Mississippi State’s Liberty Bowl Storylines

Published 3:21 pm Monday, December 27, 2021

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – The Bulldogs are bowling once again. Mississippi State will make its 12th consecutive bowl appearance on Tuesday, Dec. 28 in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl.

 

Mississippi State meets Texas Tech at 5:45 p.m. CT in Memphis, Tennessee. The game will be televised by ESPN with Dave Neal (play-by-play), Deuce McAllister (analyst) and Andraya Carter (reporter) on the call.

 

For those attending, stadium gates open at 4:00 p.m. Mobile tickets should be downloaded prior to arriving at the stadium. Fans can also listen for free on HailState.com/plus. Full gameday information can be found at HailState.com/bowlgame.

 

State’s Storylines vs. Texas Tech

  • The Bulldogs are making their fifth appearance in the Liberty Bowl and boast a 3-1 record in the game. MSU made its first appearance in the 1963 edition of the game, played in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, claiming a 16-12 victory over NC State.
  • Mississippi State and Texas Tech have not met in 51 years, with State winning three of the last four meetings. The 1968 matchup was designated as an SEC game for the Bulldogs, who played No. 15 Tech to a 28-28 tie.
  • Each of State’s last three victories against the Red Raiders have been decided by four points, including two wins over ranked Tech teams.
  • The game will mark head coach Mike Leach’s first meeting against one of his former teams. Leach posted a school-record 84 wins at Texas Tech from 2000-09, taking his teams to bowl games in all 10 seasons.
  • With a victory, MSU will reach eight wins for the first time since the 2018 season when the Bulldogs went 8-5 on the field. Leach would also become the first State head coach to win his first two postseason games.
  • Mississippi State is one of four teams in the nation with three wins against opponents ranked in the final CFP Top 25 and the the only team in the nation that faced six teams in the final rankings during the season.
  • QB Will Rogers has thrown for 300 yards in 10 straight games. Since 2004, the only quarterbacks with a longer streak are Leach proteges Graham Harrell (16) and Gardner Minshew (11).
  • Rogers leads the Power Five in passing yardage (4,449), which also leads the SEC and ranks second in the FBS. He is just the eighth SEC quarterback to ever record a 4,000-yard passing season and holds the MSU school record.
  • In conference play, Rogers led the SEC in completions (324), completion percentage (.747) and passing yards per game (372.1) while ranking second in total yards (2,977) and touchdowns (22).
  • There have been 15 games of 400-plus passing yards in MSU history. Eight of those performances have occurred under Leach (23 games). MSU had thrown for 400-plus yards just seven total times in the previous 1,193 games prior to Leach’s arrival in Starkville.
  • Mississippi State is one of eight programs nationally and four in the SEC to make a bowl trip in each of the last dozen years, joining Alabama, Georgia and Texas A&M as the only conference teams to do so. Leach has now reached 18 bowl games in his 20-year career, including bowl trips in each of the last seven years.
  • MSU was one of four teams to rank inside the top 25 nationally in both total offense and defense in the regular season.
  • The Bulldogs have played the nation’s No. 24 strength of schedule according to ESPN’s FPI. State’s opponents combined for a .598 winning percentage, which ranked 20th in the FBS.
  • WR Makai Polk (989 yards) is one of 10 Bulldogs to ever post a 900-receiving-yard season. He currently ranks third in MSU single-season history and needs 47 yards to break Mardye McDole’s school record set in 1978.
  • Polk has already broken Fred Ross’ (88 in 2015) MSU single-season record with 98 catches this year. He has also tied Ross’ single-season (2015) and career records with four double-digit reception games.
  • WR Austin Williams boasts the third-highest hands grade (91.8) in the FBS per PFF. He has caught 47 of his 53 targets (88.7 percent), which ranks sixth in the nation among players with at least 35 targets.
  • Williams is having a career year, posting the highest season totals of his career in receptions (47), yards (543), first downs (30) and touchdowns (4) along with a career-best 12 catches for 15 or more yards.
  • The Bulldogs have multiple 500-yard receivers for just the seventh time on record (since 1961) and have seen three receivers reach that mark for the first time in program history: Polk, 989; WR Jaden Walley, 610 and Williams, 543.
  • RB Dillon Johnson’s 62 receptions in the regular season were second among SEC running backs and third nationally at the position. His 396 receiving yards were also second among backs in the league and fourth in the FBS.
  • Freshmen and sophomores have scored 35 of State’s 47 touchdowns. When including Rogers’ passing scores, underclassmen have been responsible for 70 touchdowns.
  • Mississippi State is third in the SEC and 10th in the nation in rushing defense (101.2). State is tied for 12th among Power Five teams with 24 rushing touchdowns allowed since 2020.
  • MSU has held six opponents below 100 rushing yards, which is tied for second-most in a season in MSU history since 2000, trailing only the 2018 season’s seven games.
  • State has allowed just 195 first downs this year, which is second in the SEC and eighth in the nation. The Bulldogs’ 71 rushing first downs allowed are ninth in the FBS. MSU has allowed only 129 plays of 10+ yards from scrimmage this season, which ranks second in the SEC and is tied for eighth in the FBS.