Mississippi State fans are certainly expecting new head coach Joe Moorhead to continue the winning ways of Dan Mullen, who won 59 percent of his games (61-42) in nine seasons as MSU head coach. If the Bulldogs’ track record under first-year coaches holds true, however, it means some stark times may lie ahead in Starkville this season.
MSU’s football history indicates that the going is not usually easy for first-year Bulldog coaches. Here’s a look at the MSU coaching chronology and how some of the Bulldogs’ more recognizable coaches fared in their first seasons.
Dudy Noble (3-7-2)
The man whose name adorns State’s baseball stadium also coached football for one season in 1922 and went 3-7-2.
John Hancock (5-3)
No, not that John Hancock. This guy signed on to coach MSU football from 1927-1929 and went 5-3 in his first season.
Darrell Royal (6-4)
Yes, that’s the same Darrell Royal who introduced the Wishbone offense to college football and won national championships at Texas. He was the head man in Starkville in 1954 and 1955 and was 6-4 and 3-3 in Southeastern Conference play his first year.
Emory Bellard (3-8)
The man credited with helping Royal develop the Wishbone later coached the Bulldogs as well from 1979-1985 and went 3-8 (2-4) in his first season.
Rockey Felker (6-5)
Things started off OK for Felker, who coached the Bulldogs from 1986-1990, but got really rocky after that. He went 6-5 (2-4) in his first season, then never had another winning year, going 4-7, 1-10, 5-6 and 5-6.
Jackie Sherrill (7-5)
After two seasons out of the game, Sherrill returned to coaching in 1991 and went 7-5 (4-3). He guided the Bulldogs for 13 seasons total and finished with a career mark of 75-75-2.
Sylvester Croom (3-8)
The first African American coach in the SEC got off to a rough start, going 3-8 (2-6) in 2004 and followed that up with 3-8 and 3-9 seasons in 2005 and 2006. After posting an 8-5 mark in 2007, he was dismissed after going 4-8 in 2008.
Dan Mullen (5-7)
Even the magnificent Mullen couldn’t crack .500 in his first season, going 5-7 (3-5). It was one of only two sub-.500 seasons the Bulldogs recorded in Mullen’s nine-year tenure.
Joe Moorhead (?)
With 16 starters returning this season, including senior quarterback Nick Fitzgerald and eight starters on a unit that finished No. 10 nationally in total defense last season, the expectations are that Moorhead will surpass Sherrill’s modest mark of seven wins in his first season.
Media members in attendance at the recent Southeastern Conference Media Days in Atlanta picked the Bulldogs to finish third in the SEC West, ahead of Texas A&M and LSU. ESPN has projected an 8-4 final mark. And some Bulldog backers are even whispering that a double-digit total is possible.
So, there’s no flying under the radar for Moorhead in the first season of the post-Mullen era. H&A
Cover photo courtesy Mississippi State Athletics