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Choctaws Roll Shorter, Deliver Bland 100th Win
Key takeaways at the halfway point of the Choctaws’ season.
Choctaw football climbed to 2-3 and 1-2 in Gulf South Conference play Saturday, beating Shorter (2-3, 1-2 GSC) 30-14. The Choctaws played a complete game, with offense, defense, and special teams all making plays to contribute to the win. Now, the team looks forward to their bye week before they take the field again at home against #20 Valdosta State (5-2, 2-0 GSC).
Throughout the first half of the season, the Choctaws struggled to put together a complete game, with individual units availing but rarely at the same time. At times, the offense has fallen short, from trouble with turnovers to issues with scoring: the Choctaws only scored one touchdown against both Midwestern State and West Alabama. Other times, the defense has struggled. Against West Georgia, they gave up 456 total yards and two fourth-quarter touchdowns. Special teams have also struggled with kicking procedures.
However, the Choctaws rallied in all three phases against Shorter. Successful through the air and on the ground, the offense put up 429 total yards, and more importantly, did not turn the ball over. The defense, while giving up 398 total yards, also forced the Hawks to punt six times and forced two turnovers on downs. The special teams prevailed, with Michael Shine landing both his punts inside the 20. One of Shine’s punts gave the ball back to the Hawks at their own three yard line. Ben Pledger also returned to form, making three kicks from around 40 yards out.
The Choctaws will need to build off of this across-the-board success going into the second half of the season. Their schedule will not be getting any easier, as they face undefeated Valdosta State right after the bye week, as well as top ten opponents West Florida and Delta State back-to-back to end the season.
With regular starter John Henry White still sidelined, the Choctaws once again turned to sophomore Cameron Davis. Throwing quick, short passes, the 6-5 signal caller was able to get rid of the ball quickly and build confidence. Before the end of the first quarter, the short passes caused the Hawks’ defense to collapse. Davis went deep down the sidelines for a 51-yard touchdown to Javier Batiste. It was the Choctaws’ first touchdown and first lead of the game, putting the score at 10-7.
From there, it was all Choctaws. They scored touchdowns on their last two drives before the half and continued to move the ball throughout the rest of the game.
The Choctaws benefitted from a balanced attack, moving the ball in a variety of ways throughout the game. Running mostly out of spread formations, Davis went 19-26 for 204 yards and 2 touchdowns. Marcus Williams, bursting back onto the scene, carried the ball 22 times for 143 yards. RJ Wilson totaled 66 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries.
The Choctaws revisited the triple option with impressive results. In one third-quarter fourth down attempt, the triple option play allowed Ron Craten to gain ten yards when he needed just one.
Both the offensive and defensive lines for the Choctaws were key factors in their success against the Hawks.
Against West Alabama, the Choctaw offensive line struggled to give Davis time to get comfortable and make throws, allowing three sacks and two quarterback hurries. They had to quickly transition from triple option plays and run blocking for John Henry White to spread formations and pass blocking for Davis. Against Shorter, they flipped the script, preventing sacks and allowing Davis plenty of time to pass. The Choctaws will need to replicate this down the line if they want Davis to continue to succeed against talented GSC defenses.
On the flip side, the Choctaws’ defensive front had limited success going into the Shorter game. Throughout the early season, the Choctaw defense had been one of the worst in the GSC at stopping the run and had only gotten two sacks in four games. However, against Shorter, they consistently pressured Hawks quarterback Josh Brown, sacking him three times. They still struggled to stop the run, allowing 177 yards on the ground.
With the win, the Choctaws moved up to fifth in the GSC standings. Their upcoming bye week will allow them to rest and heal before they face three of the four teams ranked ahead of them. The Choctaws will be back in action at home on October 14 at 2 p.m. CT as they play Valdosta State.
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