Smith on Sports: Moorhead not afraid to bench senior Bulldogs

Danny P. Smith

Staff Writer

There is one thing we definitely know about Joe Moorhead two games into his tenure as Mississippi State head football coach.

He’s not afraid to sit his star players if they do something wrong.

Moorhead is trying to build a championship standard with the Bulldogs. That’s on and off the field, whether it’s in practice or in society.

For the first game, Moorhead suspended senior quarterback Nick Fitzgerald for a violation of team policy.

That was a bold move for his first game ever to coach at MSU, but Fitzgerald did something in March that reflected poorly on the program and Moorhead felt the need to bench him for the season opener.

Fitzgerald came back to start the Kansas State game and in the 31-10 victory, there was no signs of him favoring his ankle, which he broke in last year’s game against Ole Miss. He rushed for 159 yards on 19 carries.

In the passing department, Fitzgerald was a little rusty by only completing 11-of-27 pass attempts for 154 yards and an interception. He did have two scoring passes, but was obviously not as sharp on a few of his throws.

“They are all fixable,” MSU quarterbacks coach Andrew Breiner said on Tuesday night. “We know that’s not quite up to standard from a passing standpoint.”

With Fitzgerald, one senior made his debut in the second game, but another did not get any snaps.

Running back Aeris Williams only got two carries in the opener, but did have a 27-yard catch for a touchdown. He didn’t play at all in the second game.

Moorhead said on Monday that Kylin Hill earned the playing time over Williams because of last week’s preparation.

“In general from a broad strokes perspective, playing time on Saturday is dictated by really your performance during the week and your accountability and all those things,” Moorhead said. “Based on this week's quality of work, we felt it was Hill and (Nick) Gibson that did the best job and deserved the repetitions on the field.

“I talked with Aeris, and we're going to get it rolling again. We expect him to have a great week and get a good amount of snaps to contribute in a positive manner. I love him. He's a great kid. He's going to have a great season moving forward."

Hill ended up having a great game against the Wildcats and Williams was right there to support him. It appears that Williams had the right attitude.

Moorhead may be making examples of Fitzgerald and Williams. Not sure, but he may be thinking that with them being seniors and veterans on the Bulldogs, they should be held even more accountable so the younger players know what to expect.

When newcomers on the team see how Fitzgerald and Williams handle adversity in a mature and positive way, it may help them in making future decisions.

MSU may become a better team in the long run because of what’s happened the last couple of weeks.

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.