Press release from PRCC Athletics
WESSON – An emotional William Jones had to compose himself before speaking to reporters Saturday afternoon.
And why not? His Pearl River Community College football team had just done something extraordinary.
The Wildcats rode a tremendous defensive effort that forced five turnovers to shock top-ranked Copiah-Lincoln 17-9, spoiling the Wolves homecoming celebration.
PRCC improved to 2-4 and 1-3 in the South Division; the Wolves dropped to 5-1 and 2-1. It was the Wildcats' first victory over a No. 1-ranked team since they defeated Butler (Kan.) in 2004 for the NJCAA national championship.
"We've been beat up," said Jones. "We thought we recruited a good football team, but we haven't been able to put that team on the field.
"I asked the guys to play up to their ability. We knew we had a great chance if we just played to our capabilities. I challenged the guys when we had the lead at halftime, that if they don't score, they don't win."
The Wildcats won despite not making a single first down after the 10:32 mark of the second quarter, but time and time again, the defense did its job, bending, but not breaking and holding the Wolves to just three Greg Nickles field goals.
The first of those came midway through the first quarter, a 42-yard kick that came after the Wildcats were flagged for running into the kicker after Nickles' first attempt hit off the right upright and bounced away no good.
But the Wildcats responded with their only sustained drive of the game, a six-play, 73-yard touchdown drive. The big play was a 43-yard pass from Matt Williams to Cameron Bolton to the Co-Lin 2-yard line, and Carlos Ransburgh ran it in for the score on the next play.
The Wildcats increased their lead after Randy Hogan swiped a Garrett Kruzcek pass and returned it 14 yards to the Wolves 15. PRCC went nowhere, but Brennan O'Keefe was good on a 32-yard field goal that gave Pearl River a 10-3 lead.
Nickles added field goals of 47 and 22 yards in the second half, the second coming after the Wildcats held when Co-Lin drove to the PRCC 5 early in the fourth quarter.
Pearl River stopped Co-Lin on three interceptions in the fourth quarter, and the second gave the Wildcats a 17-9 lead when Tyler Jack took a pick 44 yards down the right sideline for a touchdown.
"The series before, I bit on the out pattern and he got me, but my safety (Stevie Scott) had my back and made the interception," said Jack. "I knew they were going to come with the same play; I read it and jumped the route and it was wide open for me."
The Wildcats also sacked Kruzcek twice in the final period, and harassed him all game.
"That pass rush was the key element," said defensive end Kenneth Edwards. "Us being able to rush the quarterback, and being able to get him on the ground and make him hurry his throws was a game-changer for us."
Kruzcek finished with 23 completions in 43 attempts, as the Wolves had more than twice as many first downs and yards than the Wildcats, but PRCC got the stops when needed.
Linebacker Jarkeith Ruffin got one pick with 1:13 to play, and the Wildcats were able to run all but six seconds off the clock, giving Co-Lin the ball back at their own 12.