As the final seconds ticked off the clock in the 2023 Reliaquest Bowl, you could sense the raw emotions of the entire Mississippi State Football program as they would win one more for the pirate. It wasn’t pretty or the typical style Coach Leach had grown Mississippi State Football into during his time as Head Coach. However, in a time of great grief, a win over Illinois was what the program needed to heal. Now, Mississippi State can move forward under the leadership of Zach Arnett. Coach Leach would want this program to continue swinging its sword and building a championship program in Starkville, Mississippi.
As the 2022 season is in the rearview for Mississippi State, you can’t help but be excited about 2023 and what could be in store for the program. We saw on Monday the talent that Mississippi State has on the defensive side of the ball. Combine that with the rumors of Kendall Briles leaving Arkansas to join the staff at Mississippi as the offensive coordinator. You could have the perfect storm to turn Mississippi State into a legitimate SEC contender to shock the world with a New Year Six Bowl.
Back to the win over Illinois on Monday, Mississippi State understandably struggled to find offensive consistency. Quarterback Will Rodgers joked about it in the postgame press conference saying, ” Coach Leach would not have been too happy with my performance today.” Rodgers finished the day with two interceptions on one touchdown pass. However, none of that mattered. Mississippi State found a way to win and did just enough on the offensive side of the ball to bring home a bowl championship back to Starkville, Mississippi, in memory of Coach Leach. Not to mention a win in Coach Arnett’s first game as Head Coach is enough for Mississippi State fans to be satisfied with as the program prepares for the 2023 season.
Overall, Monday was a day filled with celebration and healing for the Mississippi State Football program. Mississippi State honored the legacy of Coach Leach as best as that program could have done. It was a magical day, just as if Coach Leach had drawn it up himself. From the Jolly Rogers Flag on the helmet to the winning under the watchful eye of a pirate ship that donned the picture of the pirate himself as he watched his team conquer Illinois en route to a bowl championship that will forever stay with the program. With the win on Monday, Mississippi State finished the 2022 season with the program’s ninth win for the first time since 2017. No doubt at the end of the day, Coach Leach was proud of his team for how they handled adversity and came out victorious.