Why Mississippi State football coach Mike Leach didn't want to talk about officials

Stefan Krajisnik
Mississippi Clarion Ledger

STARKVILLE — Mississippi State football coach Mike Leach has had memorable moments when it comes to officiating at his previous stops.

The most popular came while he was at Texas Tech and was upset with officiating after a 2007 loss against Texas — highlighted by him calling out an official for being an Austin, Texas, resident.

However, since coming to Starkville, he has been reserved with his thoughts. Such was the case after MSU's loss against No. 1 Georgia (10-0, 7-0 SEC) on Saturday.

"I could (comment on it). It costs money," Leach said. "Somebody probably ought to at some point. Just right now, it's not going to be me. There are a lot of people that watched that game, so my faith rests with them."

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In the first quarter, officials threw a flag after MSU quarterback Will Rogers was hit below the knees following the release of a pass. Much to the shock of fans at Davis Wade Stadium, the flag was picked up.

In the second quarter, Mississippi State (6-4, 3-4) appeared to force and recover a fumble with Georgia in the red zone. Officials, with a quick whistle, had ruled forward progress stopped, eliminating any chance of a review on the play.

There was also a missed block in the back on a 70-yard touchdown run for Georgia to open the second half and an uncalled intentional grounding penalty against quarterback Stetson Bennett.

"Some almost looked like they were trying to do an homage to aspects of the Pac-12," Leach said.

What happened to MSU's running game?

When Mississippi State got off to a 5-1 start, the Air Raid offense featured a strong rushing attack. That included games against Texas A&M and Arkansas in which MSU ran for 144 and 162 yards, respectively.

The Bulldogs have rushed for 144 yards in the last four games combined.

Part of the struggle is due to teams adjusting. Instead of dropping eight in pass coverage, teams have found success loading the box against MSU. Whether it be to slow down the running game or put pressure on Rogers, it has worked.

Part of the struggle falls on Leach. Mississippi State averaged 25 rushing attempts per game in the first six. It is since averaging 17.

Nov 12, 2022; Starkville, Mississippi, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs running back Jo'quavious Marks (7) runs the ball against Georgia Bulldogs defensive back Kelee Ringo (5) during the fourth quarter at Davis Wade Stadium at Scott Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

Can Mike Leach incorporate a tight end into the Air Raid?

Georgia's offense is a machine.

Bennett's arm is matched by an ability to scramble. The running game offers more than five yards per attempt. The receivers own size unmatched by most SEC teams.

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect is how Georgia coach Kirby Smart utilizes his tight ends, particularly Brock Bowers.

Bowers had four catches for 41 yards against MSU with a touchdown. Darnell Washington added another five catches for 60 yards and a touchdown.

Leach's Air Raid offense doesn't use a tight end. When asked if he could incorporate that part of Georgia's offense into his system, Leach said "not really" though he wouldn't mind having that roster at his disposal.

"I could use that whole unit over there as a matter of fact," Leach said. "Every measurable that those guys have over there, we could use every one of them."

Stefan Krajisnik is the Mississippi State beat writer for the Clarion Ledger. Contact him at skrajisnik@gannett.com or follow him on Twitter @skrajisnik3.