Joe Moorhead’s tenure at Mississippi State has finally reached an end, as sources confirmed to SuperTalk Mississippi on Friday that Moorhead has been removed after two seasons in Starkville. Moorhead compiled a record of 14-12, with two bowl appearances, but his team’s offensive ineptitude combined with numerous off the field issues this season made getting a third season untenable.
Moorhead inherited a team in 2018 that many predicted to challenge for a top 10 ranking, but despite having the top ranked defense in the country, the Bulldogs lost five games, three of which they were favored in. In his second year, State endured a four game losing streak mid-season losing streak, and the campaign was marred by suspensions and injuries, mainly at the quarterback position. Despite Moorhead’s reputation as an offensive innovator, the Bulldogs struggled on that side of the ball, averaging only 23 points per game in SEC play in 2019. That inefficiency combined with the suspension of three starters on defense via a suspension for academic impropriety led to a drop to 6-7, with the season coming to a close in a 38-28 loss to Louisville in the Music City Bowl, a game the Bulldogs lost a two touchdown lead in. The game was also affected by a practice altercation between true freshman quarterback Garrett Shrader and junior linebacker Willie Gay, which led to Shrader missing the game due to injury.
Reports came out after the Egg Bowl, which saw Mississippi State defeat Ole Miss 21-20, that the university was considering making a change at head coach, but those reports were put to rest on the Saturday following the game and it was believed Moorhead would return to Starkville for the 2020 season. Instead, Mississippi State will embark on a coaching search. The candidate receiving the most buzz at this time is University of Louisiana head coach Billy Napier. Louisiana announced on Thursday they had agreed to a two year extension with Napier, but the contract had not been signed. It is believed Napier wants to coach his team in the bowl game, the Ragin’ Cajuns take on Miami of Ohio in the LendingTree Bowl on Monday, January 6. Other names of interest would be Austin Peay head coach and former Bulldog assistant Mark Hudspeth and Florida defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, also a former Mississippi State assistant.
Mississippi State director of athletics John Cohen said on Friday “In consultation with President Mark Keenum and after a thorough review and evaluation of all aspects of our football program, I have decided that a change in leadership is in the best interest of our team and university.” Further, Cohen said “I want to thank Coach Moorhead for the hard work he has done with our football program. I wish Joe and his family success in the future.” When asked about the upcoming search, university president Dr. Mark Keenum added “Director of Athletics John Cohen will be working to find a new head football coach who will demonstrably reflect our shared expectations for a consistently competitive football team that displays discipline, pride, and preparation in all facets of the program.”
We will continue to update this story as information becomes available. All photos are courtesy of Mississippi State athletics.