MONGRUE: New year, new coach

MSU parts ways with Moorhead after two seasons

(WLBT) - “Should old acquaintance be forgot...”

It’s the only five words that anyone knows to the New Year’s song everyone sings when the ball touches down. On Thursday, Mississippi State and John Cohen took those five words to heart.

After a loss in the Music City Bowl handed the Bulldogs just its second losing record since 2010, it appears that everyone involved with the program wanted to forget about everything about the 2019 football season and so, suddenly, Joe Moorhead became an ‘old acquaintance.’

On the surface, the timing of the Moorhead’s ousting may seem a tad hasty and reactionary. After all, it’s just the second time a FBS head coaching position has been open in January over the last two years – The other one being at Temple last season and that only came because Manny Diaz, who the Owls hired the month before, bailed to take the job at Miami.

But for those following the Bulldogs, hasty may be the exact opposite feeling regarding this move. Cohen had been considering cutting bait with Cohen right before the Egg Bowl, but then Elijah Moore lifted his leg and Moorhead was challenging people to drag his “yankee-ass” out of Starkville.

The running joke then between the MSU and Ole Miss fanbases then was that whichever team lost on the field would actually win in the long run. Both Moorhead and Matt Luke came in on the hot seat, with the Rebels parting ways with Luke the next day and Moorhead, at least appeared, to have saved his job for another season.

The coaching carousel in the time since the Egg Bowl has seen 16 job open and subsequently filled. Ole Miss now has Lane Kiffin, while Mississippi State is now seemingly scrambling to find its new football leader.

I use that term because a leader is what Cohen believed he no longer had in Moorhead.

It has been beaten to death by now, but the tutor scandal and the pre-bowl practices no-shows and fights didn’t exactly portray that tight ship was being run. After the loss to Louisville, a pretty sullen Moorhead himself mentioned in his press conference – with Cohen in attendance – that he could write an entire book on the Bulldogs adventures of 2019.

Fast forward to Cohen’s press conference on Thursday and he mentioned some version of the word ‘discipline’ at least eight times. It’s evident that the results on-the-field weren’t the driving force behind the decision to swing the axe.

As an aside, I completely forgot that MSU was ranked for one week this season. It just shows how quickly things can go sideways without much warning.

It was always going to be tough to follow the success Dan Mullen brought, but bringing in Moorhead was pretty much universally approved when he was brought over from Penn State. The 8-5 record the Bulldogs posted in 2018 is the best first-year mark that any MSU head coach has posted since 1939. But the other side of the coin says that a 7-9 record in the SEC wasn’t enough from Moorhead to show that he could elevate MSU to that next tier in the conference ranks.

To date, Moorhead has been the biggest hire that Cohen has made since trading in the baseball coach title for Athletic Director. But maybe some old habits die hard, because for a guy that was notorious for making pitching changes in the middle of the count, Cohen is doing that now with his football coach.

It worked many of times for Cohen on the diamond, and he’s hoping now that something similar will happen and he can find a new acquaintance that Mississippi State will never forget.

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