Leach: Roster may need ‘purge’ of ‘malcontents’

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Mississippi State coach Mike Leach said he will have to evaluate the roster and possibly “purge” some players who don’t fit with the plan after Saturday’s 24-2 loss at Kentucky.

The Bulldogs, who opened the season with a 44-34 win at defending national champion LSU and an SEC-record 623 passing yards, failed to score on offense and had six interceptions against Kentucky. Mississippi State dropped its second straight game after last week’s 21-14 home loss to Arkansas, which snapped a 20-game SEC losing streak.

“We’re going to have to check some of our group and figure out who really wants to play here,” Leach said after the Kentucky loss, “because any malcontents, we’re going to have to purge a couple of those.”

Mississippi State outgained Kentucky 296-157 and held the ball for nearly 35 minutes. Kentucky had an eight-yard interception return for a touchdown and had two other scoring drives of only 22 yards and two yards. Quarterback K.J. Costello, who shined in the opener, threw four interceptions before being replaced by freshman Will Rogers, who twice was intercepted.

“We didn’t play together at all,” Leach said. “You can really say all things. We’ve got to figure out a way to clean that up. Their three guys up front can consistently beat our five. Our receivers did not consistently catch the ball. … We turned the ball over, which was a byproduct of the quarterback’s eyes not being in the right place.”

Asked if Costello, a graduate transfer from Stanford, would remain Mississippi State’s starter, Leach said, “We’ll have to go back and take a look and see.”

Leach also pointed to poor offensive line play, penalties and dropped passes as issues that plagued Mississippi State’s offense against Kentucky. He said the Bulldogs practiced well but didn’t translate their performance to the game, noting that the offense’s problems are “unit wide.”

“Offensively, we’re not coaching very well right now,” Leach said. “We have to coach better. If you look at this game, nearly every problem that we have was self-inflicted. With a lot of respect to Kentucky, but one self-inflicted wound after the next. I’ve been in plenty games where we didn’t drop any balls. I don’t know how many balls we dropped but I lost count.”

Mississippi State returns home next week to face No. 21 Texas A&M.

“We’ve got to become a better offense,” Leach said. “We’ve got a new system, we’ve got some youth and inexperience, and we’ve just got to stick together and coach our way through it.”

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