Armed Forces Bowl post-game brawl leaves players injured

ByKyle Bonagura, ESPN Staff Writer ESPN logo
Friday, January 1, 2021
Bowl Brawl: Tulsa, Mississippi State players scrap after game
The Armed Forces Bowl ended in an all-out fight on the field after Mississippi State squeezed by Tulsa 28-26.

FORT WORTH, Texas -- A massive brawl broke out in the moments following the Armed Forces Bowl on Thursday, marring Mississippi State's 28-26 win against Tulsa in Fort Worth, Texas.

It is unclear what sparked the fight, which included kicking and punching and involved several members from both teams. What started with some shoving near midfield during the postgame handshake spilled toward and down one of the sidelines.

Both Tulsa and its conference, the AAC, said it would review what happened and hand out discipline if warranted.

"We take this incident very seriously and will respond appropriately after the review is complete," Tulsa said in a statement.

The AAC said it was disappointed its "highest standard of sportsmanship" was not met.

"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," commissioner Mike Aresco said.

Mississippi State coach Mike Leach said he wasn't sure what caused the fight.

"It's dumb. The root of it's dumb, no matter what the root of it is. The root of it's dumb and the continuation of it's dumb," he said. "I would have that solidly in the category of dumb. Now where the dumb started, I'm not entirely sure."

WATCH: Mississippi State coach Mike Leach reacts to massive brawl after bowl win

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."

Leach said a group of Tulsa players circled around the Mississippi State pregame warm-ups and "were talking," but he wouldn't speculate further about what might have caused things to escalate.

"I haven't seen enough film or anything like that to entirely let us off the hook on this thing by any stretch," he said.

After the pregame incident, the game was chippy. The teams combined for 18 penalties.

Tulsa safety Kendarin Ray was seen being helped off the field as things calmed down.

"I think he has probably some version of a concussion, and we'll leave it at that," Montgomery said.