Colorful Mike Leach, Mississippi State’s first-year head football coach, makes his return to Tiger Stadium on Saturday for the first time in 22 years when No. 5 LSU battles the visiting Bulldogs in the 2020 season opener.
Leach was Kentucky’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks’ coach when the Wildcats escaped with a 39-36 victory over the Tigers in 1998. UK rolled for 573 yards total offense with QB Tim Couch passing for 391 yards and three touchdowns.
“The history and the tradition in that stadium is outstanding.” Leach said.
Here’s what else Leach had to say:
On if he has learned anything from the first few weeks of sloppy play in college games he may have watched
“More than anything, the sloppy games just look like first games. As you try to build a team, you improve as the season. You try to avoid as many mishaps as you can. You use some situations as examples. It’s always a challenge to make sure you’ve gotten everything addressed.”
On Leach’s first and only game in Tiger Stadium in 1998 as a Kentucky assistant in 39-36 UK win
“It may be the best game day environment. There were little old ladies and their grandchildren flipping off our (team) bus. As you get closer, they start rocking your bus. I looked up at the dorms and imagined what it would be like to live in the dorms in the stadium back in the day. Tried to think about the history of the H-shaped goalposts. I went by the (live) tiger and made sure somebody else was closer to the tiger than me, so if the tiger escaped, he’d eat that guy before he got to me.”
On what he thinks the crowd will be like Saturday in Tiger Stadium since attendance is limited to 25 percent of capacity
“It seems to me kind of like your spring game. I don’t have to wait for a guy to get to the sideline to yell at him if I don’t like what he’s doing. He can hear me out there on the field. The game is going to be meaningful from start to finish.”
On how similar his offense is now to the one he and Hal Mumme first put together coaching Iowa Wesleyan in 1989 through 1992
“It’s hard to keep track. It’s pretty similar, but I don’t know what we added and when and what we’ve emphasized. The goal has always been to attack all the field.”
On the first-year difficulties as a head coach of transitioning to a new program
“The biggest thing is try and sell what you want to do on the field, sell it, illustrate it, teach it, get people good at it as you possibly can. Some jump on board and some aren’t necessarily all in. You try to get them all in. If they don’t get all in, you try to encourage them to go find something else to do. Try to go slow (teaching). The worst thing you can do is have too much in there, so you try and keep it kind of basic.”