By JOEL COLEMAN
The cowbells aren’t finished clanging in 2016. The Bulldogs are going bowling again.
Mississippi State announced on Sunday that the school will play against Miami (Ohio) in the St. Petersburg Bowl on Monday, Dec. 26 at 10 a.m. The game is held at Tropicana Field, the home of Major League Baseball’s Tampa Bay Rays, in St. Petersburg, Florida,
This marks the seventh-consecutive season that Mississippi State’s football team will have participated in a bowl game. The Bulldogs are one of only five Southeastern Conference schools to have played in a bowl game every year of this decade.
“On behalf of everyone at Mississippi State, we are excited to accept a bowl invitation for a school-record seventh-straight year,” MSU Director of Athletics John Cohen said. “St. Petersburg is an excellent destination, and our fans have shown over the years how well they travel to support the Bulldogs. We look forward to the experience of playing a bowl game in the state of Florida for the third time in five seasons. Congratulations to head coach Dan Mullen and his staff on earning a bid to the St. Petersburg Bowl.”
MSU earned this year’s bowl appearance even without reaching the six wins required for bowl eligibility. The Bulldogs improved to 5-7 with their 55-20 win over Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl on Nov. 26. That win, coupled with the school’s NCAA Academic Progress Rate, allowed MSU to fill one of the open bowl slots available after all six-win teams were slotted.
MSU’s APR of 971 is a dozen points higher than the national average and was the second-best among the 12 teams in the country that finished with a 5-7 record this season. As such, Mississippi State’s bowl streak continues on.
“We are thrilled to reach a bowl game for a school-record seventh straight year and finish the season in St. Petersburg,” Mullen said. “This is a great opportunity for one of the winningest senior classes in school history and for our program to build momentum for 2017. It also speaks volumes of our student-athletes for their commitment in the classroom to qualify for a bowl based on our successful APR.”
MSU’s St. Petersburg Bowl opponent, Miami (Ohio), finished with a 6-6 overall record in the regular season. The RedHawks lost their first six games of the season before winning six in a row to close out the year. The school boasts the best defense in the Mid-American Conference after allowing just 361.4 yards and 23.4 points per game.
Mullen will be making his seventh bowl appearance at the helm of the Mississippi State program. No other coach in Bulldog history has ever appeared in that many bowl games. Mullen already holds the school record for bowl wins by a head coach with four. He’ll look to better that number in St. Petersburg.
Tickets to the St. Petersburg Bowl are available now. Cowbells will be allowed in Tropicana Field for the game.