According to several reports, Mississippi State has been selected to play in the 2013 Liberty Bowl in Memphis, Tenn.
December 8, 2013 4:15:10 PM
STARKVILLE - Mississippi State fans will be walking in Memphis later this month.
According to reports, the Bulldogs program have accepted a invitation to the 2013 Autozone Liberty Bowl where they will play Conference USA champion Rice (10-3) on Dec. 31 at a 3 p.m. kickoff on ESPN.
Multiple sources close to the MSU football program confirmed to The Dispatch Thursday MSU officials were anticipating making a return to the bowl game in Memphis, Tenn., for the first time since 2007.
Liberty Bowl executive director Steve Ehrhart declined to comment to The Dispatch Thursday except to say the bowl committee is still evaluating potential Southeastern Conference teams before the bowl games were announced Sunday.
Sunday afternoon The Clarion-Ledger confirmed via unnamed sources the MSU program's acceptance to the Liberty Bowl after citing a local report out of Memphis. The official announcement will be made at 8 p.m. at the Seal Family Football Complex in Starkville.
The last time MSU was invited to the Liberty was in 2007 when the Bulldogs defeated Central Florida 10-3 thanks to two interceptions by the game's most valuable player Derek Pegues. MSU last competed in the Liberty Bowl stadium when they defeated Memphis 59-14 in the 2011 season opener on a Thursday night in front of an announced crowd of 33,990.
MSU (6-6) will begin bowl practice Friday after final exams are completed on campus.
Rice accepted their invitation in the locker room after defeating Marshall Saturday 41-24 in the Conference USA championship game at their home stadium in Houston. Rice, who received votes in both the Associated Press and USA Today Coaches poll, will be playing in its first Liberty Bowl after winning the league title for the first time since joint Conference USA in 2005.
The Owls are led by fifth-year senior quarterback Taylor McHargue, who passed for 196 yards and a touchdown pass to add to his 34 rushing yards. This season McHargue became the third Owl to top 6,000 career yards in total offense with his 179 yards at New Mexico State and is the first QB at Rice to start four consecutive openers since freshmen were granted varsity eligibility in 1972.
MSU and Rice have only met on the football field one other time when the Bulldogs won 28-14 on Oct. 11, 1975. The Owls, who have been coached by David Bailiff for the last seven years, have earned a bowl berth for the second consecutive season matching the 1960 and 1961 teams as the only Rice squads to accomplish that.
The Dispatch learned last week that the Liberty Bowl committee gave a presentation to MSU officials on Oct. 12 that was based around their hope of selecting MSU based on honoring the 50th anniversary of the 1963 Bulldogs team that defeated North Carolina State in the Liberty Bowl.
"Mississippi State has a great tradition and history with the Autozone Liberty Bowl and it would just complete the loop here and come full circle that 50 years later it would be so fitting to have Mississippi State playing in the game," a source close to the bowl committee told The Dispatch. "To (the bowl committee and executives) history is just so very important."
After the 17-10 overtime victory over Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl rivalry game, the MSU ticket office began pre-selling tickets for three bowl destinations: the Liberty Bowl, Advocare V100 Bowl in Shreveport, La., or the BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham, Ala.
The Dispatch learned this week the history for MSU fans to not only sell out its ticket allotment but go beyond in filling a bowl stadium with its last three bowl game attendance numbers. The Liberty Bowl committee have hinted the attractiveness of MSU to its game date back to the 2007 'Paint Memphis Maroon' marketing campaign that led to a record announced crowd of 63,816.
MSU has qualified for a bowl in four straight seasons for the first time in program history. MSU has claimed six or more victories in four consecutive campaigns for the first time since 1997-2000. Mullen not only brought back the Golden Egg Trophy to Starkville but has engineered wins in four of the last five meetings against Ole Miss for just the second time since 1950.
After the win over Ole Miss, Mullen immediately began campaigning for a better bowl for the Bulldogs program in the post-game media conference.
"We finished ahead of the school up north," Mullen said. "Not overall but conference record (we were) both 3-5 and we won the head-to-head so I hope the league looks at that," Mullen said. "Hopefully the league gives us the nod, and we get the higher bowl game."
Vanderbilt, which finished the 2013 season with a 8-4 record, will be bumped to the BBVA Compass Bowl on Jan. 4 and will play Houston.
According to statistical data provided by the MSU Alumni Association, the state of Tennessee has the third-highest amount of MSU alums in the country behind Mississippi and Alabama. Most of that alumni base in the Volunteer state is led by its contingent in the Memphis area.
MSU has two scholarship players on its current roster from the Memphis area that include junior linebacker Ferlando Bohanna and sophomore cornerback Will Redmond. Bohanna has been out for nearly the entire 2013 season with concussion issues and Mullen said in the post-game media conference he had reservations about Bohanna's ability to ever return to the football field in his college career after the injury Saturday.
Redmond has earned 21 tackles after being withheld from the first five games of the 2013 season following a NCAA investigation revealed in June a former booster assisted Redmond in purchasing a automobile at a discount and other financial benefits.
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