowl

·3 min read

Dec. 5—STARKVILLE — Mississippi State football will be headed to the Liberty Bowl on Dec. 28 in Memphis, the game organizers announced on Sunday.

State will take on Texas Tech — the team Mississippi State head coach Mike Leach coached for 10 seasons (2000-2009). This will be his first time coaching against his former employer since his firing in 2009.

"We're looking forward to competing against a quality Texas Tech team in the Liberty Bowl," Leach said in a release. "All year long, our team has improved week by week and this gives our program the chance to continue getting better. We're looking forward to both the preparation for the Liberty Bowl and the game itself."

Leach was fired by Texas Tech after alleged inappropriate treatment of one of his former players, Adam James. Leach's refusal to apologize to James led to his firing on Dec. 30, 2009.

Leach's firing reportedly came a day before Texas Tech was due to pay him an $800,000 tenure bonus and more than $1,700,000 for contractual guaranteed income for the 2009 season.

Leach sued the school for wrongful termination, among other claims.

Texas Tech went 6-6 in the regular season but lost four of its final five games. The Red Raiders fired head coach Matt Wells in late October after two-plus years with him at the helm.

Sonny Cumbie — who played quarterback at Texas Tech for Mike Leach 2000-2004 — has filled in as interim head coach since Wells was fired and will be the head coach for the bowl game.

"It'll be a lot of fun," Cumbie said on a Liberty Bowl conference call Sunday night. "It'll be an exciting challenge. But fortunately for both teams, Coach Leach and myself — neither one of us will are gonna take a snap on the field."

This will be Mississippi State's fifth trip to the Liberty Bowl in program history.

MSU took down N.C. State in 1963, lost to Air Force in 1991, beat UCF in 2007 and beat Rice most recently in 2013.

"We're thrilled to welcome back the Mississippi State Bulldogs to the AutoZone Liberty Bowl for the first time in eight years," Liberty Bowl executive director Steve Ehrhart said. "Coach Mike Leach's 'Air Raid' offense is one of the most exciting in the country and the matchup against Texas Tech will be one of the most compelling games of the entire bowl season.

"The Bulldogs and their passionate fans set the AutoZone Liberty Bowl's all-time attendance record in 2007, and we look forward to having them in this year's AutoZone Liberty Bowl."

Mississippi State will be playing in a bowl game for the 12th consecutive season.

MSU — despite going 3-7 in the regular season last year — is one of eight programs nationally with as many consecutive bowl appearances. Alabama, Georgia, Texas A&M, Clemson, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Wisconsin are the others.

"(We're) certainly the only school in the state of Mississippi that can say that," MSU athletic director John Cohen said on the conference call.

The matchup with Texas Tech will be MSU's second trip to Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium this season.

Mississippi State lost to Memphis on Sept. 18 — a game remembered well in the SEC after officiating errors forced the conference to release a statement postgame acknowledging mistakes made.

STEFAN KRAJISNIK is the Mississippi State athletics reporter for the Daily Journal. Contact him at stefan.krajisnik@djournal.com.

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