East Mississippi Rallies to Win NJCAA Title

YUMA, Ariz. - The East Mississippi Community College Lions (12-0), led by six touchdown passes from Bo Wallace, defeated Arizona Western College (11-1) 55-47 to win the 2011 NJCAA Football Championship Saturday at the El Toro Bowl in Yuma. The national title is the first in any sport for East Mississippi.

Box Score

The Lions, who entered the contest ranked second overall in the NJCAA final football poll of the regular season behind the Matadors, came out roaring and quieted the sellout crowd at Veteran's Memorial Stadium by jumping out to a 27-0 lead midway through the second quarter. The scoring was led by four TD passes from Wallace, including two to Lacoltan Bester.

In addition to their fantastic offense, the Lions were a nightmare for the AWC offense through much of the first half. EMCC held the nation's top rushing offense to just 15 rushing yards in the first quarter and just 132 total offensive yards in the half.

AWC finally got the board with 5:38 left in the first half off a 53-yard touchdown run from Damien Williams to make the score 27-7 with the extra point. East Mississippi quickly responded with a three-play, 89-yard touchdown drive that culminated with Wallace's fifth TD pass of the half - a 24-yard strike to Davis to put the Lions on top 34-7 with just under four minutes left.

The Matadors were able to take some momentum into the locker room, getting decent field position from a 29-yard kickoff return by De'Joshua Johnson. The 10-play, 39-yard drive was capped by a three-yard TD pass from Cameron Coffman to Josh Ford. A missed extra-point kick made the score 34-13 at the half in favor of the Lions.

The third quarter saw both offenses score quickly and often. The Lions went up 41-13 less than three minutes into the quarter off Wallace's sixth TD pass of the afternoon. In just two plays, the freshman advanced the Lions 59 yards and found J.J. Harbin on a 29-yard TD pass play.

At 9:24 in the third frame, AWC reached into their trick-play handbook and called up a wide-receiver reverse pass to the quarterback that worked to perfection as Ford lofted a spiral to Coffman from 22 yards out to make the score 41-20. The play sparked the Matador players as well as the crowd and less than a minute later Wallace was intercepted at the Arizona Western 33-yard line by Quyuan Mattox. The next play from scrimmage for the Matadors saw Williams, who entered the game as the nation's top rusher with 1,789 yards during the regular season, break through the EMCC defense for a 68-yard touchdown. After a converted extra-point Arizona Western was suddenly within two scores of the Lions at 41-27.

After the two teams traded punts, the Lions looked to be in trouble with 5:50 left in the third quarter. On their own nine-yard line, facing third down-and-six yards to go, Rodriguez Moore received a bubble-screen pass, side-stepped several Matador tacklers and bolted 91 yards for a touchdown to put EMCC out in front 48-27.

Keeping true to the theme of the quarter, AWC responded less than 20 seconds later thanks to a 54-yard kickoff return by Andre O'Neil. On the ensuing play Coffman connected with Johnson for a 23-yard touchdown pass to change the score once again, 48-34.

The Lions went back to a no-huddle, quick play approach that worked well in the first half on its next possession and had no trouble marching down the field on the AWC defense. Fueled by the running of Moore, the six-play, 67-yard drive was finished off with a three-yard touchdown run by Antoinne Adkins to push EMCC's lead to 55-34 heading into the fourth quarter.

AWC opened the quarter with an impressive 67-yard drive led by several great plays by Coffman. The freshman kept the drive alive by connecting with Williams for 18-yards on a fourth-and-15 situation on the EMCC 37-yard line. Three plays later the two connected again, this time on a 16-yard completion in the end zone to get the Matadors back within two scores of the Lions, 55-40 (missed extra-point).

After stalled drives by both teams, Arizona Western got the ball on its own seven-yard line with 5:04 left to play. Coffman moved the Matadors to its own 33-yard line and again stepped up on fourth-and-long with an eight-yard scramble to keep the drive alive. Three plays later Coffman found his favorite target, Williams, on a 15-yard touchdown pass that cut the EMCC lead to 55-47 with 3:28 left in the contest.

The Matador comeback was put to rest when the Lions recovered an onside kick and ran over two minutes of the game clock before punting back to Arizona Western with 1:08 left to play. The EMCC defense rose up at the most critical time and turned the Matadors away on four plays to seal the win and the program's first national championship.

Wallace was named the Offensive MVP for the Lions and definitely earned it, completing 29-of-40 pass attempts for 357 yards with six touchdowns and one interception. The 2011 NJCAA football season will officially go down in the record books as "The Year of Bo Wallace." His six TD passes in the title game increased his season total to 52, which sets a new NJCAA single-season record (50, Tony DeLeon; Vermilion Community College, Minn. - 1992). The Pulaski, Tenn., native also set new NJCAA single season marks in passing yards (4,475) and total offense (4,676).

Davis caught six Wallace passes, two for touchdowns, for 161 yards for the Lions.

Williams and Coffman did it all for the Matador offense. Williams scored two rushing touchdowns also had two receiving. He finished the game with 129 yards on the ground and another 92 receiving. Coffman completed 27-of-38 pass attempts for 287 yards and four touchdowns along with an interception.

The contest can be seen via video archive onNJCAA TV.

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