Penn State OC Joe Moorhead reportedly to be named Mississippi State head coach

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Penn State OC Joe Moorhead reportedly to be named Mississippi State head coach

Mississippi State hired a Florida offensive coordinator with no college head coaching experience to come lead its football program.

That was nine years ago, his name was Dan Mullen. It turned out be a risk that worked out extremely well for the Bulldogs.

Now Mississippi State has gone back to a similar blueprint. The Bulldogs will hire Penn State offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead as their next head coach, according to a person with direct knowledge of the decision.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on Tuesday on condition of anonymity because a deal was still being finalized.

Mullen had a 69-46 record and lifted the Bulldogs from the Southeastern Conference basement to a respected -- and often successful -- program in the Western Division.

He left the folks in Starkville, Mississippi, returning to Florida as the Gators new head coach. The move announced Sunday wasn't totally unexpected -- Mullen's name has been mentioned in connection with other jobs during the past several offseasons.

"In anticipation of this development, MSU has already begun the process of an orderly and expeditious transition to new and exciting leadership for our football program," Mississippi State President Mark E. Keenum said in a statement on Sunday.

The new hire happened quickly.

Before coming to Penn State, Moorhead was head coach at FCS Fordham University in New York. He went 38-13 at his alma mater with three playoff appearances in four years. The Rams have made only two other playoff appearances since moving up to Division I in 1989.

While Moorhead has the head coaching experience that Mullen lacked, this is still his first head coaching job at the FBS level.

The 44-year-old from Pittsburgh also has been offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Connecticut and Akron.

Penn State coach James Franklin hired Moorhead after the 2015 season to bring his creative spread offense to State College, and it has helped the Nittany Lions take off. Penn State is 21-5 the last two seasons with Moorhead directing the offense.

Mullen was one of the most successful football coaches in program history. His 69 wins were the second-most at Mississippi State and he led the Bulldogs to a program-record eight straight bowl games.

His best season was in 2014, when Mississippi State was the No. 1 team in the country for five straight weeks. The Bulldogs, who were led by current Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, finished with a 10-3 record that season.

The good news for the Bulldogs is the job should be more attractive than it's even been.

"We return a tremendous roster of young talent," Mississippi State athletic director John Cohen said when announcing Mullen's departure. "We seek someone who will continue us on our path to competing for championships and developing our student-athletes both on and off the field."

No. 24 Mississippi State has an 8-4 record this season, including a 4-4 mark in the SEC. If the Bulldogs win their bowl game, it'll be the third time in four seasons that they've won nine games.

Cohen wasn't exaggerating; the roster appears stocked for 2018: Starting quarterback Nick Fitzgerald suffered a gruesome dislocated ankle in the Egg Bowl last week, but has already had surgery and is expected to make a full recovery and be ready for next season. Only a handful of the main contributors this season were seniors.

Mississippi State has also improved its facilities in recent years. In 2014, Davis Wade Stadium received a $75 million upgrade that increased seating by several thousand and also included more premium seating.

The main downside to the job is the Bulldogs reside in the SEC's Western Division and the other six programs are flush with cash and other resources. But Mullen proved that Mississippi State can be a factor -- and the Bulldogs are looking for someone with the ability to do the same. 

Penn State tops Utah to win NIT championship

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Penn State tops Utah to win NIT championship

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK -- Flavor Flav had his red cap flipped backward as he pulled out his iPhone on the Madison Square Garden court. Flav held the camera steady and recorded cousin Shep Garner clip the final strands of the championship net and wave it toward the Penn State die-hards.

Flav's T-shirt at the NIT said it all for the Nittany Lions: Believe the hype!

Garner hit the 3-pointer that brought rapper and reality star Flavor Flav to his feet and helped send Penn State on its way to an NIT title in an 82-66 victory over Utah on Thursday night.

The fourth-seeded Nittany Lions (26-13) also knocked off No. 1 seed Notre Dame in the tournament en route to winning their first NIT title since 2009.

"This means the whole world to me right now ," Flavor Flav said.

They were pretty pumped in Happy Valley, too.

"I think we set the standard," Garner said. "We preach defense and rebounding, but now we have something we can always go to. We won something. We're champions."

Flavor Flav, member of the seminal `80s rap group Public Enemy, sang along to "Fight the Power" as it blasted in the Garden and had the PSU student section chanting "Flav! Flav! Flav!" as the Nittany Lions pulled away for a program-defining championship under coach Pat Chambers.

Lamar Stevens scored 28 points, Josh Reaves had 18 and Tony Carr had 15 points and 14 assists for Penn State.

Penn State's Bryce Jordan Center has a long-standing reputation as one of the dreariest arenas in college basketball. Penn State fans, from rappers to silver-haired alumni, packed the Garden all the way to the last row of the upper deck.

Penn State football coach James Franklin, who led the program to a Pinstripe Bowl victory in 2014, was in the house. Flavor Flav stole the show a few rows behind the PSU bench. Wearing a T-shirt that read "33 Shep Garner," Flavor Flav danced all night in his seat. Flavor Flav popped his T-shirt and raised the roof in the same arena where Public Enemy once tore down the house.

"I think we've proven to teams across the country that Penn State basketball is here to stay," Chambers said.

The clutch moment came in the third quarter when Garner -- who became Penn State's career 3-point leader in the tournament run -- hit a 3 for his first basket of the game and a 49-41 lead that had the fans going wild.

"To see my cousin break records, win trophies, all that, he deserves it," Flavor Flav said. "The whole team deserves it."

Reaves hit a crashing layup on a three-point play that stretched the lead to 11 and Stevens wagged his tongue toward the PSU fans on a jumper that helped blow open the game.

Flavor Flav raised an arm in the air when Garner sank a 3 early in the fourth for a 68-49 edge that all but put this one away.

The final minutes certainly put some flava in your ear -- half the MSG crowd chanted "We Are!" and the other half bellowed "Penn State!"

Yeah, boy!

Sedrick Barefield hit six 3s and scored 22 points for second-seeded Utah (23-12).

"You're always kind of watching the NIT and maybe you think of it as the consolation prize or whatever," Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said. "They have no idea how cool this was for us."

Big picture
Utah: David Collette, Justin Bibbins and Tyler Rawson are among the seniors moving on. ... Bibbins scored 15 points.

Penn State: Stevens reached 1,000 career points was named most outstanding player. ... Chambers, a former assistant coach under Jay Wright at Villanova, took over in 2011 and has struggled to find any kind of regular success. The Nittany Lions have never made the NCAA Tournament under Chambers and they'll have just their second winning record in seven seasons. But Penn State's 26 wins are second-highest in program history. The Nittany Lions won a record 27 games in 2008-09.

Big crowd
The 11,175 fans at MSG were the most for an NIT final since 2005.

"And you say we're a football school," Chambers cracked.

Something different
The NIT was a bit of a mad scientist in the college basketball lab. The game featured four 10-minute quarters. The tournament also implemented the FIBA 3-point line (22 feet, 1.75 inches), NBA-width lane of 16 inches, and a 20-second shot clock following offensive rebounds.

Penn State dominates Mississippi State to reach NIT title game

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Penn State dominates Mississippi State to reach NIT title game

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK -- Nearly a month after Penn State was bounced out of the Big Ten Tournament, the Nittany Lions are back at Madison Square Garden with another chance to win a championship.

Tony Carr scored 21 points, Shep Garner added 18 while breaking the school record for career 3-pointers and Penn State routed Mississippi State 75-60 in the National Invitation Tournament semifinals Tuesday night.

"Of course we were a little disappointed not to make the (NCAA) Tournament, but we made another goal," Garner said. "We saw we were in the NIT and our goal was to get to New York and win it. That's what everyone wants to do. We put ourselves in position to do so."

The fourth-seeded Nittany Lions (25-13) will play No. 2 seed Utah for the title Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.

After the score was tied 9-all, Penn State ended the first quarter on a 9-2 run. From there, the Nittany Lions opened the second with a 19-0 spurt capped by Garner's 3 off an assist from Carr to make it 37-11.

With football coach James Franklin cheering from the stands, Penn State went up 42-23 at halftime and led by as many as 27.

Mississippi State (25-12) wasn't able to get within 20 again until there was 7:56 left in the game. Abdul Ado's dunk made it 65-47, but that was the closest the Bulldogs got before the waning moments.

"We were really impatient," Mississippi State coach Ben Howland said. "Once we started falling behind, we got anxious and we were shooting quick. Quick, bad shots and it just like, snowballed."

Tyson Carter scored 19 points off the bench to lead No. 4 seed Mississippi State. Ado had 13 points and seven rebounds.

Lamar Stevens scored 17 for Penn State, which shot 11 of 20 from 3-point territory. Carr had six assists and five rebounds.

Big picture
Penn State: While the Nittany Lions would have preferred to play in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011, they made the NIT for the first time under seventh-year coach Pat Chambers. Penn State's last trip to the NIT title game was in 2009, when it beat Baylor for the crown. The school's only other appearance in the final was a loss to Minnesota in 1998.

Mississippi State: With just one senior on the roster, the Bulldogs will return most of their team and have something positive to build off as they try to move up the rankings in the rugged SEC next season.

Record producer
With his six 3-pointers, Garner broke Penn State's record for 3s in an NIT along with the school mark of 332 held by Pete Lisicky (1995-98). Garner also had six 3s in the Big Ten Tournament semifinal loss to Purdue, giving him 12 in his last two games at Madison Square Garden and 334 for his career.

"They say the record is an individual record, but I've had a lot of teammates that had a lot to do with the record," Garner said. "A lot of people that set screens for me to get me open, break passes to them, they put it right on the button for me and I just finish the job. That's a team record. It's a lot of people that had stuff to do with it. I tip my hat to my teammates and my coaches to put me in a position to do something special like that."

Up next
Penn State: Will try to win the second NIT championship in school history when it faces Utah (23-11), which beat Western Kentucky 69-64 in the first semifinal.

Mississippi State: Starts preparing for a promising 2018-19 season.