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Choctaws Capitalize off Big Plays, Defeat Chowan 38-21
Key takeaways from the Choctaws’ homecoming victory.
Mississippi College (3-4, 2-3 GSC) capped off its homecoming festivities with a Saturday evening football win over the Hawks of Chowan (0-8, 0-6 GSC), 38-21. The Hawks were able to stay within striking distance throughout most of the second half, but the Choctaws managed to put them away with a few big plays down the stretch. These included a 95-yard kick return touchdown by Marcus Williams, a key interception from Tra’Jen Anderson-Watts, and a series of big runs by Williams and his stable-mate RJ Wilson.
With three games left on the schedule, here are a few things Choctaw fans should pay attention to in the final stretch of the football season.
While quarterback Cameron Davis had an inconsistent night, going 9-22 for 90 yards and throwing an interception, the Choctaws’ run game was able to make up for it.
After a balanced first half where Davis had 18 pass attempts, the Choctaws leaned almost exclusively on the run in the second. It allowed them to pull away from the Hawks and use up more of the clock.
RJ Wilson led the way, carrying the ball 26 times for 148 yards and a pair of touchdowns on the game. Meanwhile, Marcus Williams gained 110 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries. Both backs averaged over five yards per carry and, aside from Davis, were the only players with rush attempts. MC outgained Chowan 261-103 on the ground and 351-244 overall.
With John Henry White’s return this season still questionable, the Choctaws seem tied to Davis and the spread offense. However, the Choctaws should still maintain their identity as a run-heavy team. The team features a loaded backfield, with Wilson, Williams, fullback Ron Craten, and several others. If Davis continues to look shaky going forward, expect to see the Choctaws lean on their backfield once again.
While usually not a blitzing unit, the Choctaw defense came out aggressive against the Hawks, bringing their linebackers off the edges several times throughout the game.
It paid off, resulting in five total tackles for loss across the team, including a sack by Ke’Shawn Brinkley. The Choctaws also limited Chowan running back Romeo Felton to just 20 yards on 12 carries. Overall, the Hawks averaged 4.3 yards per carry, a statistic majorly bolstered by quarterback Rashad McKee’s 59-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. Jason Betz led the way in tackles for the Choctaws, with eight total and one for loss.
The Choctaw secondary continued to be one of the most dominant in the Gulf South Conference. They allowed just 141 yards and grabbed two interceptions. Andre Termidor and Tra’Jen Anderson-Watts were responsible for the interceptions, with Anderson-Watts tacking a 39-yard return onto the end of his. Chowan quarterback Rashad McKee went 14-22 for 136 yards, a touchdown, and two picks.
The aggressive defense was presumably a one-time adjustment, but it may be wise for defensive coordinator Tony Gilbert to continue to bring pressure. While the Choctaws continue to have the best secondary in the GSC, allowing just 147.7 passing yards per game, their defensive front has not seen the same success. They sit at the bottom of the GSC in sacks with just seven on the season and allow the second-most rushing yards at 185.7 per game.
Special Teams Standouts
Ben Pledger continued to show off his range, matching his career-long with a 46-yard field goal in the first quarter. Despite his miss from the 26 in the second quarter, Pledger is now 7-11 on the season. His seven made kicks are the most by a Choctaw kicker since 2018 when Drake McCarter went 7-10 on the season.
In addition to rushing for over 100 yards and scoring a touchdown, Marcus Williams returned four kickoffs for 156 yards, including a fourth-quarter 95-yard touchdown return immediately following a Chowan score. The return pushed the Choctaw lead to 31-21.
Both are the kind of players capable of making game-changing plays, the kind of thing the Choctaws will need with their tough schedule going forward.
No Weeks Off
The Choctaws are back in action Saturday, October 28 at 2:00 p.m. ET on the road in Tigerville, South Carolina against North Greenville (3-5, 2-4 GSC). The Crusaders fell to West Georgia on Saturday 38-14, and they have lost four of their last five games. However, they are not a team the Choctaws can afford to overlook; they defeated West Alabama 23-16 earlier this season and boast one of the top passing offenses in the GSC, averaging 221.9 yards per game.
The following week, the Choctaws will return home to face West Florida (6-2, 4-1 GSC) on Senior Day. The 18th-ranked Argonauts, as usual, are near the top of the GSC standings. Just this week, they delivered #5 Delta State (7-1, 5-1 GSC) their first loss of the season 24-21.
Mississippi College will cap off its 2023 season with its traditional rivalry matchup, the Battle for the Bell, against Delta State in Cleveland, Mississippi. Following a 10-2 2022 season, the Statesmen are once again one of the best teams in Division 2 football. Featuring the best offense in the GSC, and one of the best defenses as well, Delta State will be looking to win the conference and secure another berth in the Division 2 playoffs. The Choctaws will be looking to play spoilers for their in-state rivals and take the Heritage Bell Trophy back to Clinton for the first time since 2019.