Spring game gives Bulldogs chance to improve

Keytaon Thompson looks over to the side line before snapping the ball.

The weather in Starkville cleared up just long enough Saturday for Mississippi State University to get their spring football Maroon and White Game played in the midst of Super Bulldog Weekend.

"I feel like I got an amateur degree in meteorology the past couple days," head coach Joe Moorhead said in Saturday’s post game press conference.  Despite the disjointed scrimmage format and less than ideal weather conditions leading up to and during the game, Moorhead said he felt the team accomplished its goal in the spring game.

"We walked off the field better than we walked on," Moorhead said.  "The spring game is not about plays, its about players."

The game capped off a spring camp defined by its quarterback competition, with three players in position to potentially take the reins of the Bulldog offense next fall.

Keytaon Thompson, a junior quarterback from New Orleans, Louisiana, went 9-18 for 106 yards and had three touchdowns in Saturday’s game.  He is the only one of the three quarterbacks with college game experience, having seen game repetitions for two years in a row, including starts in the 2017 Gator Bowl and the 2018 season opener. 

Thompson said the previous year under Coach Moorhead has provided the groundwork for himself and the rest of the team to have a great 2019 season.

"I feel like we had a really good spring, better than last year in all three phases," Thompson said. "I feel like just getting that second year under Coach Moorhead, and being more comfortable with the system and things that he’s trying to do, improving upon the culture, and I feel like this spring was really good for us."

Thompson was also quick to note the growth in his fellow quarterbacks during spring camp, especially that of Garrett Schrader, a freshman from Charlotte, North Carolina, who is in his first semester at MSU. Thompson said Schrader jumped straight into practice with the Bulldogs. 

"They’re getting a lot better.  Garrett (Schrader) especially.  It’s his first year so there’s a lot more growth in him," Thompson said. "From the first practice to the spring game, I feel like Garrett has done really really well.  Jalen is continuing to work hard, he’s been developing since last year, and I feel like both of those guys are really good and capable quarterbacks for our team."

Saturday was the first opportunity for fans to see the young QB in action, as he went 3-9 for 30 yards, splitting ownership of the white team’s quarterback position with Jalen Mayden, a freshman from Sasche, Texas. Schrader is a name Bulldog fans may recognize from his closely watched recruitment.

"Being here in the spring just confirms the decision we made throughout the recruitment process.  You know I’m glad to be here, I made the right choice," Schrader said. "Just being able to learn the office before the summer is a huge advantage for me." 

As for Mayden, he went 3-4 for 14 yards in limited action Saturday, but remains confident the quarterback competition he fought in all of spring will remain contested, but positive.

"We were battling everyday, we never knew who was going to take control of the offense.  I just feel like it was really good and really competitive," Mayden said.  "I feel like we’re gonna pick up exactly where we left off in the fall with the quarterback competition."

While the quarterback position is often one of the team’s primary sources of leadership, and the position remains in question, MSU did announce two of its 2019 team captains following the game.  

Those captains are Darryl Williams, a senior offensive lineman from Bessemer, Alabama, and Errol Thomas, a junior linebacker from Florence, Alabama.  Both players were selected through a team vote, a decision in which Coach Moorhead felt confident.

"I feel like the team did an excellent job in their selection process.  I think they picked the right two guys." Moorhead said.

Thomas said he was surprised to learn of his selection as a captain, but knows his position requires him to be a leader both on and off of the field.

"It’s really a tremendous honor. I really had no clue," Thomas said. "I really appreciate them for trusting me to lead the way, and I gotta trust them as well. I believe that the Mike linebacker has got to be one of the most vocal leaders on the team.”

Thomas leads a unit that was a part of one of the most successful defenses in the nation last year, but he believes they are capable of just as much success in 2019, if not more.

At the end of the day, the Maroon and White Game is just one of many steps the Bulldogs have to take leading up to their 2019 season.  Brian Cole, a senior safety from Saginaw, Michigan, said the next step is clear.

"Just work. Work. Fundamentals.  Fundamentals is what’s gonna take us long way," Cole said.  "When it comes to those tight games, we can always just fall back to our fundamentals."

Cole and the rest of the Bulldogs will not take the field again until August 31st, competing against the University of Louisiana-Lafayette in New Orleans. 

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