After coaching change, Mississippi State faces Southern Miss

Field Level Media

November 15, 2023 at 12:18 am.

Following a 51-10 throttling at the hands of Texas A&M last weekend, the Mississippi State hierarchy decided to relieve head coach Zach Arnett prior to hosting in-state opponent Southern Miss on Saturday.

Arnett, the Bulldogs’ defensive coordinator for three seasons, was promoted to interim coach and then head coach following the death of Mike Leach last December.

But after Arnett compiled a 4-6 record — which included a disappointing 1-6 mark in the Southeastern Conference — in his first season as a head coach, athletic director Zac Selmon made the change.

“I have the utmost respect for Zach Arnett and am incredibly appreciative of the effort he put forth in leading our football program,” Selmon said. “However, the progress and on-field results have not been of the standard required for Mississippi State to achieve the level of success we need and expect.”

Senior offensive analyst Greg Knox will serve as Mississippi State’s interim head coach for the rest of the season. But Knox may be without star quarterback Will Rogers (shoulder) for one more week. If that’s the case, backup Mike Wright will likely be behind center against Southern Miss.

After totaling just one win through eight games, the Golden Eagles (3-7) have beaten Louisiana-Monroe and Louisiana in consecutive weeks, while improving to 2-5 in Sun Belt Conference play.

In the thrilling 34-31 overtime win over the Ragin’ Cajuns last week, Southern Miss’ Frank Gore Jr. ran for 158 yards and three touchdowns, including the game-winner from 3 yards out.

Gore (970 yards, nine touchdowns) is the team’s top rusher, while Jakarius Caston (30 receptions, 518 yards, five TDs) is the top wideout.

Billy Wiles (1,845 passing yards and 10 TDs) has been the Golden Eagles’ primary quarterback, but talented freshman Ethan Crawford orchestrated a 10-play, 75-yard drive to tie the game at 28-all with 1:26 left to play.

When asked about who will be under center Saturday, USM head coach Will Hall said: “You’ll have to wait and see.”