Smith on Sports: Fitzgerald suspension gives Thompson another opportunity at MSU

Danny P. Smith

Staff Writer

It looks like the quarterback that took the final snaps of the final home game for the Mississippi State Bulldogs last season will be right back under center to begin this season at Davis Wade Stadium.

After the suspension of senior Nick Fitzgerald was announced by MSU head coach Joe Moorhead on Monday, that means that sophomore Keytaon Thompson will start Saturday’s game against Stephen F. Austin in Starkville.

Thompson has proven that he can get the job done for the Bulldogs and Moorhead has confidence that he can do it again in the matchup with the Lumberjacks.

Moorhead is fortunate that he has a backup quarterback that has already had the experience of being in a Southeastern Conference game and a postseason bowl outing.

In last year’s Battle for the Golden Egg, Thompson nearly led MSU to a comeback against the Ole Miss Rebels when Fitzgerald went down with a broken ankle last November. Thompson led the Bulldogs to a TaxSlayer Bowl victory over the Louisville Cardinals and their talented senior quarterback Lamar Jackson in December.

“He had the ability to go into a bowl game with an interim staff and against a Heisman Trophy winning quarterback,” Moorhead said of Thompson. “He brought the team to a great win in the bowl game.”

Thompson rushed for 147 yards on 27 carries and scored three touchdowns in the 31-27 win over the Cardinals. He completed 11-of-20 pass attempts for 127 yards

Against Ole Miss, Thompson had 316 yards of total offense. He had 121 yards rushing and 195 yards through the air. MSU eventually ran out of time and lost a 31-28 decision to the Rebels, but given a few more minutes and Thompson may have very well finished the rally.

It will be interesting to see how Thompson handles this latest opportunity.

If there is one part of Thompson’s game that’s a bit concerning is turnovers. He threw a pair of interceptions last season and has been known to fumble the football away.

Pass Protection will be a key so Thompson won't be pressured into forcing throws or take a hit that might jar the football loose.

The Bulldogs need to establish the run with Aeris Williams and Kylin Hill so Thompson won't have to be asked to carry the load on offense.

All Thompson needs to do is manage the game and let teammates do most of the work for him.

That way Thompson won't have any problem being 2-0 as MSU's starter after Saturday's game has concluded.

Danny P. Smith is the sports editor and columnist for The Starkville Daily News. The opinions in this column are his and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SDN or its staff.