Jue. Feb 9th, 2023

Mississippi State played Monday’s ReliaQuest Bowl against Illinois with coach Mike Leach in mind and emerged victorious 19-10 to close the book on a rollercoaster year.

The Bulldogs outscored Illinois 16-0 in the fourth quarter to propel them to victory. Will Rogers had an 8-yard TD pass to Justin Robinson and Marcus Banks returned a missed lateral for a TD to finally seal the deal in the final seconds.

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Justin Robinson #18 of the Mississippi State Bulldogs makes a 12-yard reception for a first down in the first quarter against the Illinois Fighting Illini during the ReliaQuest Bowl at Raymond James Stadium on January 2, 2023 in Tampa, Florida.
(Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

Rogers completed 29 of 44 passes for 261 yards, one touchdown pass and two interceptions. He also engineered a nine-play, 68-yard drive to set up Massimo Biscardi’s go-ahead 27-yard field goal with 4 seconds remaining to give Mississippi State the lead.

The quarterback was emotional as he explained what the win meant.

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«It’s been hard. The coach and I were very close and losing a coach like that, a friend like that, hurt me for a long time. It will continue to hurt, but to be able to go out here with this group of guys, my brothers, I can’t say what enough about this team and this university,» Rogers said.

Nathaniel Watson #14, Will Rogers III #2 and Jett Johnson #44 of the Mississippi State Bulldogs wave a Mike flag in memory of Mike Leach after defeating the Illinois Fighting Illini 19-10 in the ReliaQuest Bowl at Raymond James Stadium on January 2, 2023 in Tampa, Florida.

Nathaniel Watson #14, Will Rogers III #2 and Jett Johnson #44 of the Mississippi State Bulldogs wave a Mike flag in memory of Mike Leach after defeating the Illinois Fighting Illini 19-10 in the ReliaQuest Bowl at Raymond James Stadium on January 2, 2023 in Tampa, Florida.
(Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

«I definitely wanted to win this game for the coach. I think we all did. I think if we had come here and really lost the game, I don’t think the coach would have been as happy about it. It says a lot.» about our team and a lot about these people and coaches that we were able to stick together and get nine wins.»

Robinson finished with seven catches for 81 yards in the win.

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Mississippi State Bulldogs quarterback Will Rogers (2) throws a deep pass during the ReliaQuest Bowl college football game against the Illinois Fighting Illini at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa FL on January 2, 2023.

Mississippi State Bulldogs quarterback Will Rogers (2) throws a deep pass during the ReliaQuest Bowl college football game against the Illinois Fighting Illini at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa FL on January 2, 2023.
(Chris Leduc/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Mississippi State reached the nine-win mark for the first time since 2017.

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