John Clay

Mississippi State is all in on BallCoachJoeMo. ‘He’s a sharp football mind.’

Joe Moorhead is off to a 3-0 start as the first-year head coach at Mississippi State. Moorhead leads his Bulldogs into Kroger Field on Saturday night to take on unbeaten Kentucky.
Joe Moorhead is off to a 3-0 start as the first-year head coach at Mississippi State. Moorhead leads his Bulldogs into Kroger Field on Saturday night to take on unbeaten Kentucky. Associated Press

Random notes:

They love BallCoachJoeMo in Starkville, that being the Twitter handle of first-year Mississippi State coach Joe Moorhead. And it’s not just that the 14th-ranked Bulldogs are 3-0 heading into Saturday’s night game against Kentucky at Kroger Field.

You’d think the former Penn State offensive coordinator and (before that) former Fordham head coach might have some trouble finding a fit in Mississippi. You’d be wrong. The Bulldogs are so bullish on their head coach they have replaced the “More Cowbell” chant off Will Ferrell’s “Saturday Night Live” video with “Moor Cowbell” for their head coach.

“I got to know him a bit through the league and the meetings,” UK Coach Mark Stoops said Monday of the 44-year-old Moorhead, who was born in Pittsburgh, played college football at Fordham, then pro football in Germany before getting into coaching.

“Really good person,” Stoops continued. “You know he’s a sharp football mind, but I really enjoyed being around him. We both share an affinity for Italian restaurants, so he gave me (a recommendation) when we were at the meetings.”

The State offense has not missed a beat under Moorhead. In fact, the Bulldogs come to Kroger Field ranked No. 8 nationally in total offense, averaging 587.7 yards per game.

But then Moorhead set the tone at Mississippi State early. In his first meeting with the Bulldogs, he asked the players if they knew their ring size — intimating that he planned on winning championships at MSU.

And what has been Moorhead’s biggest adjustment to Starkville? “Walking out the door and being smacked in the face by the humidity,” the coach said at SEC Media Days in July. “And everything wrapped in bacon.”

Conventional wisdom stated that new Louisville basketball coach Chris Mack would struggle early in recruiting thanks to probation and other NCAA uncertainties. Conventional wisdom looks to be wrong again.

U of L got a commitment this week from Samuell Willamson, a 6-foot-7 four-star prospect out of Texas, giving the Cards three ESPN Top 100 prospects for 2019. ESPN analyst Paul Biancardi told ESPN680’s Bob Valvano on Wednesday, “I love this class.”

Little wonder Louisville’s Bobby Petrino has decided to bench quarterback Jawon Pass in favor of Malik Cunningham for Saturday’s game at Virginia. The U of L offense is a very unPetrino-like 120th nationally in total offense after three weeks.

After touting Benny Snell on its 10-player Heisman Trophy favorites list last week, Pro Football Focus did not have Snell among its top 10 Heisman rankings after last Saturday’s games. You think maybe Snell has heard about that?

I was surprised when former UK offensive coordinator Neal Brown didn’t get his name mentioned more for coaching openings after his Troy team won at LSU last season. After the Trojans won at Nebraska last week, I’ll be shocked if you don’t hear his name this off-season.

On the opposite end, Purdue Coach Jeff Brohm was a hot name last year, even though he had spent just one season in West Lafayette. The former Louisville quarterback and Western Kentucky coach was under consideration at Tennessee. Alas, this year the Boilermakers are off to an 0-3 start. Still believe Brohm is a terrific coach. Look for Purdue to rebound.

Want to know why LSU is off to a 3-0 start, with wins over two top-10 powers in Miami and Auburn? The Tigers are the only FBS team that has not committed a turnover. And by the way, since being fired at Ole Miss, LSU Coach Ed Orgeron is 4-2 against top-10 teams.

One aspect, among many, has impressed me about UK quarterback Terry Wilson. He seems to know exactly when to hold on to the football and when to turn the ball up field and run.

UK offensive coordinator Eddie Gran considers runs of 12-or-more yards as being explosive runs. Through three games, Wilson has seven such runs. He’s been sacked just once. “I’ve got a clock in my head,” said Wilson.

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