Hand wringing over Mississippi State’s season has been loud among the fan base during Joe Moorhead’s second season at Mississippi State and the head coach has heard it loud and clear.
On Thursday night, after the Bulldogs’ triumphant victory over Ole Miss in the Battle for the Golden Egg, Moorhead made sure to let people know his thoughts about that.
“I’m proud of this team. I loved the way that our coaches handled adversity. I know there were some ups and downs and some bellyaching, but just understand one thing: this is my school, this is my team, this is my program. If anybody asks, I’m not interested in anybody’s validation except for people in that locker room. You’ll have to drag my Yankee (expletive) out of here.”
It was an adamant answer from Moorhead who has been rumored nationally for the Rutgers job opening and also questioned by fans and media, both local and national. Last season the Bulldogs went 8-5 despite having the nation’s top ranked defense with three first round draft picks among them. The offense also had the SEC’s all-time leading rusher in Nick Fitzgerald but MSU finished short of its goals including a rough loss in the Outback Bowl to Iowa.
This season, MSU entered the year with 10 players suspended for eight games in the regular season for an academic misconduct scandal. Included among players that have been suspended for eight games this season were defensive starters Willie Gay Jr., Marcus Murphy and Lee Autry among others on a defense that was already young and inexperienced with the loss of the several key starters from last year’s defense.
He expounded on his comments towards the fans postgame and the reasons for MSU’s struggles, but also the reasons why he believes that he will succeed at MSU.
“In 21 years of coaching and a bunch more as a player, I don’t know if I’ve entered the season having to face some of the adversity that we had to face,” Moorhead said. “The kids just kept fighting. It’s a validation of this team, it’s a validation of our culture and it put an explanation on the narrative that floated around that I’m not the right man for the job or for this league. That’s not the case.
“This narrative gets created by people that aren’t in the decision-making process. I understand at times this year that we didn’t play like we needed to play. Every team that we lost to is bowl eligible. This mythology that the team I inherited is the (1985 Chicago Bears) and three years ago we got in a bowl at 5-7 because of the APR… I have a sense of logic and reason and understand that great things take time and we want to be like the 1998 and 1999 teams. The only people I care about are the ones in the locker room. Everyone else can kick rocks.”
One of the players in the locker room that has already spoken up for Moorhead is Kylin Hill. The junior running back is 45 yards away from the school-record for rushing yards in a single-season set back in 2009 by Anthony Dixon with 1,391. He now has a chance to do that in the bowl game as the Bulldogs will go to the postseason for the 10th-straight year, extending a school record.
For Hill, he’s never questioned Moorhead’s plan for the program. He was even more confident when the team raised the Egg Bowl trophy.
“I feel like he’s the guy for the job. It take time. A lot of guys want to win now but we’re in a process,” Hill said. “We’re building. We started the season off with a lot of guys injured and suspended. To be where we are now is amazing.”