Mississippi State topped Illinois 19-10 in the ReliaQuest Bowl in the Bulldogs' first game since the death of legendary coach Mike Leach. They held a 13-10 lead with four seconds to play, and Bulldogs' cornerback Marcus Banks picked up a lateral on the Fighting Illini's last play and took it 60 yards to the house to finish off the nine-point win.
Massimo Biscardi kicked a 27-yard field goal with four seconds left to give Mississippi State at 13-10 lead. The Bulldogs went 70 yards on nine plays, led by quarterback Will Rogers, to get within the 10-yard line and set Biscardi up for the go-ahead score. Rogers completed 29 of 44 passes for 261 yards and one touchdown -- an 8-yarder to Justin Robinson -- for Mississippi State's only offensive touchdown. Robinson had seven catches for 81 yards on the afternoon.
A BAD BEAT FOR THE AGES!!! pic.twitter.com/c3Ba0pZXxM— Mr Matthew CFB (@MrMatthewCFB) January 2, 2023
During the matchup, the team paid tribute to the legacy of Leach in a few ways. Shortly before kickoff, the team announced it would wear maroon helmets with a white pirate flag to honor Leach, who famously had an interest in the history of the pirate lifestyle.
𝐹𝑜𝑟 𝑇ℎ𝑒 𝑃𝑖𝑟𝑎𝑡𝑒. #HailState🏴☠️ pic.twitter.com/FeGdryJQQa— Mississippi State Athletics (@HailState) January 2, 2023
When the game began, Mississippi State received the opening kick and honored their late coach once more. The Bulldogs lined up in an Air Raid formation and let the play clock wind down to zero in what was the football version of a moment of silence. Illinois declined the delay of game penalty.
Mississippi State lines up in an air raid formation on their first play from scrimmage to honor Mike Leach ♥️🏴☠️pic.twitter.com/69IGMm51aY— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) January 2, 2023
Leach took the job at Mississippi State after former coach Dan Mullen left for Florida. Leach was 19-17 in three seasons leading the Bulldogs, which included a 24-22 win over rival Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl in his final game. He was 158-107 overall with stints at Texas Tech (2000-09) and Washington State (2012-19).
He was widely known as the architect of the Air Raid offense, which spread receivers out and used the short passing game as a supplement to the running game. He developed the offense alongside Hal Mumme when the two worked together at Kentucky (1997-98). Leach was a three-time national coach of the year and three-time Power Five conference coach of the year. He won a pair of Power Five division titles and led his teams to 19 bowl games during his 21-year head coaching career.
Leach died on December 13 at the age of 61 after complications from a heart condition. He was hospitalized two days before after suffering a medical condition at home.