Getting his chance? MSU's Moorhead may give Thompson time at quarterback

Mississippi State quarterback Keytaon Thompson (10) prepares to take a snap in his only play during the LSU game last Saturday.

Staff Writer

In an effort to jumpstart Mississippi State’s struggling offense, the backup quarterback is apparently about to get some chances.

First-year MSU head coach Joe Moorhead said Monday at his weekly press conference that the Bulldogs haven’t discussed a full-fledge changing of starting quarterbacks and pulling out Nick Fitzgerald ahead of Saturday’s 6 p.m. game against No. 16 Texas A&M, but second-string signal caller Keytaon Thompson will likely play at times against the Aggies.

“We have discussed in the offensive staff room not making a change, but during the first half and second half, giving (Thompson) an opportunity to start a drive for two reasons: as a change of pace to give him an opportunity because he’s a talented player and secondly, to take some of the physical wear and tear off of Nick who's got 121 carries right now over six games and he’s the fifth-leading rusher in the SEC,” Moorhead said.

The discussion to give Thompson an opportunity is no surprise. While Fitzgerald continues to be a threat in the ground game, his lack of success in the passing game has hampered the Bulldogs mightily of late. That was especially apparent last Saturday in State’s 19-3 loss at LSU.

Fitzgerald was just 8-for-24 through the air on Saturday for just 59 yards. He threw four interceptions. Moorhead isn’t placing all the blame on Fitzgerald, though he obviously does have to shoulder some of the load.

“For the struggles that Nick has had throwing the football, I kind of have to credit him with the amount of times he’s rushed the ball and what he’s done for us to create yards and create points, but obviously our struggles in the pass game are apparent,” Moorhead said. “It doesn’t just go to him. Three things need to happen for a pass game to be successful. We need to protect. We need to run good routes and get separation and the quarterback needs to throw the ball accurately. Unfortunately, right now, not all three of those things are clicking.”

So with Mississippi State struggling to get anything going at all in the air – the Bulldogs have the next-to-worst passing offense in the Southeastern Conference – Thompson appears very likely to get his chance to provide a spark.

MSU is running the ball just fine. The Bulldogs have the SEC’s second-best rushing offense and the 18th-best rushing offense in the nation. Yet Moorhead and the Bulldogs need more and hope Thompson will help give it to them.

“For us to be as successful as we want and how this offense has operated at its peak level of productivity is when we’re able to (both run and pass) successfully,” Moorhead said. “Right now, we’re one dimensional. We’re running the ball very, very well. We need to find a way to create more explosive plays in addition to the ones we’re getting in the run game. It’s just difficult, unless you’re a triple-option offense, to call runs the entire way down the field and expect to sustain that same level of effectiveness throughout the course of the game. We have to find a way to pass the ball better.”

Injury report

Several Bulldogs are dealing with injuries heading into this weekend’s game against Texas A&M.

Offensive lineman Stewart Reese, running back Kylin Hill and wide receiver Keith Mixon were all labeled as day-to-day by Moorhead. All three of those guys are dealing with lower-body ailments.

Also, defensive back Brian Cole remains day-to-day. He is dealing with an upper body injury that has caused him to miss the last two games.

Student athletes of the week

Following a loss, Mississippi State’s coaching staff didn’t hand out any internal player of the week awards after the LSU game, however two Bulldogs did earn student athlete of the week honors.

Running back Kylin Hill and former Starkville High wide receiver Cameron Gardner both received accolades for their work in the classroom.

Homecoming game time set

Mississippi State’s homecoming game against Louisiana Tech on November 3 is set for a nighttime kickoff.

The Southeastern Conference announced Monday that MSU and Louisiana Tech will begin at 6:30 p.m. The game will be televised by SEC Network.