Choctaws Remain Strong, Not Strong Enough

In their eighth game of the season, the Mississippi College Choctaws defeated East Texas Baptist University 41-28. Junior Quarterback Jonathon Redd amassed 337 yards of total offense on his way to 4 passing touchdowns and 2 on the ground. His performance brought him American Southwest Conference Offensive Player of the Week and National Christian College Athletic Association Student-Athlete of the Week honors.

“A lot of defenses don’t account for the quarterback in the run game, and so especially close to the goal line we do some things to try to free him up, and he has executed the calls,” said Head Coach Norman Joseph.

Junior Jamie Harris was awarded to the D3football.com National team of the week after hauling in 8 passes for 199 yards, including a 79-yard touchdown from Redd.

The Choctaw defense also contributed, as they snatched 3 interceptions and picked up a fumble. Junior Jake Weedle led the team with 15 tackles, and returned an interception 21 yards.

The team has performed well, but their toughest critic might be their coach. “I don’t know if anyone has surprised me, because I expect it out of them,” said Joseph.

A week later, MC could not keep pace with rival Louisiana College, losing 28-42. Redd published a fine stat line, going 29-45 with 3 touchdowns and a single interception. He added 30 yards and another score on the ground. The defense contributed with 4 turnovers again, but allowed LC 7.7 yards per play, which ultimately led to defeat for the Choctaws.

Their 28 points in the loss is their lowest score since game 3, and during that span of 6 games, Redd has stacked 24 scores and 1701 yards. The defense has 10 sacks and 15 takeaways in that same period. The Choctaws, since the return of Redd in game 4, have been a quality team. Unfortunately, twice they have not been good enough.

Against Texas Lutheran, a late MC rally just wasn’t enough. Last week against LC, they could not play the full 60 minutes, allowing 14 points in the final 5 minutes.

In the fourth quarter, Redd dropped a short 5 yard pass into the hands of Zach Favre, tying the game 28-28 with 4:20 remaining on the clock. Louisiana College got the ball back, and seemed to be held by the defense. After two quick incompletions, LC faced a third-and-10 from their own 25-yard line. That’s when LC quarterback Easton Melancon threw a 75 yard touchdown strike, gaining a 28-35 advantage.

The Chowtaws looked to answer back on the following drive. With short time, MC needed to score to remain competitive. They started the drive at their own 12-yard line, and marched to near midfield. Following a third-and-9 chain-moving pass to Alex Archer, Redd threw 4 consecutive incompletions. The Choctaws forfeited the ball, a turnover on downs.

Louisiana College sought to drain the 90 seconds that remained on the clock. Each play featured a run from LC’s Ryan Montague, who ran the ball the ball 45 yards to the endzone in 6 plays. He capped his drive with a score on fourth down with 9 seconds remaining.  That would close out the game for LC, 28-42.

Going into the game, the rivals appeared to be an equal match. Sharing defeats at the hands of Huntingdon College and Texas Lutheran, and tallying victories against Howard Payne, ETBU, and Sul Ross, both teams came to the game with a similar track record.

“We know that they’re well coached, that they have some outstanding athletes on their team,” said Joseph. “They’ve played well against us the past few years.” LC has beaten the Choctaws in each of their last three meetings. In 2012, the MC lost 70-28 in Clinton.

The 2013 loss to Louisiana College was the first defeat in conference for the Choctaws, who are now 4-1 in the ASC, a record they share with LC. The conference-leading University of Mary-Hardin Baylor is still undefeated, 5-0 in the ASC and 9-0 overall. UMHB has not lost any regular season game since October of 2009, when the Choctaws defeated them 17-14. They are the #2 ranked team in the nation, and they will travel to Clinton next week to play the Choctaws.

It will be the final game of the year for MC, who with 5 losses are no longer eligible for postseason play. The Choctaws will hope to play the role of spoiler, and attempt to defeat the formidable UMHB team who outscored HPU 80-0 at the beginning of the month.

Andy O’Brien, Sports Editor

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