OXFORD, Miss. — Mississippi State head football coach met with the media Saturday night following a tough 31-24 loss to rival Ole Miss in the 93rd installment of the Egg Bowl.
Mississippi State produced 479 yards of total offense, including 440 yards passing and three touchdowns from freshman quarterback Will Rogers. Ole Miss produced 550 yards of offense, including 385 yards passing and two TDs from sophomore QB Matt Corral.
“I thought it was a pretty explosive game. I thought both teams played very explosive. I would say, when that happens, nearly anything can happen. And that’s kind of how this thing unfolded,” Leach said. “I thought the first half, we missed some opportunities. Some of them were self-inflicted. Some of them, the ball just really didn’t bounce very well. You know, we’d be a little bit short on third downs, and one of them I probably should have gone for on fourth down. I thought we played really hard. I thought we played extremely hard. I thought we finished the game. I thought we contained their offense better than most teams have. We dealt ourselves out of some drives, which is unfortunate because they really didn’t stop us for the most part. We stopped ourselves. But we played really hard, and it didn’t go our way. We’re still getting older and still improving.”
Leach was then asked if he is seeing maturity growing on a weekly basis in pressure situations.
“I think it definitely is. We’re playing with only 45 scholarship guys, so that makes it challenging too,” Leach said. “It comes to a point where I thought our guys kept playing hard the whole time, the whole duration. There weren’t a lot of reinforcements out there. I was proud of how they played. You have young guys playing extremely hard, and they’re improving.”
State has played very well these last two games despite not coming away with any victories, but Leach says there is still a lot of improving that can happen.
“We can improve everywhere. I can’t think of anywhere we can’t improve,” Leach said. “We just have to keep improving. I think everybody’s in that boat, but we’re young enough that we’ll improve by a pretty good margin as these guys get older and get in a rhythm.”
As for time management, Leach said he has no regrets about how he managed the clock late in the game.
“When you coach your own team, call timeouts when you want to,” Leach said.
He was then asked what he was most encouraged by moving forward.
“Our effort and the way we finished this game. That’s the most encouraging,” Leach said. “I think that’s where everything starts. If you have honest effort and do it with clarity, you’re going to improve. That’s where everything starts. There’s no improvement without that.”
With two games left on the schedule, Leach says the mood of the locker room is positive.
“I think they are all excited to play games. As a matter of fact, I think they would all like to play a few more,” Leach said. “People don’t really dread playing football. They sign up to do it. They practice to do it. If you and your colleagues could start a miniature campaign to generate three more games, most of our players would appreciate it.”