STARKVILLE • Mississippi State coach Joe Moorhead didn’t mince any words during his postgame press conference on Thursday following the Bulldogs’ 21-20 Egg Bowl victory over Ole Miss.
With MSU athletic director John Cohen standing in the corner to his left and the Golden Egg Trophy sitting on the table to his right, Moorhead made it abundantly clear and concise that he was the Bulldogs’ coach after rumors swirled that he was on his way out of Starkville.
“It’s a validation of this team, a validation of our culture and to me it put an exclamation point on the narrative that was floating around that I’m not the right man for this job, that I’m not the right man for this program or that I can’t coach in this league,” Moorhead said. “That’s not the case. I’m damn proud of this team.”
Moorhead then reached down to grab a bottle of water and after taking a substantial swallow, finished his thought.
“I love the way kids handle adversity and the way our coaches fought through adversity,” Moorhead said. “I know there were a lot of ups and downs, a lot of bellyaching and this, that and the other thing. But just make sure everybody understands that this is my school, this is my team, this is my program and I’m not interested in anybody’s validation except for the guys in that locker room.
“If you asked who is the right man for the job, every single one of them are going to tell you that it’s me. I promise you that. I’m here. This is my team, this is my school and this is my program. You’ll have to drag my Yankee ass out of here.”
MSU freshman quarterback Garrett Shrader echoed his head coach’s sentiments and expressed his support.
“He has a certain set of beliefs about how a program should be run,” Shrader said. “Just getting everybody to buy into that is the biggest thing. I absolutely believe in him and everything that he says and does. He’s going to be my coach and we’re going to win a bunch more games.”
Moorhead has guided the Bulldogs to a 14-11 on-field record during his two years at the helm. He is just the second coach in MSU history to ever take the Bulldogs to bowl games in his first two seasons, joining Jackie Sherrill, and also only the second since World War II to win the Egg Bowl in his first two tries along with his predecessor, Dan Mullen.
Some speculate that Moorhead has underachieved in his tenure at State. The Bulldogs reached the Outback Bowl with the nation’s No. 1 defense last season only to finish with an 8-5 record.
This year, MSU broke even with a 6-6 record during the regular season and is headed to the program’s 10th-straight bowl game.
“Certainly at times this year we didn’t play how we needed to play,” Moorhead said. “I’ve talked already about the injuries and suspensions and playing the third-toughest schedule in the country. Every team that we lost to is bowl eligible.
“This mythology that the team I inherited is like the ‘85 Bears. Three years ago, we got to a bowl game at 5-7 because we had APR. No one wants success more than me but I also have a sense of logic and reason and understand that great things take time.”