SCOOBA – The East Mississippi Community College defense deserved a round of applause, and head coach Buddy Stephens made sure that happened.
"Defense got the game ball," Stephens said. "We made the offense stand up and give a standing ovation because (the defense) did a great job."
The defense led the No. 5 (National Junior College Athletic Association poll) Lions to a 35-0 win over Holmes Community College Saturday afternoon at Sullivan-Windham Field on homecoming weekend.
EMCC, which improved to 6-0 overall and 3-0 in the North Division play, only allowed 200 total yards and forced four turnovers.
A big part of that was former Starkville High standout D.J. Jordan.
"My attitude on defense is to not let them score or get a first down," the sophomore linebacker said. "If they get a first down, we just tighten up every time. We try to get a three-and-out every possession. We work hard in practice."
The Bulldogs finished the day with only nine first downs.
The Lions struggled offensively in the first half and could not find a rhythm offensively.
Stephens noted the lack of execution had a big part to do with a scoreless game.
"The lack of execution, dropping balls, missing passes high, missing passes low and missing passes behind you are a lack of focus," Stephens said. "We as coaches have to quit having to coach effort."
It was the first time since 2008 in Stephens' first game with EMCC that it was held scoreless in the first half. It was also the first time since the 2009 Itawamba Community College game when the Lions didn't score for two straight quarters. They were shut out in the second half of that contest.
Stephens was not to happy with his offense's performance and was hoping for a better second-half showing.
"I don't know what (somebody) did with our offense, but I'm glad they gave the offensive guys back to us in the fourth quarter," Stephens said. "Offensively, we played like we've been practicing. It has shown the last two weeks. We are going to get it fixed. We'll get it fixed or will have less people around. The tractor isn't broke. We just have to tinker with it a little bit."
EMCC quarterback Quez Johnson found fellow Starkville native Billy Shed for a 46-yard pass completion to put the Lions in a first-and-goal situation from the 6-yard line.
Facing a fourth and goal from the 1-yard line, Stephens elected to go for it, and sophomore Rodriguez Moore punched it in, while Morgan Rhodes added the extra point to make it 7-0 with 2:50 to go in the third quarter.
Johnson hooked up with Nick Brassell for a 32-yard passing touchdown to make it 14-0 with 9:57 to go in the fourth quarter.
"(Johnson) settled down," Stephens said. "He played more (ticked) off. He got hit and they shoved him in the head one time and it (ticked) him off. He started playing mad and it helped a lot."
Midway through the fourth quarter, the defense gave the offense another opportunity to score.
Sophomore defensive back Justin Cox picked off a Bulldog pass and Johnson found Moore for a 32-yard scoring toss to make it 21-0.
"The defense played lights out," Stephens said. "(Defensive coordinator) William (Jones) did a great job to get them game ready. They were going through a walk through this morning to make sure they had everything right. We ran to the ball well. They are the reason we won the ballgame. They put us in great position three or four different times."
For Jordan and the defense, giving the offense a short field is their goal.
"We just kept trying to boost their confidence," Jordan said. "(We wanted to) get a three-and-out every time and hopefully get the offense in a good position to score."
Xavier Hogan rushed it in from 5 yards out and Johnson found Martay Mattox for a 16-yard passing touchdown.
Johnson finished the day 27-of-53 passing with 347 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed the ball nine times for 8 yards.
Shed finished the game with eight catches for 120 yards and a score.