11/21/20 - Athens -UGA’s defense puts the stop on Mississippi State Bulldogs running back Jo'quavious Marks (21) on their first drive, and held them to a field goal during a NCAA football game between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Mississippi State Bulldogs on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020 at Sanford Stadium in Athens. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Nothing eccentric about Mike Leach’s take on upsetting ‘simple’ Georgia: Buy-in, more cowbell

ATHENS — For all of the ‘guru’ status Mike Leach has been assigned, the Mississippi State coach finds his team’s matchup with Georgia remarkably simple.

“Don’t get too caught up in it, just focus on what you do,” Leach said this week, asked the key to upsetting the No. 1-ranked Bulldogs when the teams meet at 7 p.m. on Saturday in Starkville.

“The hardest thing is to get the message to everybody. It’s one thing to say it, but everyone has to believe and buy-in.”

Leach, known as much for his eccentric tastes and awkward interviews as much as the Air Raid offense he once pioneered, was at Texas Tech in 2008 when he pulled off an upset over a then-No. 1-ranked Texas.

Mississippi State is 6-0 at Davis Wade Stadium this season and will be looking to shock the world with the SEC’s top passer, junior Will Rogers, having already thrown for 2,912 yards this season with 26 touchdowns and 5 interceptions.

The Mississippi State stadium is known best for the obnoxious clanking of cowbells fans bring to the game and utilize during the action, a happening that grows louder and more distracting the more the home team has success.

Quarterback play will be key, and Rogers has proven capable from the time he made his first career start against Georgia two seasons ago in a game the Maroon Bulldogs lost by a 31-24 count.

Mississippi State held UGA’s self-styled “RBU” to just 8 yards rushing with its unconventional 3-3-5 defense in a game Georgia narrowly won thanks to JT Daniels’ 401 yards passing.

Some Mississippi State players will carry confidence from that performance in Sanford Stadium, but Leach doesn’t expect it will have much effect on Kirby Smart’s team.

“Some of those guys weren’t there for that game,” Leach said, “so I’m not sure how much of an impact that will have.”

Indeed, Warren McClendon, Kearis Jackson and Christopher Smith are the only starters remaining from that Covid season instant classic win, and Stetson Bennett didn’t even play in the game.

Leach was complimentary of Bennett’s intangibles when asked to access what has impressed him about Georgia’s 25-year-old, sixth-year quarterback.

“He’s gritty and tough and does a great job leading their offensive unit,” Leach said. “I’d probably say his leadership ability is what he does best, just elevate the offense.”

Bennett is second in the SEC with 2,606 passing yards along with 11 touchdowns and three interceptions.

Leach has been impressed with the execution of the Georgia defense, which ranks second in the nation allowing 10.78 points per game.

NextWeek Two CFP Rankings: Georgia No. 1 but nothing changes; reading …
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