Mississippi State tripped up by Kansas State

Published 9:32 pm Saturday, September 14, 2019

STARKVILLE (AP) — Skylar Thompson only threw one touchdown pass in Kansas State’s 31-24 road win at Mississippi State, but boy was it a big one.

With 5:37 left in the fourth quarter and the game tied 24-24, Thompson rolled out and found Dalton Schoen wide open in the right side of the end zone and hit him with a 15-yard pass that ultimately stood as the game-winner.

“He lives for those moments,” KSU head coach Chris Klieman said. “He’s prepared for that moment.”

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Thompson threw for 123 yards on 10-of-18 passing and managed to keep the Wildcat offense from crumbling under the pressure of self-inflicted wounds and a hostile crowd. It is the first time Kansas State has beaten a Power Five nonconference team on the road since 2011.

“I thought he did a great job of staying calm under a lot of pressure,” Klieman said. “I think we were running the football pretty successfully in the first half, and I think in the second half they decided they were going to find a way to bring pressure.”

Kansas State (3-0) led 17-14 at halftime but trailed 24-17 in the fourth quarter. Then a 100-yard Malik Knowles kickoff return tied the game, and Thompson’s touchdown pass gave the Wildcats a 7-point lead.

Mississippi State (2-1) drove 55 yards on its final meaningful possession, but ultimately turned the ball over on downs at the Kansas State 20-yard line, one yard short of the first-down marker.

Quarterback Garrett Shrader ran 15 yards on that fourth down play. He tried to dive over two Kansas State defenders, got batted up nearly 10 feet in the air, and spun completely around before landing one yard short.

“I made the decision that we had to get a first down. So I made the decision to go for it. It was all or nothing,” Shrader said. “I got talked to about that, but I just have to reach the ball, and maybe, I’ll get in.”

The Wildcats managed only 269 yards of total offense, 146 of it on the ground. Schoen caught a team-high three balls for 50 yards and James Mitchell rushed for 59 yards on 17 carries.

Mississippi State coach Joe Moorhead benched senior transfer quarterback Tommy Stevens in the third quarter after his second interception and turned the Bulldog offense over to the freshman Shrader.

Stevens was injured in last week’s win over Southern Miss, and Moorhead said it was still affecting him as the game went on.

Stevens finished the game 7-of-15 passing for 100 yards, with one touchdown and two interceptions. Shrader was 4-of-12 for 51 yards, with no touchdowns or interceptions, but did run for 82 yards and one touchdown.

“When we went in at halftime, he stiffened up a bit,” Moorhead said. “He wasn’t able to make the throws he did in the first half, so we decided to let him be.”

Shrader led the Bulldogs on a methodical 12-play, 79-yard drive, running the ball into the end zone himself to give the team its first lead. From there, though, he presided over three-and-outs on three of the next four drives and the Bulldogs never reached the end zone again.

“We’re going to look back and see probably three or four plays in each phase that we could improve on,” Moorhead said.

Mississippi State’s Osirus Mitchell led all receivers with 74 yards and Kylin Hill, the Southeastern Conference’s leading rusher, had a game-high 111 yards on 24 carries.

“We’re going to look back and see probably three or four plays on each phase, offense, defense and special teams, where we’ll have to make sure we’re making the right calls as a coaching staff,” Moorhead said. “We had some opportunities there in the second half to put the thing away, and we weren’t able to do it. We have to come in tomorrow, crack the film, have a short memory and get ready to move on to our SEC opener.”