Miss. State's Stevens status unclear vs. Kentucky

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Mississippi State starting quarterback Tommy Stevens' status for its Southeastern Conference opener Saturday with Kentucky remains uncertain after a shoulder injury knocked him out of each of the Bulldogs' past two games.

Bulldogs coach Joe Moorhead described Stevens' situation Monday as "day-to-day."

"It was way better (Sunday) and again today than it was at this point last week," Moorhead said.

Moorhead added that Stevens felt "way better" Sunday than at this point a week ago.

Stevens played the first half of a 31-24 loss to Kansas State last week but left early in the third quarter after throwing his second interception of the game. Stevens went 7-of-15 for 100 yards with two interceptions and one touchdown pass.

A week earlier, Stevens went 9-of-10 for 105 yards with two touchdown passes in a 38-15 victory over Southern Mississippi before the shoulder problem forced him to leave late in the first half.

Moorhead said Mississippi State's coaching staff plans to get Stevens ready to play along while also making sure Garrett Shrader, Keytaon Thompson and Jalen Mayden are ready.

Shrader, a freshman, has taken over for Stevens in each of the past two games. Thompson, a junior with two career starts, entered the transfer portal after losing the preseason quarterback competition but opted to stay at Mississippi State.

"We want to get all those guys ready to play in the game," Moorhead said. "After the game, I mentioned that K.T. (Thompson) is still rehabbing from an upper-body injury that occurred during the course of training camp. We want to be fair to him and make sure he is fully healthy before we get him more reps."

Stevens has completed 65.5% of his passes for 441 yards with five touchdown passes and two interceptions this season. He also has rushed for two touchdowns.

Shrader went 4 of 12 for 51 yards passing against Kansas State while also running 10 times for 82 yards and a touchdown. He has completed 47.5% of his pass attempts for 122 yards this season. He also has run for 98 yards and a touchdown.

Moorhead said he hopes Stevens is healthy enough to play the entire game against Kentucky.

"It would be awesome, just from a consistency standpoint," Moorhead said. "We fell off from a completion percentage standpoint (against Kansas State). There were times where protection broke down on some third-down stuff, too."

Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said Mississippi State's quarterback uncertainty hasn't made a big impact on how the Bulldogs (2-1, 0-0 SEC) run their offense.

"There's really not much difference in what they do and how they call plays, how they run the offense," Stoops said. "There's really not much difference at all. Both of them are very effective at running the Q (quarterback) run game that they like to do. Both of them are throwing the ball well. It's set up off of their power run game. Not much has changed."

Kentucky (2-1, 0-1) is dealing with its own quarterback issues.

Terry Wilson started all 13 games for Kentucky a year ago and the first two games this fall, but he tore his patellar tendon Sept.7 and won't play again this season. Sawyer Smith has taken over for Wilson and went 22-of-35 for 267 yards with two touchdown passes and three interceptions last week in a 29-21 loss to No. 9 Florida.