Mississippi State is entering its 10th game of the season and once again has question mark surrounding the position of starting quarterback.
The Bulldogs have been dealing with uncertainty with its quarterbacks pretty much since the summer, when Tommy Stevens announced he was transferring from Penn State. But each time, the issue as to which signal caller is the starter has been a bit different.
Stevens and Keytaon Thompson – who exited the spring as the starter after he served as Nick Fitzgerald’s back-up for two years – battled for the job throughout the summer and fall camp. Eventually it was Stevens who was named the starter prior to the season opener.
Stevens was stellar through the first game and a half, completing 72.5 percent of his passes for 341 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions while adding another score on the ground.
But just before halftime of the Southern Miss game, Stevens was sacked on back-to-back plays and injured his right throwing shoulder. He tried to play through the injury in a loss to Kansas State the following week and sat out the next game against Kentucky.
Out of the bullpen
That’s when true freshman Garrett Shrader earned his first start. Shrader came on in relief when Stevens was injured against USM and played well in that role. His 15-yard “helicopter” run on 4th-and-16 against Kansas State really earned the respect of his teammates and endeared himself to the fans.
Shrader won his initial start against Kentucky, connecting on 17 of 22 throws on top of 125 rushing yards.
The next week though it was back to Stevens starting at Auburn. Stevens – and really the entire MSU team – had a horrendous start to that game. Stevens was subbed out following the second drive after injuring his foot.
Now with a foot injury to go along with his still bum shoulder, Stevens started at Tennessee and tossed two interceptions in the first half. Shrader again came in for the second half and was declared the starter moving forward by Joe Moorhead.
Shrader went 0-2 against LSU and Texas A&M, throwing for 432 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions and rushing for 130 yards and another score in those contests.
However, Shrader, too, had been hampered by a foot injury and was held out of the Bulldogs’ most recent game at Arkansas which allowed Stevens another opportunity to start.
Now fully healthy, Stevens showcased the skills that initially won him the starting job. He hit on 12 of 18 throws for 172 yards, two touchdowns and no picks while also running 15 times for an additional 74 yards.
Now both quarterbacks are healthy after an open date and are listed as co-starters for Saturday’s game against No. 4 Alabama. Moorhead didn’t come right out and say Stevens would start in his press conference on Monday, but it sure seemed that’s the way he was leaning.
It is just the latest chapter in the ongoing quarterback saga at MSU.