September 2, 2018 1:20:35 AM
Brett Hudson - [email protected]
STARKVILLE -- Any nerves that struck Columbus native Kylin Hill in his first college football start were eased as he turned the corner on his first play.
The running back's first snap as a starter was a swing screen for him. He caught the pass from Keytaon Thompson, looked upfield and saw three wide receivers blocking for him. One Stephen F. Austin defender sprinting out from the box was all Hill had to beat, and he did so with ease.
"I got the easy part, just running," Hill said.
Hill's first start as a Mississippi State Bulldog got a sweet start with that 53-yard reception and never soured. He ended with nine carries for 50 yards and a touchdown as No. 18 MSU beat Stephen F. Austin 63-6 Saturday. Hill's starting debut was part of what Moorhead hopes is more to come for the entire running back corps.
"Like all guys, there was a competition with the new staff, kind of a blank slate and compete on- and off-the-field, things they did in the weight room and the classroom and certainly on the field," MSU coach Joe Moorhead said. "We're very fortunate to have guys like Kylin and Aeris (Williams) and you look at the guys that came in behind them, they performed well, too.
"Rather than concentrate on Kylin -- which he did have a great night -- we're looking forward to all of those guys throughout the season."
Stopped for a loss
MSU racked up 17 tackles for a loss in the win, setting back Stephen F. Austin a total of 53 yards. The Lumberjacks ran 78 plays, thus 21 percent of their plays were stopped for a loss.
Defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons and defensive end Montez Sweat tied for the team lead with 3.5 tackles for a loss; Simmons had two in the first quarter alone. Defensive back Jaquarius Landrews and defensive end Gerri Green had 1.5 each while safety Mark McLaurin, linebacker Leo Lewis, defensive back Brian Cole, defensive end Chauncey Rivers and defensive end Kobe Jones had one tackles for a loss each.
"We're big and we're disruptive. With all the strength and power, we're able to drive people off the ball," Macon native Simmons said.
Starkville native returns home
Former Starkville High School Yellow Jacket Aretavious Hendrix got the start at cornerback for Stephen F. Austin in his first game there after two years at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. The 6-foot-1, 192-pound junior ended the game with one tackle and a pass breakup, doing so after a minor injury in the second quarter. Hendrix returned to play the rest of the game.
Offensive line shuffle
While most teams make every effort to find a starting five on the offensive line and settle into it, MSU broke that mold willingly.
Greg Eiland and Stewart Reese are entrenched as MSU's starting left and right tackles, respectively, but MSU plugged backup Tyre Phillips in at times even when both were perfectly capable of playing. It happened in the second quarter, as Phillips took Eiland's spot for a possession, then happened in the second half with Reese's spot.
Moorhead said it was a move inspired by crosstraining. He said one never knows where a team will need to adjust to an injury and finds it best to have players capable of playing multiple positions, and this was a way of getting Phillips reps in such situations.
The 63 points MSU scored were the most in school history making his MSU debut, and it was the most in any season opener since scoring 67 on Sept. 23, 1950. It was the highest point total of any game since the 2015 Egg Bowl.
Thompson tied a MSU and Southeastern Conference record for seven touchdowns responsible for, five passing and two rushing. The five passing touchdowns also tied the school record for the most in a game. In throwing for 300 yards and running for 100, he was the first Bulldog quarterback to do so since Nick Fitzgerald against Arkansas in 2016.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson