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Mississippi State’s Will Rogers gets emotional talking about Mike Leach after leading to comeback victory

Mississippi State played Monday’s ReliaQuest Bowl against Illinois with coach Mike Leach on their mind and came out the victor 19-10 to close the book on a rollercoaster year.

The Bulldogs outscored Illinois 16-0 in the fourth quarter to propel them to victory. Will Rogers had an 8-yard touchdown pass to Justin Robinson and Marcus Banks returned a botched lateral for a touchdown to ultimately seal the deal in the final seconds.

Rogers was 29-of-44 with 261 passing yards, a touchdown pass and two interceptions. He also engineered a nine-play, 68-yard drive to set up Massimo Biscardi’s go-ahead 27-yard field goal with 4 seconds left to give Mississippi State the lead.

The quarterback was emotional when he explained what the win meant.


“It’s been tough. Coach and I were so close and to lose a coach like that, a friend like that, it hurt me for a really long time. It will continue to hurt, but to be able to come out here with this group of guys, my brothers, I can’t say enough about this team and this university,” Rogers said.

Nathaniel Watson #14, Will Rogers III #2, and Jett Johnson #44 of the Mississippi State Bulldogs wave a Mike flag in memory of Mike Leach after defeating the Illinois Fighting Illini 19-10 in the ReliaQuest Bowl at Raymond James Stadium on January 02, 2023 in Tampa, Florida.

“I definitely wanted to win this game for coach. I think we all did. I think if we would have come out here and really lost the game, I don’t think Coach would have been to happy with it. It says a lot about our team and a lot about these individuals and coaches that we were able to stick together and come out with nine wins.”

Robinson finished with seven catches for 81 yards in the win.

Mississippi State Bulldogs quarterback Will Rogers (2) throws a deep pass during the ReliaQuest Bowl college football game against the Illinois Fighting Illini at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa FL on January 2, 2023.

Mississippi State reached the nine-win mark for the first time since 2017.

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