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Key Takeaways From Early Season Football
Mississippi College is 1-1 heading into Gulf South Conference play following a loss to Midwestern State.
On yet another long road trip, this time to Wichita Falls, TX, the Choctaws lost to the Mustangs of Midwestern State 30-17. Carrying a 17-13 lead into the fourth quarter, the Choctaws were overwhelmed in the final period, allowing 17 unanswered points.
Several Choctaws had standout performances, especially Nick Grady, who tallied two interceptions, including a first-quarter pick-six. David Brown IV led the way in tackles with 12 total, eight of which were solo tackles. Meanwhile, DeShawn Washington made the most tackles for loss with three.
On offense, Ron Craten ran for 145 yards on just 13 carries, including a 95-yard touchdown, the second-longest in school history.
Now 1-1 on the season, the Choctaws approach Gulf South Conference play, with their first test coming at home against West Georgia. Here are a few key takeaways from Mississippi College’s early season action.
Following the departure of former offensive coordinator Tommy Laurendine at the end of the 2022 season, new offensive coordinator Courtland Hays brings a more diverse offensive scheme that incorporates more spread formations and looks to put a bigger emphasis on passing.
However, the offense has struggled so far. The Choctaws have scored just three offensive touchdowns, all of them coming on the ground. Both John Henry White and Cameron Davis have gotten snaps at quarterback, with Davis running the more pass-oriented shotgun formation. Neither has had much success throwing the ball: White has just six passing yards while Davis has 46. The Choctaws have also struggled to hang onto the ball, fumbling three times against Keiser and twice against MSU.
Another thing that could potentially be hurting the Choctaws is the lack of production from star running back Marcus Williams, who carried the ball just five times for one yard against MSU and 14 times for 62 yards against Keiser. His ability to make big plays running to the outside is a crucial part of the Choctaws’ triple-option offense, and his ability to also make plays in the passing game was touted in the preseason.
If the Choctaws want to replicate last year's win over West Georgia next week, they will need to find their offensive identity and execute it effectively.
As much as the Choctaws’ offense has stumbled out of the gate, their defense has burst onto the scene. Last season, the defense allowed 36 points per game and 54 total touchdowns, the second most in the GSC. While their passing defense was middle of the road in the GSC, allowing 194 passing yards per game, they primarily struggled to stop the run: the defense allowed 236 rushing yards per game, the second most in the conference. They were also bottom of the conference in both sacks and interceptions, with just seven and four respectively.
This season has looked better for the defense in nearly every area. The Choctaws currently have the best passing defense in the GSC, allowing just 89 yards per game. They also have made three interceptions across their two games played, including Nick Grady’s pick-six against MSU. The defense has so far allowed just 271 yards per game. Most of that is still coming on the ground, however, as they are allowing 184 yards per game so far.
Emerging Special Teams Play
Long-time Choctaw football fans remember the program’s years of special teams issues, when extra points were not guaranteed, punts were inconsistent at best, and field goals were almost out of the question.
That has not been the case this season, as Ben Pledger and Houston Smith have been extremely effective kicking the ball. The Choctaws are currently the best in the GSC at kickoffs and punts and have yet to miss an extra point or field goal. Pledger is responsible for what has arguably been the signature play of the season thus far, as he sealed the Choctaws’ 17-14 win over Keiser with a fourth-quarter 46-yard field goal.
The Choctaws will return home to open GSC play this Saturday against the University of West Georgia and will kick off at 6 p.m. CT
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