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Mississippi State football ends 2021 season with 34-7 loss to Texas Tech in Liberty Bowl

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Bulldogs end the season with a 7-6 record.

NCAA Football: Liberty Bowl-Texas Tech at Mississippi State Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Mississippi State football team ended its 2021 campaign with a 34-7 loss to Texas Tech on Tuesday night in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl.

With the loss, the Bulldogs end the season with a 7-6 (4-4 SEC) record, while the Red Raiders also finish their season at 7-6 (3-6 Big 12).

MSU head coach Mike Leach was facing a Texas Tech program that he led to an 84-43 record from 2000-09. Leach failed to become the first Bulldogs coach to end each of his first two seasons with a bowl victory.

MSU’s prolific offense was held scoreless in the second half and finished with 344 yards, 105 yards below its average. The offense was without three offensive linemen, including All-SEC left tackle Charles Cross. Redshirt junior receiver Christian Ford and senior receiver Malik Heath also weren’t available.

Sophomore quarterback Will Rogers completed 32 of his 53 passes (60.4%) for 290 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Redshirt senior receiver Austin Williams made five catches for 74 yards receiving, while redshirt sophomore receiver Makai Polk finished with 57 yards receiving on seven catches and freshman receiver Rara Thomas finished with two catches for 32 yards, including a 17-yard touchdown reception.

Sophomore running back Dillon Johnson led the MSU ground attack with 62 yards rushing on nine carries, while sophomore running back Jo’quavious Marks added 19 yards rushing on five carries.

Defensively, the Bulldogs were missing redshirt junior linebacker Aaron Brule, who announced his decision to transfer to Michigan State, and junior cornerback Martin Emerson, who made the decision to opt-out. Redshirt junior defensive tackle Jaden Crumedy, redshirt junior defensive end Randy Charlton and senior safety Jalen Green were also missing.

The defense surrendered 252 yards passing and one passing touchdown to Texas Tech redshirt freshman quarterback Donovan Smith. He also carried the ball five times for 30 yards rushing and another score.

The Bulldogs also surrendered 260 yards rushing. MSU came into the contest allowing just 101 yards per game on the ground. Sophomore running back Tahj Brooks rushed for 107 yards and a touchdown, while junior running back SaRodorick Thompson added 80 yards rushing and another score.

On the opening drive, Texas Tech rushed for 75 yards and scored on a 19-yard run by Brooks to go up 7-0 with 12:40 left in the first quarter. The Red Raiders added a 31-yard field goal by senior kicker Jonathan Garibay later in the quarter to go up 10-0.

The Bulldogs answered on their next drive, going 75 yards on 10 plays and scoring on a 17-yard catch by Thomas.

Late in the first half, Williams muffed a Texas Tech punt inside the Bulldogs 20-yard line and Texas Tech sophomore receiver Jake Bishop recovered the ball at the 14-yard line with 31 seconds remaining. Garibay added a 26-yard field goal with 13 seconds left to make it 13-7 at halftime.

The Red Raiders used two third-quarter touchdowns, a 1-yard run by Smith and a 14-yard catch by redshirt freshman receiver J.J. Sparkman, to go up 27-7.

Thompson’s 1-yard touchdown run midway through the fourth quarter gave Texas Tech a game-ending 34-7 lead.