NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Mississippi State has had plenty of distractions this season. Ahead of the Music City Bowl, the team had another disconcerting incident.
Freshman Garrett Shrader was in line to start at quarterback for the Bulldogs in the bowl game. On Thursday, head coach Joe Moorhead announced in a press conference that Shrader was “doubtful to out” with an upper-body injury but didn’t say how he sustained the injury.
Reports surfaced that Shrader’s injury came in an altercation with junior linebacker Willie Gay. The Clarion Ledger asked Moorhead about the incident during Sunday’s press conference inside the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center.
Here’s everything Moorhead said about it.
“To me, it was a team issue that we handled internally,” Moorhead said. “It’s been resolved. Garrett is here on site. He was at practice yesterday. He’s in good spirits. More than anything, we want our focus to be on our seniors, on this team and on this game.
“It was a team matter. It was handled. Garrett is here. He’s at practice. I just saw him out in the hall eating a bag of licorice. Things are going good.”
Moorhead did not address specifics of the altercation, but the Clarion Ledger did follow up by asking Moorhead how he would respond to people who view Gay, who is slated to start in the bowl, as the guy who knocked his own starting quarterback out of the lineup.
Moorhead said he does’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.”
The altercation links two of the biggest story lines of Mississippi State’s season. Gay was one of 10 football players suspended for an unspecified violation of team rules. Gay has missed eight games this season because of the suspension.
Shrader, meanwhile, has been the center of attention for bouncing in and out of the starting lineup. Shrader has started four games in his true freshman season but has played in nine. He’s relieved graduate senior Tommy Stevens multiple times as Stevens has been injury-prone throughout the year.
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The quarterback saga took one more turn with last week’s incident. Stevens gets the start in what will be the final game of a college career that didn’t exactly pan out the way he probably envisioned it. Stevens started the season as the full-time starter for the first time in his career only to lose the job to Shrader midway through it.
Moorhead said a win would be huge for Stevens.
“I know it means a lot to Tommy as a player considering how his career has gone,” Moorhead said. “I know it means a lot to his family. For him to come out and play well in his last game, it would mean a lot to me personally because of the relationship Tommy [had] at Penn State and now at Mississippi State.”