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No. 18 Mississippi State tops SFA 63-6 in Moorhead’s debut

STARKVILLE, Miss. — Keytaon Thompson threw for 364 yards and five touchdowns, Mississippi State had 17 tackles for a loss and the 18th-ranked Bulldogs cruised to a 63-6 victory over Stephen F. Austin on Saturday night in the season opener.

Joe Moorhead won his first game as Mississippi State’s head coach, and the playbook showed some of the downfield passing prowess he’s promised over the past months. The Bulldogs had completions of 53, 84, 27 and 30 yards for touchdowns.

Thompson, a 6-foot-4, 225-pound sophomore, made his second career start. He was pressed into action after senior Nick Fitzgerald was suspended for the season opener for a “violation of team policy” that Moorhead said happened in March.

The Bulldogs appeared unfazed by that bit of adversity and the program won its 14th straight game over an opponent from the Football Championship Subdivision level.

Thompson also ran for 109 yards and two touchdowns.

Mississippi State’s offense had success from the moment it stepped on the field. The first play was Thompson’s short swing pass to Kylin Hill, who knifed through Stephen F. Austin’s defense and ran nearly untouched for a 53-yard touchdown.

Later in the first quarter, Thompson found a completely uncovered Osirus Mitchell for an 84-yard touchdown, which was the longest pass completion for the Bulldogs in 14 years.

Mississippi State built a 35-3 lead by halftime, gaining 400 total yards. The second half was much less impressive, but by then the outcome wasn’t in doubt.

Stephen F. Austin made two field goals. The Lumberjacks had 254 total yards. Foster Sawyer was 10 of 27 passing for 147 yards.

THE TAKEAWAY

Mississippi State was expected to win big and that’s exactly what happened. Thompson made some good throws in his second career start — though the 13 for 31 completion rate wasn’t ideal — and provides the Bulldogs with some depth at quarterback. Moorhead has already said that Fitzgerald will start next weekend against Kansas State. The defense was good as expected.

Stephen F. Austin was overmatched and also had some big coverage busts that led to the lopsided result. The Lumberjacks will hope for better results when they go back to FCS-level play next weekend.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Mississippi State did what it was supposed to do on Saturday, so voters probably won’t have a strong opinion about the game. Expect the Bulldogs to stay around No. 18.

UP NEXT

Mississippi State travels to face Kansas State on Saturday.

Stephen F. Austin hosts Tarleton State on Saturday.

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Follow David Brandt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/davidbrandtAP .

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