Penn State Football

It’s official: Penn State OC Joe Moorhead the next head coach at Miss. State

Joe Moorhead’s move from Happy Valley to Starkville is now official.

Mississippi State announced Moorhead — Penn State’s calculated and innovative offensive coordinator — as its new head coach in a Wednesday morning release. Moorhead’s introductory press conference will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday.

He will not coach in Penn State’s bowl game.

Moorhead called it “a tremendous honor” to take over the Mississippi State program, succeeding new Florida coach Dan Mullen. Meanwhile, Penn State coach James Franklin said “we couldn’t be happier for Joe Moorhead and his family,” in the release.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for him to return to being a head coach and continue to move forward in his career,” Franklin said. “We are so appreciative of everything that he has done for Penn State football in his two years. Joe’s combination of leadership, X’s and O’s, and, most importantly, positive attitude brought the best out of our very talented offensive student-athletes. He has been a great mentor and coach to our student-athletes and friend to me and our staff. We wish Joe nothing but success at Mississippi State.”

Moorhead was considered a “high priority” candidate for the vacancy, per a Monday night report by USA Today’s Dan Wolken. Mississippi State athletic director John Cohen said during the school’s search, “It became unequivocally clear who our next football coach was, and that man was Joe Moorhead.”

The writing was really on the wall for Moorhead to eventually run an FBS program. The former Fordham head coach (38-13 record from 2012-15) reportedly received interest in jobs like Purdue and Temple last year, but returned to Penn State to coordinate the Nittany Lions’ high-octane attack. After Moorhead’s arrival — taking over for John Donovan following the 2015 season — Penn State went 21-5. That’s no coincidence. Donovan’s offense managed 23.2 points per game in 2015. Moorhead’s system produced 37.3 and 41.7 the past two seasons, respectively.

The Nittany Lions will certainly miss Moorhead. Penn State players from wide receiver Juwan Johnson to linebacker Jason Cabinda tweeted out their support, thanking the now-former coordinator for the past couple seasons. Under Moorhead’s guidance, the offense helped Penn State to a comeback Big Ten title win and epic showing in the Rose Bowl.

Mississippi State is hoping to capture the same magic after Mullen — like Moorhead, a quarterback savant — bolted for Gainesville.

“My charge to athletics director John Cohen was to find a dynamic, innovative new head coach for the Bulldogs who could embrace that winning tradition and build on it,” Mississippi State president Dr. Mark Keenum said. “In Coach Joe Moorhead, I think we’ve found that leader.”

John McGonigal: 814-231-4630, @jmcgonigal9

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