CLINTON - The Mississippi College football team gained a season-high 542 total yards in a 41-38 victory over Howard Payne on Saturday afternoon at Robinson-Hale Stadium.
It was the third straight win for the Choctaws (3-3, 3-0 ASC), giving them their longest win streak since a three-game run in 2009 when MC won the American Southwest Conference championship. MC currently sits atop the ASC standings with their perfect mark, putting them one-half game ahead of #2 Mary Hardin-Baylor.
The Choctaws had a 41-24 advantage over the YellowJackets (2-4, 0-3 ASC) with just three minutes remaining, but HPU went on a run, scoring 14 points over the next 1:35. Senior Austin Gray recovered the second of two onside kicks, and the Choctaws ran out the clock to clinch the victory.
Junior quarterback Jonathon Redd accounted for four touchdowns for the second straight week, running for three and throwing for another. He opened the scoring with a nine-yard run on the opening drive, capping a nine-play, 50 yard drive that took just over four minutes.
The Choctaws held onto the ball for over 36 minutes, giving them nearly 14 more minutes of possession than the YellowJackets. MC had the ball for nearly 20 of the 30 minutes in the first half and held onto the ball for nearly 10 minutes in the fourth quarter.
Redd gave the Choctaws a 14-0 lead with a 16-yard run from Redd in the first quarter. On the day, he carried the ball eight times for 29 yards and the three scores to go along with 295 passing yards and a score.
Sophomore Hunter Estess pushed the MC lead to 17-0 with just 1:45 remaining in the first half. Estess was 2-for-3 on field goals for the second straight week.
The Jackets got on the board before halftime, taking the ball 63 yards in just 52 seconds, capped off by a 3-yard run from Zarron Dove. He rushed the ball 10 times for 54 yards and the touchdown.
On the ensuing kick-off, senior Dylan Klibert picked up a squib kick and carried it back into Howard Payne territory, setting Estess up for a 23-yard field goal to close out the half with MC taking a 20-7 lead.
The YellowJackets opened the second half with a bang as Richard Young found Joshua Kennedy for a 49-yard touchdown to cut the lead to 20-14. Young threw for 319 yards and two scores to go along with 112 rushing yards and a score.
Joshua Martinez nailed a 26-yard field goal on the next HPU drive and cut the MC lead to 20-17 with 8:03 remaining in the third quarter.
The Choctaws answered right back when Redd found junior Jaime Harris for a 56-yard touchdown pass, pushing the lead back to 27-17. Harris caught two passes for 66 yards and the score, while seniors Randal Pharr and Alex Archer combined for 168 receiving yards on 12 catches.
The Jackets came back themselves with a four-play, 69-yard drive, capped off by an 8-yard run from Chase Burns to bring the lead back down to 27-24.
As the fourth quarter opened, MC still clung to the three-point lead, but Redd pushed the advantage out to 34-24 with his third rushing touchdown of the game, a three-yard run set up by an interception from freshman Mario Pun.
Pun wasn't done picking off passes on the afternoon as he anticipated an out-route perfectly on the next HPU drive and took the interception back 41 yards for a touchdown to give MC a 41-24 lead.
The Jackets made a game of it down the stretch, but the Choctaws held on for their third straight victory of the season.
The Choctaws rushed for a season-high 247 yards and stayed balanced with 266 yards through the air. Howard Payne put up 531 yards of offense, led by their 319 yards passing.
Junior Jake Weddle led the MC defense with nine tackles, narrowly missing out on a fourth straight week of double-digit tackles. Freshman Reginald Bennett and Austin Gray each had tackles, while Gray recorded a fumble recovery.
Maurice Young led the HPU defense with 11 tackles, two tackles for loss and an interception.
The Choctaws will celebrate "Homecoming" next Saturday when they welcome in former ASC rival Texas Lutheran to Robinson-Hale Stadium for a 3:00 p.m. kick-off.