By RALPH D. RUSSO, AP College Football Writer
Mississippi State will hire Penn State offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead as its 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.
Moorhead replaces Dan Mullen, who left Mississippi State after nine years to become Florida’s coach. Moorhead has been with Penn State the last two seasons, calling plays for one of the best offenses in the country.
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.
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. In 2015, the Nittany Lions were 21st in the nation and second in the Big Ten in yards per play at 6.50. This season, they are 17th nationally and second in the Big Ten at 6.55 yards per play.
At Mississippi State, Moorhead will have one of the best quarterbacks in the Southeastern Conference in Nick Fitzgerald, though he will be recovering from a serious ankle injury suffered in the season finale against Mississippi. When healthy, Fitzgerald is a dual-threat who would seem to be a perfect fit for Moorhead’s offense.
The Bulldogs finished the regular season 8-4 and have much of this season’s team returning in 2018.