MSU’s Thompson prepared for another substitute start

Published 7:50 am Friday, August 31, 2018

Keytaon Thompson is still, officially, Mississippi State’s backup quarterback, even if it seems lately like he’s starting more often than not.

Thompson will fill in for the suspended Nick Fitzgerald Saturday night when the Bulldogs open the season against Stephen F. Austin. It’ll be Thompson’s second consecutive start after he also did it in last year’s TaxSlayer Bowl.

Fitzgerald will return for next week’s game at Kansas State, but Thompson said he’s always ready to fill in when needed.

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“I found out (last) Friday, and I always have the mentality of being one play away. I went on with my day and continued to prepare for the game,” Thompson said of learning the news of Fitzgerald’s one-game suspension for violating an unspecified team rule. “You’re always one game away, so you prepare like you’re starting. My approach didn’t change at all.”

Thompson saw his first extended playing time in last year’s Egg Bowl against Ole Miss, when Fitzgerald suffered a dislocated ankle in the first half. He played well but was unable to rally the Bulldogs to a victory.

His first start came in the TaxSlayer Bowl against Louisville a month later. It was a breakout performance that showed Bulldogs fans the team can be in capable hands without Fitzgerald.

The sophomore finished 11-of-20 passing for 127 yards and one interception, and set an MSU Bowl record with 27 rushing attempts for 147 yards and three scores as the Bulldogs won 31-27. Thompson said having that experience prepared him for this week’s game.

“That was great. I got some of the nerves out of the way after getting that first start in. It gives me a lot of confidence heading into week one of this year,” Thompson said.

Thompson’s last start came with a cobbled-together game plan in the wake of longtime coach Dan Mullen’s departure for Florida. This time, the Bulldogs will have an entirely new offensive scheme under new head coach Joe Moorhead.

Moorhead said Thompson has gotten enough work with the first team in practice and during the offseason that the adjustment should be smooth.

“I think the guys have a tremendous belief in Thompson. He had the ability to go into a bowl game with an interim staff and against a Heisman Trophy winning quarterback. He brought the team to a great win in the bowl game,” Moorhead said. “On top of what Thompson brings as a player, our team has a belief that we will handle prosperity and adversity. When you’re given adversity like this, you need to bow your back, and you get your chin off your chest.”

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About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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