September 4, 2018 9:48:45 AM
Brett Hudson - [email protected]
STARKVILLE -- The first game of the Joe Moorhead era was a statistical anomaly.
The No. 18 Mississippi State football team ended the first full week of the season 12th in the nation in yards per attempt (11.7) and 24th in quarterback rating (190.98) after a 398-yard, five-touchdown effort in a 63-6 victory against Stephen F. Austin on
Saturday at Davis Wade Stadium.
MSU did it by completing 15 of 34 passes (44.1 percent). The man behind most of those attempts, Keytaon Thompson, won't shoulder the load when MSU visits Kansas State (1-0) at 11 a.m. Saturday (ESPNU), but it gives him something to improve going forward.
"It was kind of a right church wrong pew thing," Moorhead said of the incompletions. "He was making the right reads, throwing the ball to the correct person and a lot of the time they were open. May have been mechanical, footwork, some pressure, a combination of all of those things.
"Sixty-five percent is our benchmark. You'll probably give him a little bit of latitude with the 364 yards on 13 completions and five touchdowns. For us to operate at the level we need to against the competition we're going to play, it needs to improve. That's definitely something we can address."
Neither Moorhead nor Thompson saw the percentage as reason for panic, pointing to little things that caused each one. Eight of Thompson's 18 incompletions came at the start of the second half. If half of those were completions, his completion percentage would have jumped to 54.8.
"Got hit a couple of times, started feeling a little pain in my hand, nothing serious," Thompson said. "I just missed a lot of throws, got off rhythm, and it's something I have to clean up."
Moorhead scouts Kansas State
The gravity of Saturday's game isn't lost on Moorhead. It is more than his first road game as MSU's coach. It also is more than a shot at MSU's first road win against a Power 5 conference opponent since 1995. It's Moorhead's chance to battle against a coaching legend.
"Bill Snyder Family Stadium: when the stadium's named after you, you know you've done a pretty good job," Moorhead said of Kansas State's coach.
Kansas State used two quarterbacks -- Alex Delton and Skylar Thompson -- Saturday in a 27-24 victory against South Dakota. The quarterbacks ran for 136 yards and split 28 passing attempts.
Moorhead was impressed with the Wildcats' offensive line. On defense, he saw similar principles.
"It's a mirror image of their offense and a mirror image of their program overall: tough, physical, disciplined, fly to the football, and they're not going to beat themselves," Moorhead said.
Players of the week
Moorhead and staff named players of the week from the season-opening win. Thompson was named the offensive player of the week after five passing for touchdowns and running for two more. The seven touchdowns accounted for tied the school and Southeastern Conference records. Defensive linemen Montez Sweat and Jeffery Simmons shared the defensive player of the week honors after making three-and-a-half tackles for a loss. Sweat had six tackles and Simmons had four. Sweat also had two sacks.
The staff named freshman quarterback TJ McMahon, freshman safety Aadreekis Conner, and freshman wide receiver Cason Grant the scout team players of the week. The academic staff chose sophomore linebacker Willie Gay and junior defensive end Chauncey Rivers as the student-athletes of the week.
Moorhead said offensive lineman Michael Story remains indefinitely suspended. The suspension dates back to his August arrest on an animal cruelty charge.
The suspensions for quarterback Nick Fitzgerald and defensive lineman Cory Thomas, both for undisclosed violations of team rules, have ended.
Moorhead also said wide receiver Jamal Couch is active. He was listed as the No. 2 receiver at the X position behind Stephen Guidry on MSU's depth chart, but he didn't play against Stephen F. Austin. Devonta "Whop" Jason, who was listed No. 3 at that position, played.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson