Most fans of the Mississippi St. Bulldogs would tell you they didn’t believe the team was given their best chance to win with Damian Williams at quarterback. But if you were trying to make that argument to Dan Mullen, it would have been difficult to do so.
Williams played pretty well overall in the season opener against South Alabama. He completed over 70% of his passes, threw for a touchdown, and didn’t threw an interception. Plus, he added 93 yards on the ground in 12 carries. So why did Mullen give the team to Fitzgerald?
I don’t know that we will ever know the real answer, but I think it is safe to assume Mullen and quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson saw the same thing most fans saw. While Williams performed fine, he simply will never have the talent to win consistently in the SEC. If South Alabama was able to figure out enough at halftime, you know the dominant defenses in the SEC were going to be able to do it as well.
Coaches want to win, but they also want to reward the players who have sacrificed so much for the program. Williams has sacrificed a lot. He chose to come to State instead of signing with Southern Miss out of high school when it was really late in the recruiting cycle. Williams could have chosen to transfer out after his sophomore season when it looked as though Fitzgerald or Staley would likely be the heir to the quarterback job.
Williams hasn’t done anything poorly to not be given another chance at the quarterback position. But he lacks the one things the Bulldogs need that Fitzgerald has far more of, raw ability.
So Dan Mullen deserves some credit for doing what many of us thought he would do. As much as it probably pained him to tell Williams he wasn’t going to be given a chance to be the team’s quarterback, he did it anyway in the best interest of winning football games.
Now we just have to hope he’ll do the same for the running back position.