MEMPHIS, Tenn. — On the eve of the Liberty Bowl, Mississippi State coach Mike Leach took the opportunity in a pre-game press conference to badmouth the Texas Tech people who fired him 12 years ago.
The Red Raiders did their talking on the field.
Tech waltzed to victory in the Bulldogs’ backyard Tuesday night, winning 34-7 and holding Mississippi State to its lowest point total of the season. Tech ended a five-year stretch of losing seasons and won a bowl game for the first time since 2013.
Tech running backs Tahj Brooks and SaRodorick Thompson popped big run after big run in the first half and quarterback Donovan Smith got hot in the second half as the Red Raiders put it on their old coach in his first game against his former program.
“I guess the Red Raider gets the Pirate after all,” Tech interim head coach Sonny Cumbie said, referring to Leach’s nickname.
Both teams finish the season 7-6.
The Red Raiders sent Cumbie off to his next job, head coach of Louisiana Tech, on a high note. The Red Raiders were a double-digit underdog on Nov. 13 when they upset Iowa State in their second game under Cumbie and they were a 9½-point underdog Tuesday.
Texas Tech interim coach Sonny Cumbie celebrates with his children after the Red Raiders’ win over Mississippi State.
“Our players all along, man, they just never stopped believing,” Cumbie said. “Just excited for our program, the administrations at Louisiana Tech and Texas Tech to allow us to come back and finish this season. And the way we did, with these players, has been a lot of fun.”
Tech was up only 13-7 at halftime after several missed opportunities. But in the third quarter, Smith set up a touchdown with pinpoint passes to Travis Koontz for 39 yards and Jerand Bradley for 52 yards. Smith’s 1-yard keeper made it 20-7.
Mississippi State drove to the Tech 20 on the next series,…