Texas Tech Dominates in Bowl Win against Former Coach

Texas Tech quarterback (7) runs in for a touchdown against Mississippi State in the Liberty Bowl in Memphis, TN. | Image from Mark Humphrey, AP

The Texas Tech Red Raiders got their first bowl win since 2013 in a dominating 34-7 win over Mississippi State in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl. The win gives the Red Raiders (7-6) their first winning season since 2015.

The matchup was intriguing as it pitted Texas Tech against Mike Leach, Mississippi State’s head coach and former Red Raider head coach. Leach coached at Tech from 2000 to 2009, becoming the winningest coach in school history with 84 wins and earning bowl appearances in every season.

Leach was controversially fired in 2009 following allegations that he made a player stand in an equipment shed after suffering a concussion. Along with firing Leach, the school decided that they would not pay the remaining salary on Leach’s contract.

Leach has openly challenged that decision by the school in court. His lawsuits for wrongful termination have so far been unsuccessful, but Leach continues to pursue them. Leach responded to questions about his time in Lubbock leading up to the bowl matchup with his former team.

“In Lubbock, there were four bad apples that were determined to cheat me out of my salary, but short of that, I thought everyone was great,” Leach said.

“I’ve been willing to settle this thing for a long time, but they don’t seem to be willing to,” he continued. “They should pay me. And we should all celebrate achievements together. But that doesn’t seem to be what they have in mind.”

Leach will have to wait longer for any sort of revenge against his former employer as his Mississippi State (7-6) team was thoroughly defeated in the 34-7 loss. The 27-point margin is the largest margin of defeat in a bowl game for any team coached by Leach.

“I thought Texas Tech did a great job of keeping us out of rhythm,” Leach said postgame. “I think they beat us on all sides of the ball — coaching, starting with me; offense; defense; and special teams. They deserve credit for preparing the way they did and playing the way they did.”

“Most of those coaches… over there, I know them and coached them, there’s a part of me that was happy for them,” Leach said. “All of the other stuff that’s been stated doesn’t change the facts on that.”

Red Raiders freshman quarterback Donovan Smith made only his fourth career start and won the game’s most valuable player. Smith had 252 passing yards and a passing touchdown while adding 30 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Texas Tech finished with 512 total yards of offense, including 260 rushing yards. Tahj Brooks led the team on the ground with 107 rushing yards.

The Red Raider defense shut down Mississippi State quarterback Will Rogers, who had been one of the most productive quarterbacks this season. Rogers entered the game averaging 370 passing yards and nearly three touchdowns per game.

However, Texas Tech was able to limit him to just 290 passing yards and one touchdown while sacking Rogers four times and intercepting him once. Rogers had passed for over 300 yards in eleven straight games, but the Red Raiders ended that streak.

Texas Tech was led by interim coach Sonny Cumbie, who played quarterback for the Red Raiders during Leach’s tenure. Cumbie took over after Matt Wells was fired eight games into the season.

“It was a lot of energy and enthusiasm for our players,” coach Sonny Cumbie said postgame. “You want to channel that and infuse them with positive energy.”

Their dominating bowl win will undoubtedly be a nice boost for the program as new head coach Joey McGuire officially begins his tenure. Cumbie will head to Louisiana Tech, where he will be the next head coach.

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