Good teams win, but great teams cover. And sometimes it’s best to be lucky to get there in dramatic fashion like Mississippi State did on an already emotional day.
Coming into the ReliaQuest Bowl, the Mississippi State Bulldogs were 3.5-point favorites over the Illinois Fighting Illini. Sure enough, the Bulldogs were up three points with just three seconds left in the game at Raymond James Stadium on Monday. This is where things got a bit nuts.
Former Don Bosco Prep HS star quarterback, Tommy Devito, dropped back near his own 30-yard line for Illinois in an attempt to pull this game out of the fire.
The play started strong with a few successful pitches until the ball returned to Devito across midfield. His throw across the field was short and promptly gathered by Mississippi State Bulldog defenseman Marcus Banks, who returned the ball 55 yards for a touchdown to give the Bulldogs a 19-10 win for a stunning cover.
The game was an extra emotional one for the Bulldogs. They honored their late head coach Mike Leach, who passed away due to a massive heart attack in December at the age of 61.
“Obviously, Mike Leach has been leading this program for three years, and he was out there leading us today,” said Zach Arnett, who was promoted from defensive coordinator to head coach three days after Leach’s death. “Emotional game, obviously.”
The team unveiled Pirate logo helmets for the game, similar to that of the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers, in a nod to Leach, who was nicknamed “The Pirate.” They also waved a “Mike” flag prior to the game and ‘Mike” was painted on the field.
“Football isn’t always a pretty game,” Mississippi Stat quarterback Will Rogers said. “I know Coach Leach would probably be a little upset at some of the decisions, but we fought hard and stayed together as a team. He was with us all the way. He’s been with me all the way. I really, really miss him.”
— with AP
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