Thompson fills in nicely, productive for Bulldogs

Mississippi State quarterback Keytaon Thompson

Staff Writer

Mississippi State was missing its senior leader at quarterback to begin the 2018 season on Saturday, but there was no worry in the locker room or in the stands.

After finishing out the regular season in Davis Wade Stadium last year as the quarterback and closing it leading MSU to the TaxSlayer Bowl victory, Keytaon Thompson was back as a starter against Stephen F. Austin.
First-year coach Joe Moorhead said earlier in the week that they had confidence in Thompson’s abilities and the game plan wouldn’t change.

He showed in the first half he was quite capable of keeping things rolling in Fitzgerald’s absence.

Thompson threw a swing pass to Kylin Hill on the opening offensive possession and Moorhead saw his running back race 53 yards for the touchdown. It was the first of four touchdown passes by Thompson as he had a career day and led the Bulldogs to a 63-6 victory and the 1-0 start.

“I felt like we came out really well," Thompson said. "We had a fast start on the first play and got in the end zone. I don’t think we could have scripted a better start. The receivers did well. They continue to grow and they’re going to get better as the season goes on.

It was a hot start to the game for Thompson who went 9-of-19 in the first half with nine different receivers for 263 yards and four touchdowns. He also ran for another score in the first half and 75 yards. The second half started with eight-straight incompletions however as he struggled to find his receivers.

“That’s something that we’re working on,” Moorhead said. “(A passing efficiency of) 65 percent is our benchmark and certainly for us to operate how we want to and the schedule we want to play, our completion percentage has to improve.”

Thompson's first completion of the half got him back on track when he found Osirus Mitchell for a 30-yard score and capped his career evening.

He ended the game a meager 13-of-31 passing, but racked up 364 yards and five touchdowns and rushed for another 109 yards and two more scores. He finished tying a Southeastern Conference and school record with seven combined touchdowns and tied the MSU record with two Dak Prescott performances with his five passing scores.

There were 12 different players to catch passes in the game with Mitchell, Austin Williams and Keith Mixon all having two catches each. Mitchell had 114 yards and two touchdowns with his two catches became the first player since Fred Ross did it against Arkansas in 2016.

Several Bulldogs
make their debut

A slew of Bulldogs made their debut on Saturday ranging from true and redshirt freshmen and junior college players.

After sitting out for a season due to academic ineligibility, defensive end Chauncey Rivers and safety Brian Cole had solid performances. Both players had two tackles and a tackle for loss and Cole got the start. Fellow junior college redshirt Jaquarius Landrews also played and had three tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and a sack.

Most of MSU’s true freshmen class got on the field for the first time thanks, in large part, to the new redshirt rule that allows players to compete in up to four games before redshirting. Among those true freshmen were cornerback Jaylon Reed, who had three tackles, Nathaniel Watson who had two tackles and wide receiver Devonta Jason who had a 25-yard catch.

Also, true freshman Jalen Mayden quarterbacked in the fourth quarter completing a 9-yard pass and rushing five times for 22 yards. West Point native Marcus Murphy played special teams, former Starkville High wide out Cameron Gardner made his debut and Brandon true freshman Scott Goodman handled kickoffs.

“We got them in for a series or two at the end," Moorhead said. "We’ve put the plan in for the redshirt rule and this was the one game that everyone was green-lighted. Some of them will redshirt and some of them will play, but the ones that did play got a lot to gain from this experience.”

Redshirt freshman wide out Austin Williams finished his first game with 30 yards on two catches and started alongside Hinds Community College transfer Stephen Guidry, who finished with a catch for 39 yards.

Starkville native gets
start for Lumberjacks

Former Starkville High School standout Aretavious Hendrix made the start at cornerback for Stephen F. Austin on Saturday evening marking his return to his home town.

Hendrix made one tackle and had a quarterback hurry in the loss. He was also making his debut for the Lumberjacks after a stellar career with Gulf Coast Community College. Hendrix was a part of the SHS state championship team of 2015.

More Mississippi flavor came in the form of former East Mississippi Community College linebacker and Lafayette County defender Quin Jones, who started at linebacker. Jones made two tackles and left the game in the fourth quarter with an injury.