Mississippi State LB Willie Gay Jr. made a momentum-changing play early in the game against Louisville in the Music City Bowl as he punched out a fumble for the Cardinals.

Gay tackled and forced a fumble by Dez Fitzpatrick with about nine minutes remaining in the first quarter at the Mississippi State 25-yard line. Brandon Langlois passed along an interesting stat that Gay has recorded an interception, forced fumble or fumble recovery in seven of his last nine games played dating back to 2018.

Gay is a key player for the Bulldogs even though he’s missed eight games this season because of a suspension for an unspecified violation of team rules.

Gay is the player who reportedly got into an altercation where QB Garrett Shrader was injured. But coach Joe Moorhead declined to address specifics about the incident to the Clarion-Ledger. Moorhead said he doesn’t feel the need to defend Gay.

“I don’t think I need to,” Moorhead said. “Like I said, we addressed it as a team matter. It’s been handled internally. Willie and Garrett have talked to each other. Like I said, we’ve addressed it and moved on from it. We want our focus to be on this team and this game and this great opportunity in front of us.”