Mississippi College used a strong running game to fight back from 18 points down and defeat West Georgia 39-38.
It’s a good thing for Mississippi College football games are played on the field and not on paper. Statistically speaking, there was no way the one-win Choctaws were capable of beating undefeated West Georgia – statistically.
West Georgia played their part in the first half. The Wolves took the opening drive 69 yards on 9 plays for a 7-0 lead. Precision passing from senior Harrison Frost and strong running by Jaxton Carson produced just one-third down play during the drive. Carson capped the drive with a 3-yard plunge.
Mississippi College responded with a scoring drive of its own. How they were able to accomplish it against the Wolves’ defense out of the archaic Wing-T formation is mind-blowing. DeAnte Smith-Moore, Marcus Williams, and Sam Wilder ground out every inch of the 47 yards gained on the drive. The Choctaws settled for a 31-yard field goal off the foot of Ben Pledger after the drive stalled on the only attempted pass of the drive.
Frost and company added two more touchdowns as the Wolves’ defense seemed to have found their stride. The all-red-clad Wolves must have looked like a wall of fire to the Choctaws for about 12 minutes. All of the momenta was at the Wolves’ back.
Another possession, another trip to the red zone for the Wolves. Frost was picking the Choctaws secondary apart. Add to that a 13-yard jaunt by Zion Custis and the Wolves were ready to strike again.
And then it happened. Nick Grady intercepted a pass in the end zone for the Choctaws.
Everyone should know by now how fickle momentum can be.
How fickle can it be for a team that runs the Wing-T?
C’mon it’s the Wing-T. Every kid in the south has played against that offense or run it. It’s basic, like eating peach cobbler.
The only thing more important than momentum is believing you can play against a statistically superior opponent. Mississippi College took a couple of big punches from the Wolves but trailed by just 11 at the end of the first half.
Smith-Moore violated one of the biggest laws of the Wing-T -thou shalt not throw a forward pass. The junior from Cincinnati, OH threw five, two of them for touchdowns.
Me’Kyle Franklin found himself on the receiving end of the first touchdown pass from Smith-Moore.
Wilder slipped out of the backfield into an open space behind the linebackers along the Wolves’ sideline. Smith-Moore found him in stride allowing Wilder to outrun the pursuit to close the scoring gap to four 17-21.
From that point on every Wolves’ touchdown was answered with a touchdown by the Choctaws.
Mississippi College Head Coach John Bland challenged his defense and they came up with another big stop. The Wolves were eyeing another score after a face mask penalty on the Choctaws tacked on 15 yards to Xyre Wilson’s 6-yard reception.
First and ten from the 11-yard line is a great situation for any offense. If the Wolves played their cards right, coming up short of the end zone could have produced a first down inside the 1-yard line.
The Choctaws stopped them at the 2. Brock Pellegrino salvaged the drive with a 20-yard field goal.
At this point in the game, the statistics no longer mattered. Only eight points separated the two teams.
Four minutes later, it was all knotted up. Red-shirt freshman quarterback John Henry White looked like a senior after replacing Smith-Moore who was injured early in the third quarter. White and Williams traded carries moving the Choctaws down the field on 6 of the 7 plays. Williams capped the drive with his first of two touchdowns.
All the pressure of winning was on West Georgia. It was homecoming. You are expected to win on homecoming.
Jaxton Carson stepped up big in his last career homecoming game. The senior running back touched the ball eight of the Wolves’ next 11 plays. He rushed for 45 of the Wolves’ 65 yards including a 1-yard touchdown run.
His third touchdown of the day gave the Wolves a 38-31 lead with less than 4 minutes remaining.
The other characteristic of the Wing-T offense when it is running right, it can grind out a clock.
White and Williams ran the offense smoother than the hands of a Rolex watch. The duo ran the ball on the first four plays of the ensuing drive gaining 9 yards or more. White threw one pass on the 11-play drive, a 9-yarder to Veontai Williams.
Williams scored his second touchdown of the day to set up a game-winning two-point conversion attempt. Ron Craten snuck it in to give the Choctaws their second win of the season.
All photos credit Jason McDonald, JM Photography for CORE360 Sports