Mississippi State played Monday’s ReliaQuest Bowl against Illinois with coach Mike Leach in mind and emerged victorious 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 TD pass to Justin Robinson and Marcus Banks returned a missed lateral for a TD to finally seal the deal in the final seconds.
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Rogers completed 29 of 44 passes for 261 yards, one 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 remaining to give Mississippi State the lead.
The quarterback was emotional as he explained what the win meant.
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“It’s been hard. The coach and I were very close and losing a coach like that, a friend like that, hurt me for a long time. It will continue to hurt, but to be able to go out here with this group of guys, my brothers, I can’t say what enough about this team and this university,” Rogers said.
“I definitely wanted to win this game for the coach. I think we all did. I think if we had come here and really lost the game, I don’t think the coach would have been as happy about it. It says a lot.” about our team and a lot about these people and coaches that we were able to stick together and get nine wins.”
Robinson finished with seven catches for 81 yards in the win.
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Mississippi State reached the nine-win mark for the first time since 2017.