|Costly first-half turnovers doom No. 16 EMCC in 50-42 home loss to Hinds|
SCOOBA, Miss. – Four first-half turnovers resulted in 27 Hinds points, as the 16th-ranked East Mississippi Lions dropped a 50-42 decision to the visiting Eagles in Thursday’s season home opener at EMCC’s Sullivan-Windham Field.
Coupled with last week’s 40-21 setback at fifth-ranked Mississippi Gulf Coast, EMCC has now fallen in back-to-back contests for the first since Buddy Stephens took over the Lions’ head coaching duties in 2008. East Mississippi is now 19-5 under Stephens’ guidance.
After the two teams traded empty possessions in Thursday’s EMCC home opener, sophomore running back Trayshun King fumbled for the Lions on the first play of their second possession. With excellent field position after the miscue, the Eagles went 30 yards on six plays to move ahead 7-0 on Anthony Sheppard’s quarterback sneak on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line and subsequent point-after-touchdown kick by Kyle Williams.
Hinds bumped its lead to 10-0 on Williams’ 32-yard field goal at the 4:27 mark of the opening period, before the Lions got on the scoreboard with Floyd Graves’ 10-yard touchdown scamper up the middle with 1:51 remaining in the quarter. However, it didn’t take long for the visitors to get those seven points right back, as Sheppard found Cordell Valentine along the left sideline for a 68-yard scoring strike. Williams’ PAT conversion made it 17-7 as time expired in the first quarter.
Misfortune found the Lions again on the first play of the second quarter when freshman Jeremy Reed coughed up the ball on a reverse play deep in their own territory. Three snaps later, the Eagles made it a 25-7 contest on Matthew Willis’ 2-yard plunge and a two-point conversion run by Les Lemons.
Things went from bad to worse for the home-standing Lions on their next snap from scrimmage. Sophomore quarterback Brad Henderson’s tipped pass was intercepted by Zach McKee around midfield. Adding insult to injury, Sheppard hit receiver Dylan Davis on the next play for a 56-yard touchdown. The PAT was missed, but the visitors had managed to silence the home crowd with two touchdowns coming 16 seconds apart while taking a 31-7 advantage with 13:13 still left in the opening half.
The resilient Lions bounced back to cut the deficit to 10 points (31-21) by the 4:50 mark on De’Joshua Johnson’s 4-yard scoring pass from Henderson and Graves’ 5-yard burst up the middle. The visiting Eagles, however, countered with two more touchdowns within the final minute of the opening half to firmly take back the momentum. After a seven-play Hinds drive was capped by a 37-yard, Sheppard-to-Valentine connection, Henderson was picked off a second time as safety Godfrey Thompson dashed into the end zone on a 35-yard interception return to give the Eagles two more scores within 19 seconds of one another en route to mounting a 44-21 halftime advantage.
Having seemingly regrouped after the halftime break, East Mississippi once again cut the deficit to 10 points by the midway point of the third quarter. After the Lions held Hinds to a three-and-out to start the second half, Henderson found sophomore receiver Pat Patterson along the left sideline and the Macon native cut back over the middle for a 66-yard, catch-and-run score. The former Noxubee County All-American finished the night with five catches for 125 yards. Four minutes later, EMCC freshman signal-caller Termarcus Conner – Patterson’s former prep teammate at Noxubee County – hit Rodney Davis with a 30-yard floater in the left corner of the end zone to make it a 44-34 contest with 7:20 left in the third quarter.
EMCC’s defense tried to step it up on Hinds’ next possession, but Kevin Roberts’ interception was nullified due to a roughing-the-passer penalty. Two plays later, Lion freshman Denico Autry stripped back-up tailback Jeremy Palmer of the ball and recovered the fumble. Unfortunately for the home team, the Lions’ resulting possession fizzled and ultimately they gave the visitors excellent field position when Rodney Davis couldn’t handle a low snap from center in punt formation. A 27-yard pass from Sheppard to Dylan Davis was followed by a 3-yard run over left tackle by Willis, giving the visitors a 50-34 lead with 5:07 remaining in the third quarter.
Once again the home-standing Lions fought their way back at the end of the period by putting together a 70-yard scoring drive that made it a one-possession game (50-42) after Henderson followed center with a 1-yard sneak and then hooked up with Patterson for the successful two-point conversion pass play. Henderson, a former Starkville High School standout, finished the night with 25-of-41 passing for 288 yards while accounting for three scores but throwing two interceptions.
After the two teams combined for 92 points through three quarters, the defensive units took over during a scoreless fourth period. With Hinds sticking to its ground game in an attempt to run the clock, the Lions were conversely looking to the end zone for a potential game-tying score. Platooning Henderson and Conner at quarterback, EMCC had three viable scoring opportunities thwarted over the game’s final 10 minutes.
First with Henderson at the command, an 11-play drive chewed up nearly five minutes of clock time but was halted at midfield after consecutive plays resulted in negative yardage. Following a three-and-out series by Hinds, Conner had the Lions moving but they couldn’t convert in the red zone. After three straight incomplete passes from the 20-yard line, Conner’s fourth-and-10 aerial to the left corner of the end zone was secured by Patterson. However, the officials ruled that EMCC’s standout receiver was out of bounds when he caught the pass.
The Lions’ final chance at possibly sending the game into overtime came after another three-and-out series and subsequent punt by Hinds. With the ball near midfield and just over a minute remaining in the game, Conner hit Meridian’s Marcus McQuarley on the right sideline for a 33-yard completion to the 15-yard line. East Mississippi’s potential valiant comeback was not to be on this night, as Conner’s next attempt to Kemper County’s Lacoltan Bester to the same right side was intercepted by Adonis Armstrong.
Now 0-2 on the young season following the pair of setbacks to MACJC South Division opponents, the EMCC Lions turn their collective attention to the start of North Division competition by playing host to nationally ranked Northwest Mississippi next Thursday, Sept. 16. Kickoff for East Mississippi’s league lid-lifter is slated for 7 p.m. at Sullivan-Windham Field on the Scooba campus. Reigning state champions and two-time defending North Division champions, EMCC owns a current 15-game winning streak in division play (12-0 under Stephens) that dates back to the 2007 campaign.
|Last Updated ( Friday, 10 September 2010 )|
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