Off and running: Moorhead era begins with lopsided State win

Kylin Hill, right, runs with the football for Mississippi State against Stephen F. Austin.

Staff Writer

Joe Moorhead’s reputation preceded him to Starkville when he was hired as Mississippi State’s new head football coach late last year.

Moorhead was regarded as an innovative offensive mind that orchestrated big plays and put up many points. It took just one play call from Moorhead for him to start living up to his billing on Saturday. On MSU’s first play from scrimmage, quarterback Keytaon Thompson swung a pass out to running back Kylin Hill. Hill went 53 yards for a touchdown. The Bulldogs, and the Moorhead era, were off and running as MSU was on its way to a lopsided 63-6 win over Stephen F. Austin.

“We put up a lot of points,” Hill said. “This was a coming out just to show how good of a coach that coach Moorhead is.”

Hill’s long catch and run was just the first highlight in a long night of them for the Bulldogs. MSU had 10 pass plays of 20 or more yards. The Bulldogs were just as explosive on the ground with nine different runs of 10 or more yards.

State scattered around its production as well. Seven different Bulldogs had rushing attempts. In the passing game – one of the areas Moorhead’s arrival is expected to improve – 12 different MSU players caught passes, led by Osirus Mitchell, who had two receptions for 114 yards and two scores including an 84-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter that was MSU’s longest pass play in 14 years.

“It certainly wasn’t just one guy,” Moorhead said. “We spread the ball around pretty well. It was great to see all those guys take positive steps forward in the first game.”

Thompson was the straw stirring the drink for much of Mississippi State’s offensive success. The sophomore signal caller drew the start in place of Nick Fitzgerald, who was out due to a one-game suspension for a violation of team policy. All Thompson did in Fitzgerald’s stead was accumulate 473 total yards and account for seven touchdowns – tying a Southeastern Conference and Mississippi State record. Thompson passed for 364 yards and five touchdowns while rushing for 109 yards and two scores.

“Keytaon is a great player all the way around,” Hill said. “He did the same things last year in (the last two games filling in for a then-injured Fitzgerald). We expect that out of him.”

Thompson and the Bulldogs just kept getting across the goal line. Thompson sandwiched a 9-yard touchdown run between the big Hill reception and the long toss to Mitchell. In the second quarter, Thompson threw a pair of touchdown passes – one to Aeris Williams from 27 yards out and a 17-yarder to tight end Dontea Jones.

In the third quarter, Thompson kept the pressure on the Lumberjacks. He hit Mitchell on a touchdown pass for the second time – this one a 30-yarder. After Hill scored on a 6-yard scamper late in the third quarter, Thompson began the fourth with a 25-yard touchdown run.

MSU capped the scoring with a Dontavian Lee 5-yard carry.

Stephen F. Austin was limited offensively to a pair of field goals. Lumberjacks kicker Storm Ruiz hit a 36-yarder in the second quarter and a 33-yarder in the third.

In all, the MSU defense limited Stephen F. Austin to 254 yards and 3.3 yards per play. The Bulldogs got four total sacks and had 17 tackles for loss.

The story of the game though was Mississippi State’s high-powered offense. If the Bulldogs can keep it going as the schedule toughens up is anyone’s guess. What’s not up for debate is that Moorhead provided an awe-inspiring opening act.

“We set the tone,” Hill said.