It’s official: Joe Moorhead hired as Mississippi State’s coach

Joe Moorhead hired at Mississippi State
Rich Barnes/USA TODAY Sports

Mississippi State made it official Wednesday morning, naming Joe Moorhead to take over for Dan Mullen as coach.

The university officially announced that Moorhead, who had been Penn State offensive coordinator the past two seasons, would replace Mullen, who left Sunday after nine years to take the coaching job at Florida.

This will be Moorhead’s first job in the SEC, although he worked under a former SEC coach in James Franklin while in Happy Valley.

Unlike Mullen, though, who took over a program that had spent most of the preceding decades in the SEC doldrums, Moorhead inherits a Bulldogs team that has steadily built its national profile and has spent much of this season in the national polls.

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When Mullen arrived, the school had made just one bowl in the previous eight seasons, a stretch that included a four-win season, five three-win seasons and a two-win season. BY the time Mullen left, the Bulldogs had reached the No. 1 ranking in 2014 and qualified for seven bowls in a row, including an Orange Bowl. Once the final bowl pairings are announced Sunday, that number will climb to eight.

Moreover, Mullen has built Mississippi State into a program noted for developing quarterbacks, with Dak Prescott and current starter Nick Fitzgerald the most recent and most prominent in that line. Moorhead will inherit a seasoned competitor in Fitzgerald once the quarterback returns from his dislocated ankle suffered in the Egg Bowl against Ole Miss, and can draw upon his own experience with quarterbacks such as Penn State’s Trace McSorley.

With that stronger foundation, though, comes higher expectations. After nearly a decade of success, Mississippi State fans have grown accustomed to competing with the SEC’s powers.

So Moorhead joins a program with greater potential for fan angst should his start appear to slip below the standard that Mullen set during his tenure in Starkville.

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But Mississippi State has a long history of patience for coaches. The last Mississippi State coach not to remain on the job for five years or more was Darrell Royal, who stayed two years before leaving for Washington following the 1955 season, on his way to a Hall of Fame career at Texas.

Before being hired by Franklin at Penn State, Moorhead, 44, spent four seasons as coach at FCS program Fordham, leading the Rams to a 38-13 record and three playoff appearances. Fordham was 1-10 the year before he took over, and he had the Rams in the playoffs in his second, third and fourth seasons

His only other FBS experience other than Penn State is at Akron (2004-08) and Connecticut (2009-11); he was UConn’s offensive coordinator when the Huskies went to the Fiesta Bowl in 2010.

His offensive system should mesh well with the talent left by the offense-minded Mullen. Moorhead’s offenses at Penn State were balanced and explosive, and featured high-level play at quarterback, running back, wide receiver and tight end.

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