Rapid Reaction: Keytaon Thompson, Mississippi State hold off Lamar Jackson’s Cardinals
The Mississippi State Bulldogs had an unenviable task in trying to stop 2016 Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson and the Louisville Cardinals on Saturday afternoon in the TaxSlayer Bowl.
Though Jackson made some huge plays, the Bulldogs’ defense also held its own, forcing Jackson to throw four interceptions — a career-high. One of those picks came late in the fourth quarter, all but sealing the victory for Mississippi State.
With star QB Nick Fitzgerald hurt for MSU, the quarterback duties fell to freshman Keytaon Thompson, who certainly did not disappoint. Though he didn’t throw for any touchdowns in the game, he ran for more than 150 yards and scored three times on the ground.
The Bulldogs managed to hold on for a thrilling 31-27 victory over their ACC foe, ending the year with a 9-4 overall record. Here are a few quick takeaways from Saturday’s TaxSlayer Bowl:
Keytaon Thompson earned some playing time in 2018
If Nick Fitzgerald is healthy to start the 2018 season, he’ll be the starting quarterback. However, Thompson showed some flashes of brilliance on Saturday afternoon.
Therefore, new coach Joe Moorhead would be wise to find some ways to get Thompson into the game for some special packages next season.
Mark McLaurin is the real deal
The junior defensive back had a game he’ll never forget on Saturday, recording an incredible three interceptions against Jackson.
He’ll be back in Starkville next year, and he’ll be riding high after this huge bowl performance against the former Heisman winner.
Pass on Lamar Jackson at your own risk
Many have questioned whether the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner should play quarterback at the next level. He’s sure to continue facing those questions if he declares for the 2018 NFL Draft.
However, there aren’t very many people on this planet who can do what Jackson does with the ball in his hands. He could end up making teams that don’t draft him look very foolish in the near future.
The Bulldogs have a great defensive line
As great as Jackson is, he was on the run for most of the afternoon on Saturday. That led to an uncharacteristic four interceptions from the Heisman winner. They also recorded a whopping six sacks in the second half.
Give credit to the Bulldogs’ secondary, too, but those interceptions were the result of Jackson not having time to set his feet for most of the afternoon.
With most of the Bulldogs’ D-line coming back in 2018, it’ll be tough for opposing quarterbacks to find success against the Mississippi State defense.
The refs made a huge mistake
Just one day after Kentucky RB Benny Snell Jr. was ejected for seemingly a very minor reason, an SEC team was again hurt by poor officiating.
As you can see in the video below, the refs flagged Mississippi State for a late hit on this catch by Louisville WR Jaylen Smith, who had dropped the ball and was still in bounds when he was hit:
Ruled a late hit out of bounds and not reviewed for a fumble pic.twitter.com/iyGV41ZVF6
— Troy (@troy_eckleberry) December 30, 2017
The Bulldogs then clearly recovered the ball, but the play wasn’t even reviewed by the officials and the penalty yardage was enforced. The Cardinals scored later on the drive.