TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Mississippi State head football coach Mike Leach talked to the media following MSU’s 41-0 loss at Alabama Saturday night.
Leach began the press conference by giving his overall thoughts on the game.
“I thought we played hard. I thought we played sloppy and dumb at times,” Leach said. “I think that Alabama is a team that has been put together for over a decade. They have a culture that is extremely hard-working and competitive that permeates their entire program. We’re a program that is trying to get there. The good news with us is that we’ve got some great young guys that will be around for a while. This is a great starting point for them. I think in the end, the reps and experience is going to pay off.”
Mississippi State’s defense surrendered 499 yards of total offense by the Crimson Tide. Alabama senior wide receiver DeVonta Smith single-handedly outscored the Bulldogs as he finished with 11 catches for 203 yards receiving and four touchdowns. But looking past the numbers, Leach thinks the defense did well.
“I thought they did pretty good,” Leach said. “Overall defensively, other than some big plays and explosives, I thought they played real well.”
Leach then spoke about Smith and what makes him so impressive as a receiver.
“One, as a receiver, he tracks the ball really well, and not all receivers do,” Leach said. “There are a lot of receivers that are good at catching balls if they are right at them. He’s good at tracking balls, in other words, kind of center fielder when it comes off the bat and the guy runs and is standing right where the things going to land. He’s good at that, and he’s obviously an explosive guy and everybody knew that. The other thing I was impressed with is how competitive he is from one snap to the next. He’s a very good example to pretty much anybody on our team.”
State’s best drive of the game was a 10-play, 49-yard drive that ended in freshman quarterback Will Rogers throwing an interception in the end zone when senior wide receiver Osirus Mitchell had the ball stripped away by Alabama senior linebacker Dylan Moses. Leach spoke on Mississippi State’s tendency to throw interceptions in the end zone.
“If we don’t lead the nation in this, I don’t know how anybody else could. It’s unbelievable. I’ve never seen anything like it,” Leach said. “It’s a combination of a lot of things. Some is bad decisions to throw it. A number of them are not taking care of the football at the receiver position. And others are bad playcalls on my part.”
Leach then commented on Rogers, who finished 24-of-37 passing for 147 yards and two interceptions, being “thrown to the wolves” as a true freshman.
“Will [Rogers] should have just finished going to prom a few months ago, so I do think he’s playing kind of [impressively] for a guy that just got here,” Leach said. “I do think it’s impressive, but we are throwing him to the wolves, which I have mixed feelings about. I’m excited about it because that experience is very valuable for him, but there’s definitely going to be growing pains.”
Rogers replaced graduate transfer quarterback K.J. Costello after he got injured in his fifth drive of the game. Costello finished with 16 yards on 4-of-11 passing and he saw all five of his drives result in punts.
Leach says the quarterback job is still a week-to-week decision based on practices throughout the week.