Fort Worth, TX—Tension was rising all day long with a lot of barking throughout the game.
Mississippi State and Tulsa football players got into a huge fight at the end of the Bulldogs’ 28-26 win in the Armed Forces Bowl Thursday afternoon, with players pushing, shoving and throwing blows at one another.
Bulldogs wide-out Malik Heath kicked Tulsa safety Tieneal Martin in the face after throwing him to the ground.
Another Tulsa safety, Kendarin Ray, had to be helped off the field and was examined for a possible concussion.
“I’m not going to comment a lot about it,” Tulsa coach Philip Montgomery said. The one thing I’ll say is our program, our guys, we’re a team that is going to stand up for each other and we’re going to battle.
With the victory, Mississippi State (4-7) earned its fourth win of the 2020 season and its 14th bowl win in school history.
Mississippi State coach Mike Leach down played the incident about the fight after the game.
“This is a football game so we’re not going to be tearing cloth over this deal,” he said on the ESPN broadcast after the game. Somebody went to a football game and somebody got hit. There’s a point where I’m not going to lose my mind over it.”
He did also later tell reporter that the skirmish was “dumb,”
Tulsa and its conference, the AAC, later said they would review the incident.
“We take this incident very seriously and will respond appropriately after the review is complete,” Tulsa said in a statement.
The game played in front of only 9,000 spectators on a early afternoon just doesn’t look good on a national television. Bowl games can bring out the competitor in anyone. But there’s a difference between channeling raw emotion and letting it control you.
“I’m not sure what exactly caused that,” Leach said of the postgame brawl. There was something before the game, too. We never had any problem with that the entire season, so you know, I can only guess without seeing the film.
Asked how he would address it with this team, Leach said, “Don’t do it anymore. It’s just dumb. There was some of that stuff going back and forth in the course of the game.”
Both teams met on the turf following an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against the Bulldogs, which came during a onside kick from Tulsa. Players from both teams met on two distinct sides when a Bulldog player punched a Tulsa player in the helmet.
That punch led to a bunch of players from both sides scrapping with each other, and Mississippi State wide receiver Malik Heath kicked Tulsa senior safety Tieneal Martin.
Tulsa sophomore safety Kendarin Ray was helped off the field after being injured during the postgame brawl. It is not certain what started the brawl.
“There was something before the game, too,” Leach said.
It is unclear what started the fracas, which included kicking and punching and involved several members from both teams. What started with some shoving near midfield during the postgame handshake spilled over to the sidelines.
AAC commissioner Mike Aresco added: “We will work with the University of Tulsa to conduct a thorough review of the altercation pursuant to our Conference Code of Sportsmanship process and expect that the university will respond accordingly.”
Tulsa coach Philip Montgomery also did not provide a reason for what started the brawl.
“The one thing I’ll say is our program, our guys, we’re a team that is going to stand up for each other and we’re going to battle,” Montgomery said. “We talked about faith, family, football, and family is going to take care of family. We’re a team that has battled all year long. We battled again today, and from that standpoint, our guys are going to continue to protect each other and go from there.”
After the pregame incident, the game had a lot of trash talking. The teams combined for 18 penalties.
“I think he has probably some version of a concussion, and we’ll leave it at that,” Montgomery said.