Smith on Sports: MSU involves running backs in pass game

Danny P. Smith

Staff Writer

Mississippi State head football coach Joe Moorhead seems to be a man of his word.

During the preseason, Moorhead said the running back would be involved in the passing game and catch passes in the offensive system that he brought to the Bulldogs.
MSU definitely appeared to make an effort to make that happen during Saturday night’s 63-6 season-opening win over Stephen F. Austin at Davis Wade Stadium.

On the very first offensive play from scrimmage against the Lumberjacks, the Bulldogs struck when quarterback Keytaon Thompson tossed a swing pass to Kylin Hill out of the backfield. Hill raced 53 yards for the touchdown and the Moorhead era was off to a fast start at State.

It was very obvious that the MSU offensive coaches saw something they could take advantage of with the Stephen F. Austin defense and exploited it.

In the second quarter, Thompson found another Bulldog running back for a score as he threw a 27-yard pass to West Point native Aeris Williams for points.

Game plans will dictate whether MSU running backs continue to have a significant role in the passing attack, but it was a nice change of pace and something that hasn’t really been a point of emphasis in the past.

Behind a big first half from Thompson with the offense and solid play from the defense, the Bulldogs were able to get a comfortable 35-3 lead on the Lumberjacks by halftime and coasted in the second half to make Moorhead’s debut in Starkville a successful one.

The confidence that Moorhead placed in Thompson was rewarded.

When Moorhead suspended senior Nick Fitzgerald for a violation of team policy, he had no problem turning to the sophomore Thompson. Thompson had shown Moorhead enough in practice to give him the start without hesitation.

The only thing Thompson didn’t do in the first half was sell popcorn in the concession stand.

He completed 9-of-19 pass attempts for 263 yards and four touchdowns with seven rushes for 75 yards and another score on the ground.

The final passing percentage wasn’t good as Thompson ended up completing only 13 of 31 attempts, but compiled 364 yards and five touchdowns. He finished with 109 yards rushing on 10 carries and two scores.

For the game, Thompson had 473 yards of total offense and seven touchdowns responsible for, which tied a Southeastern Conference single-game record.

Fitzgerald should be back under center next week when MSU plays at Kansas State, but it’s nice for it to know that it can turn to Thompson again if his services are needed.

The challenge will be much greater for the Bulldogs next week as they have to go into a Big 12 stadium and try to get a win. There were certainly some rough spots for MSU against Stephen F. Austin and if it makes the same mistakes next week, it may be tough the get a win next week.

Moorhead said after the game that he was pleased but not satisfied with the performance of the Bulldogs.

That means it’s back to practice for MSU. Saturday’s game is now in the past and the sizable win won’t mean anything moving forward if they don’t keep getting better as a team.

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.