STARKVILLE, Miss. (WTVA/MSU Athletics) – Physicality on the lines of scrimmage and efficient drives were on display during the first Mississippi State spring football scrimmage under first-year head coach Joe Moorhead on a brisk Saturday at the Leo Seal Jr. Complex.
Temperatures hovered in the 40s all day as the Bulldogs worked on all three phases including several possessions of first team offense versus first team defense.
“I’m as I always say, pleased but not satisfied,” Moorhead said. “It was the first opportunity to come out in a live scrimmage situation. And a couple of our goals, we talk about dominating situational football and competing. I thought we did those two things.”
Sophomore quarterback Keytaon Thompson took most of the snaps as senior starter Nick Fitzgerald sat out during live periods as he continues to recover from an ankle injury sustained in November. Fitzgerald participated during the 7-on-7 portion of the scrimmage.
“He’s getting a ton of reps, and this is incredibly valuable for him,” Moorhead said of Thompson. “He made a bunch of good plays today, and made some decisions he’d like to have back. But you can see a guy that is very smart.”
Thompson threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Osirus Mitchell and a 23-yard scoring strike to Jamal Couch as part of the second team offense versus the second team defense. Senior running back Aeris Williams scored on a 2-yard run during goal line situational offense versus defense.
Bob Shoop’s defense put pressure on the quarterback all day. Defensive ends Chauncey Rivers, Kobe Jones, Gerri Green, Willie Gay (twice) and Tim Washington each registered tackles for loss. Washington added a spectacular interception and returned it 50 yards during the second drive of the scrimmage featuring the No. 2 offense vs. the No. 2 defense. Defensive backs Chris Rayford and Stephen Adegoke each tallied an interception.
State will practice twice next week (Tuesday and Thursday) before scrimmaging for the second time this spring next Saturday. All practices and the scrimmage are closed to the public.
Moorhead and the Bulldogs are seeking to shatter a school record for spring game attendance on Saturday, April 21 for the Maroon and White Game in Davis Wade Stadium. Kickoff is 3 p.m. CT and admission is free.
Head Coach Joe Moorhead
April 7, 2018
On the scrimmage …
“I’m as I always say, pleased but not satisfied. It was the first opportunity to come out in a live scrimmage situation. And a couple of our goals, we talk about dominating situational football and competing. I thought we did those two things. And then improving every practice. Ultimately the offensive coordinator wants the offense to do well. The defensive coordinator wants the defense to do well. The special teams coordinator wants the special teams to do well. But as the head coach you want to see a good give-and-take throughout the course of practice. The offense making plays, the defense making plays. And I thought we did that. Defensively we did a great job of creating turnovers. The offense moved the ball well between the 30s. We’d get down there in the red zone and we had a couple of turnovers, so that was great from the defense, not so much from the offense. The other side, I thought we ran it well. We had some explosive passes and ultimately put the ball in the end zone a couple of times. So I thought for the first day in a live scrimmage situation it was good work by the guys.”
On the lines of scrimmage …
“I think it’s a great battle, and I think it’s a microcosm of what we see every day in practice. I tell our guys if one side is constantly kicking the other side but throughout the course of practice, you’re in for a long season. You know, we want our practice to be like a 15-round heavyweight bout that goes to the card. And that’s it’s been, it’s either by period or by day these guys have been competing and getting after each other. Ultimately realizing it’s more about the team than it is about one side of the ball or the individual. So like I said, this is just a representation of what we’ve done all spring.”
On Nick Fitzgerald in 7-on-7…
“When we scrimmage that’s what we do. We start it off with 7-on-7 just to get the guys’ legs running and get moving a little bit. And we want Nick to get those reps. Every time we scrimmage we will have 7-on-7 before the live part of it.”
On Jamal Peters and Marquiss Spencer …
“Jamal had a family issue. He had to go on home and take care of. He and Marquiss Spencer both had family issues.”
On Stephen Guidry …
“Guidry is taking care of some stuff off the field. He’s handling some business off the field, and we’ll get him back here on Tuesday.”
On the offense’s tempo …
“I think a misconception of what we do, and you hear it of teams with a no-huddle offense every play is run at a breakneck speed. Our offense is more about running the right play against the look presented, than a bad play quickly. So we can go as fast as we need to go or we can slow down and make sure we’re in the right look. I think you saw probably a little bit more of our check with me in three stuff today, than you did the fast stuff. But we could do all three and excel at all.”
On Keytaon Thompson taking a lot of reps with the No. 1s…
“He’s getting a ton of reps, and this is incredibly valuable for him. He made a bunch of good plays today, and made some decisions he’d like to have back. But you can see a guy that is very smart. Coach (Andrew) Breiner is doing a good job of teaching the offense. And a live arm, he can make all the throws and certainly can run as well. These are reps that are tremendously valuable in his development.”
On the installation of the offense …
“This past week we saw it build-up on them a little bit. You get to a certain point in camp where you are almost done with installation, which we are. We only have a few more things to add up, but it becomes more of a mental issue than a physical issue. We talk about how well we prepare, the effort we give. But ultimately football is a game of precision. And right now I’d have to say we’re in the right church but the wrong pew. We’re doing the right thing but we’re not doing it with enough precision to execute at a level we’re going to win the SEC. But we’ve got a way to go. We don’t need to be where we’re going to be on September 1st. We talk about just improve every practice and that’s what we’ve got to do. Just keep stacking good days on top of each other.”
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