CLINTON, MS - On a night when the Mississippi College defense scored three touchdowns, it was the offense that came up big in the end with a 77-yard touchdown pass on 3rd-and-10 from sophomore Jonathon Redd to senior Alex Archer with just 1:19 remaining to clinch a 31-24 win over Webber International on Saturday night at Robinson-Hale Stadium.
The MC defense (1-1) returned two fumbles and one interception for scores, as well as racking up five total turnovers on the evening. For the Choctaws, the three defensive touchdowns matched the number of scores for that side of the ball over the last two seasons combined.
The pass defense was impressive, led by junior Keith Villafranco with two interceptions, including the one that clinched the victory in the final seconds. Junior Stephen Miner returned a pick for a score on the evening as the Choctaws only allowed 97 passing yards.
"Our defensive style is that we want 11 guys going towards the ball at all times," said Villafranco. "We executed the gameplan tonight, and it paid off. This was a lot of fun tonight, and it gives us a lot of confidence going forward."
"Our defense did a great job tonight," said Head Coach Norman Joseph. "The offense finished things off, and we were good in the kicking game. It was a total team win. What a great atmosphere to play in tonight. Our crowd was fantastic, and the guys really responded."
On the night, Archer caught seven passes for 153 yards and one touchdown, including the game-winning score. The injury-riddled senior from Shreveport, LA has seen his perserverance pay off with 10 total catches for 202 yards this season.
Sophomore Josh Williams opened the scoring for MC with a 24-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown in the first quarter. Senior Chris Campbell nailed a 40-yard field goal and the Choctaws took a 10-0 lead into the second quarter.
Webber got on the board to open the second quarter when Corey Jackson caught a three-yard pass from Jeffrey Wayner, and the lead was cut to 10-7.
Freshman Joseph Comeaux scored the second defensive touchdown of the night on a 20-yard fumble return in the second quarter to push the lead back to 17-7. The score would remain the same heading into halftime.
The Warriors gave MC a taste of their own medicine to open the second half as Silas Lopez returned an interception 47 yards for a score and the lead was cut back to just three points at 17-14.
Miner answered with his 15-yard interception for a touchdown to end the third quarter with a 24-14 lead for the Choctaws. The Bryam native has two fumble recoveries and a pick in the first two games of the season.
The Warriors would not go away, however, as Brendan Deshiel rushed in from four yards out to cut the score to 24-21 with 11:13 remaining. After an MC fumble, the defense stood tall and forced a 19-yard field goal by Mason Prater of Webber to tie the game at 24-24.
After the game was tied, both teams missed chances to take the lead as Campbell missed a 41-yard field goal for MC and Prater saw a 40-yarder go wide right with just 1:45 remaining.
That set the stage for Redd and Archer's heroics. After MC gained no yards on first and second down, Webber called a timeout to try to save time for their offense to win the game. Coach Joseph had other ideas as he sent Archer streaking down the middle of the field and Redd found him for the game-winning score.
"It means so much for Coach (Joseph) to have the confidence to throw me the ball at the end of the game," said Archer. It really made the last three years of injuries worth it for that play."
The Warriors moved the ball to midfield, but Villafranco stopped all thoughts of a comeback with an acrobatic interception at the MC 16-yard line.
Redd had another good game for MC under center, completing 23-of-35 passes for 264 yards and the one score. Freshman Therion Robinson led the way on the ground with 71 yards on 10 carries.
Senior Dominick Puckett had a team-high nine tackles for the Choctaws, including eight solo stops. He also had one of MC's eight tackles for loss on the night.
The Choctaws will be back in action next Saturday when they travel to Livingston, Ala. to face Division II West Alabama at 6:00 p.m.