The Texas Tech football program has made 38 bowl appearances, but never one in the Liberty Bowl.
That streak ends this year — and with the Red Raiders facing one of their former head coaches.
Liberty Bowl officials announced Sunday that Tech (6-6) and Mississippi State (7-5) have accepted invitations to square off at 5:45 p.m. Dec. 28 in Memphis, Tennessee. ESPN will televise the game.
"Texas Tech is honored to accept an invitation to play in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl," athletics director Kirby Hocutt said in Tech's announcement. "We are excited for our first trip to the great city of Memphis and to showcase this football program in one of the nation’s most storied bowl games. The Red Raider nation looks forward to this tremendous experience."
Tech qualified for a bowl for the first time since 2017. Mississippi State is going to a bowl for the 12th year in a row, though the Bulldogs went to the Armed Forces Bowl after the COVID-disrupted 2020 year with a 3-7 regular-season record and beat Tulsa.
Mississippi State coach Mike Leach was fired after the 2009 regular season after a 10-year run at Tech in which he went 84-43. Tech and Leach have not faced each other on the field since during Leach's subsequent stops as head coach at Washington State from 2012 through 2019 and at Mississippi State the past two years.
"We're looking forward to competing against a quality Texas Tech team in the Liberty Bowl," Leach said in Mississippi State's announcement. "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."
Tech interim head coach Sonny Cumbie was hired last week by Louisiana Tech to be its next head coach. However, Cumbie is scheduled to return to Lubbock when an NCAA recruiting dead period begins on Dec. 13 and lead the Red Raiders in bowl preparation and through the final game, athletics director Kirby Hocutt said.
Cumbie was a Tech quarterback for Leach from 2000-04, ending his career by throwing for 520 yards and three touchdowns as the Red Raiders upset Aaron Rodgers and California in the Holiday Bowl.
Mississippi State's Will Rogers is the FBS' third-leading passer at 370.8 yards per game. The sophomore quarterback completed 473 of 630 passes for 4,449 yards and 35 touchdowns. He's been intercepted eight times. Leading receiver Makai Polk has caught 98 passes for 989 yards and nine TDs.
The Bulldogs have played five games this season against opponents that were ranked at the time. In those games, they beat Texas A&M (26-22), Kentucky (31-17) and Auburn (43-34) and lost to Alabama (49-9) and Mississippi (31-21).
Mississippi State is 4-2-1 in the series against Tech, though the Liberty Bowl will be the first meeting since 1970. The two schools have signed an agreement for a two-game regular-season series with games in 2028 in Lubbock and in 2029 at Starkville, Mississippi.
The Red Raiders will travel to Memphis on Christmas morning with Liberty Bowl officials requesting the teams arrive no later than midday. The first official bowl-sponsored event is Dec. 26.
Tech will be allotted 8,000 tickets and receives credit on moving that allotment via tickets sold through the Tech athletic ticket office.
Red Raider Club members and Tech football season-ticket holders may request bowl tickets through 5 p.m. Monday. Requests may be made at TexasTech.com or through the Tech ticket office by calling (806) 742-8324 between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays.
If tickets remain after the exclusive window for sales to Red Raider Club members and season-ticket holders, they will go on sale at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, Tech said.
Student tickets will go on sale at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday at the Tech ticket office on the east side of Jones AT&T Stadium. Student tickets must be purchased in person with a valid student ID.
This article originally appeared on Lubbock Avalanche-Journal: Texas Tech accepts invitation to face Mississippi State in Liberty Bowl