Despite Saturday’s 38-15 win over the University of Southern Mississippi, there was cause for immediate concern for Mississippi State University regarding the health of starting quarterback Tommy Stevens, a graduate student from Indianapolis, Indiana, and a transfer from Penn State University.
Before he left the game late in the first half, Stevens was 9-10 with 105 yards and two touchdowns through the air. These numbers, along with his performance last week against the University of Louisiana-Lafayette were showing promise of replacing Nick Fitzgerald in the quarterback position. With Stevens at the helm, it seemed the Bulldogs would be in a good position to finish near the top of the SEC West.
Fans' excitement turned to confusion and concern when Garrett Shrader, a freshman quarterback from Charlotte, North Carolina, came out to take snaps for the Bulldogs on their last drive of the first half. Stevens had left the game without warning. It was not immediately obvious what kind of injury he was dealing with, or when the injury had occurred.
He would not return, and was seen on the sideline during the second half of the game without pads on. Following the game, head coach Joe Moorhead identified the shoulder as the location of the injury, but did not have any information regarding the severity of the injury or the timeline of his return.
On Monday, Moorhead said the status of Stevens was still “day-to-day.” However, he was able to locate the play in which Stevens first aggravated his shoulder.
“That three and out drive, I think it was three straight passes. I think it was one of those,” Moorhead said. “I do not remember which one specifically. It was on that drive. I think it was a corner blitz, and he kind of got flushed out a little bit. I think it was the second down play on that drive.”
With Stevens’ status unknown, Moorhead said the coaching staff was going to have at least three quarterbacks, Stevens, Shrader and Keytaon Thompson, a junior from New Orleans, Louisiana, ready for play on Saturday against Kansas State University. Jalen Mayden, a freshman quarterback from Sachse, Texas, will also be getting reps this week in preparation for potential action on Saturday. There will be plenty of Bulldogs ready and willing to take over the offense this week, but it remains unclear who will take the first snap.
Stevens would not elaborate on his status or practice restrictions, saying he would “leave that to Coach Moorhead.” Stevens did however say he “felt good,” which leaves who gets the start on Saturday in the air. Stevens said his exit in the first half was more precautionary than anything.
“I think we did some things Saturday where it was better to be safe than sorry, and you know I’m feeling good,” Stevens said.
If Stevens is unable to start, there could be the return of Shrader. Stevens said he is really excited about his future. The USM game saw Shrader step up, and Stevens said he was proud of how he was able to come in under pressure and perform well in his first college football game.
“I was happy. I was really happy with how he played. He’s taking some big strides and I’m really excited for his future,” Stevens said.