Tiger Defense Answers the Bell in 24-3 Win at MC

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CLINTON, Miss. -- The West Alabama defense kept Mississippi College out of the end zone and held the Choctaws to 97 yards below their rushing average on the way to a 24-3 Gulf South Conference football win Saturday at Robinson-Hale Stadium.

West Alabama is 7-3 overall, 4-3 in GSC play heading toward a regular-season ending showdown with West Florida, who eliminated the Tigers from the NCAA Division II Playoffs in the third round last year. Mississippi College is 3-6 and 1-5 with Delta State left to play.

"Our defense did a heckuva job to hold them to three points," Tiger head coach Brett Gilliland said. "We played assignment football ... played hard and tough."

Mississippi College came into the game averaging 28.4 points per game, but could not score after taking a 3-0 lead on a 25-yard field goal by Drake McCarter with 13:30 left in the second quarter. The last time the UWA defense held a team without a touchdown was in a 62-0 win over Shorter on Sept. 30 of last season.

Tiger defenders held Mississippi College twice on fourth down deep in Tiger territory in the fourth quarter and forced three turnovers. Abraham Wallace and Montell Dent had interceptions and Savon Parker recovered a fumble.

"That triple option is hard to stop," Tiger linebacker Terry Samuel said. "Coach (Steve) Sisa had a good plan and we just had to execute. Our focus now has to be on West Florida."

Parker led all tacklers with 11. Samuel had eight stops and Jordan Jones six. Levi Hammack recorded a sack for minus 8 yards, while Parker, Skylar Mosley and Jordan Graddy also recorded tackles for loss.

"We got turnovers when we needed them," Gilliland said. "You have to be able to finish on offense, especially against a team like this whose offense cuts the score down. I mean, the whole first quarter was just two drives."

"I just want to do my job and do it well," Parker said. "Their quarterback is a good player, but I think we made him uncomfortable and we finished strong."

The Tigers came out of the gate firing, driving 72-yards on its opening drive in 18 plays, only to come up empty on a missed field goal. MC answered with a 13-play, 71-yard drive that led to its only points.

The Tigers answered with a seven-play, 69-yard drive for points. Harry Satterwhite found Christian Saulsberry for his 59th career touchdown pass, a 21-yarder with 10:58 left in the half.

"It feels good to get back in the end zone. There is no better feeling than that," Saulsberry said. "Well, getting to the playoffs would be a definitely be a better feeling."

Jordan Bennett made a 37-yard field goal with 2:28 left in the second period to stretch the UWA lead to 10-7.

West Alabama stretched the lead to 17-3 when Satterwhite found Qua Boyd for a 15-yard scoring pass and his 60th career TD with 2:22 left in the third quarter.

"I will always try to do anything I can for Harry," Boyd said after learning the TD pass was Satterwhite's 60th. "Coach (Don) Bailey made a great call and Harry made a great throw. All I have to do is catch it and I made a good play."

The Tigers put the game away with a 5-yard scoring run by Tyler Rogers with 54 seconds left. The TD was Rogers' 28th, tying him with Gary Johnston on the UWA career rushing touchdowns list.

Rogers score was set up by Dent's interception that he returned 22 yards to the Choctaw 9-yard line. Rogers did the rest in two carries.

Satterwhite was 20-of-27 for 168 yards and the two scores. He was not intercepted and was sacked once, the only sack allowed by the Tiger offensive line in the last three games.

"When you play these guys you are not going to get the ball many times, so you have to capitalize when you have it," Satterwhite said. "They are good in the red zone, but we have to refocus on finishing drives. We had a couple today where we didn't."

Boyd caught six passes for 66 yards to lead UWA receivers, followed by Saulsberry with five for 43.

Rogers rushed for 82 yards on nine carries, giving him 1,903 career yards and advancing him past Ricky Austin (73-75) to fifth on the West Alabama career rushing chart. Derrick Underwood chipped in 44 yards on 15 trips.

MC quarterback Detric Hawthorn gained 83 yards on 19 carries before leaving the game in the fourth quarter. He was 6-of-14 passing for 45 yards.

Cole Rotenberry and Ja'Mox Mark each had two receptions for MC for 13 yards.