August 29, 2018 12:32:39 PM
STARKVILLE -- The news of the week around the Mississippi State football team -- starting quarterback Nick Fitzgerald's one-game suspension -- has prompted a flurry of questions, how it will impact Fitzgerald's return against Kansas State among the most prevalent.
None of those questions are being asked in the locker room.
Inside the team, the one-week transition from Fitzgerald to Keytaon Thompson will be a smooth one: the Bulldogs show no worry with Thompson at the helm 6:30 p.m. Saturday (ESPNU) against Stephen F. Austin. It has potential for an awkward dynamic, as Fitzgerald went through the spring and preseason as the starter, taking reps accordingly, until Friday, when Stephen F. Austin prep began and Thompson took the starter reps. Thus far, there's no tension.
"Honestly, there isn't. It's been business as usual with us," offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach Luke Getsy said. "We have the next-man-in process and the thought process, and we're fortunate enough to have another quarterback that we feel can be just as effective.
"Keytaon is well-prepared, he's had a great offseason as well and he's a great fit for our offense."
Granted, it's easier to settle into this routine when it's already been done before.
MSU was in this situation for different reasons in its most recent game, the TaxSlayer Bowl win over Louisville. Thompson played the entire game after Fitzgerald injured his ankle in the Egg Bowl; Thompson threw for 127 yards and ran for 147 in the win. Since then, Thompson said his defense recognition, fundamentals and throwing mechanics have improved.
Where no change came is Thompson's approach to the job. Thompson said he approaches every game as if he is the starter and has told freshman Jalen Mayden to do the same. He will practice the same way this week he did then.
One more thing that will be the same from those bowl practices to now: Fitzgerald's support.
"He was awesome, man. He's a rock," Getsy said. "From the time we got here until this point, he's grown tremendously. I went up to him and shook his hand after he approached the team with it. He's a rock. He's there for Keytaon now, here's there for the rest of the guys, he's bought into the process. He's locked in and focused even though he's going through all this stuff."
Thompson added, "The QB room hasn't changed. We all support whoever is starting at the time. We have a great camaraderie in the QB room."
Through that demeanor in what is the most off-field adversity Fitzgerald has faced as a Bulldog, Fitzgerald's professional demeanor has made it clear to Getsy why Fitzgerald's teammates voted him a team captain after his team rules violation in March.
"His actions. His actions spoke louder than any words," Getsy said. "Everything he's done, he approached it like a pro. He's hungry and you can see it. The guys recognize that and I think it was an easy choice for the guys."
Through those actions, the Bulldogs were able to respond productively in unfortunate circumstances. Their head coach didn't give them much of an option for any other reaction.
"When you're hit with a little adversity like this, you have to bow your back, you have to keep your chin off your chest and you have to trust it," Moorhead said. "(Thompson)'s a very good player, we're going to give him an opportunity to be successful and he's going to play very well in the game."
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson
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