Jonathan Abram knocked a potential game-tying two-point pass away with 2:35 remaining and the Bobcats upset the top-ranked East Mississippi Community College Lions 27-25 Thursday night at a packed Bobcat Stadium/Sim Cooley Field.
JCJC trailed 13-3 at halftime before exploding for 21 unanswered points on three consecutive possessions in the third quarter to take a 24-13 lead.
After the Lions scored and Abram made his big defensive play, EMMC got the ball back one more time.
The Lions got the ball with 50 seconds left to play and moved to the Bobcat 45 when time expired, giving JCJC the victory in Buckley's first game as head coach.
The Bobcats outrushed EMCC 220-35 and outgained the Lions, 359-277.
The Bobcats were unofficially credited with eight quarterback sacks and defensive back Deontai Williams had a crucial fumble recovery in the Bobcat end zone to stop an EMCC drive early in the fourth quarter.
Abram, in addition to his stellar secondary play, also scored JCJC's first touchdown when he took a direct snap out of the "Bobcat" formation and scored on a 17-yard run in the third quarter.
Both teams started off sluggishly on offense.
Neither team could dent the scoreboard until East Mississippi quarterback Vijay Miller hit Raphael Leonard on a 65-yard touchdown pass with 55 seconds left in the first quarter. That play came on a third and 12 play and capped a 63-yard, three-play drive. Taylor Crabtree's extra point gave the Lions a 7-0 lead.
Jones got its first points of the 2016 season in the middle of the second quarter.
JCJC drove from its 33-yard line to the EMCC 6 in eight plays. Brady Farlow would then boot a 23-yard field goal with 8:36 left in the first half.
EMCC would then take advantage of a turnover when Blocker was hit, fumbled and Tim Bonner recovered at the JCJC 19.
The JCJC defense held and Crabtree booted a 31-yard field goal to make it 10-3 with 5:20 left in the second quarter.
The Lions would then strip the ball away from JCJC on the ensuing kickoff. The play appeared to be over, but EMCC's Brian Cole was given credit for the fumble recovery.
EMCC took over at the Jones' 16, but the Bobcat defense stiffened again, pushing the Lions back 1 yard on three plays.
Crabtree came in and kicked a 35-yard field goal with 3:00 left to make it 13-3.
The Bobcats began to assert themselves in the third quarter.
JCJC took the second half kickoff and drove from its 41 to the EMCC 13 in 10 plays before the drive stalled, but Farlow's 30-yard field goal attempt was off to the left.
The JCJC defense then forced another punting situation.
This time, Crabtree bobbled the snap and was tackled by JCJC's A.J. Bracey at the 17.
Abram, the talented University of Georgia transfer, then entered the game at quarterback, took the direct snap and raced into the end zone for a 17-yard touchdown run. Farlow's extra point made it 13-10 with 9:02 left in the third quarter.
The Bobcat defense forced another 'three and out' and JCJC would begin its next possession at its own 31.
Nine plays later, Blocker connected with Kendall Parham on a short toss over the middle that Parham turned into a pretty 23-yard touchdown pass to give JCJC the lead for good. Farlow's extra point made it 17-13 with 3:49 left in the third quarter.
The JCJC defense would come through with another 'three and out' and the Bobcats would take over on its own 46 after a punt.
This time, it would take only one play as Blocker connected with Jeriko Morris on a beautiful, 54-yard touchdown pass deep down the middle of the field. Farlow's extra point gave JCJC a 24-13 lead with 1:43 left in the third quarter.
EMCC would stop the JCJC surge on its next possession.
The Lions would drive 60 yards in six plays for a score.
Miller hit Daniel Crowell Jr. on a 19-yard scoring pass on the first play of the fourth quarter. The extra point was blocked and returned for an apparent two-point play by Williams, but Jones was called for a penalty for illegally batting the ball to nullify the score. That made it 24-19 with 14:52 left to play.
JCJC then could not handle the EMCC pooch kickoff and Cole recovered at the Bobcat 34.
The Lions moved to a first and goal at the 8. Tyrell Price then took a handoff and got to near the goal line before he was hit and fumbled the ball into the end zone. Williams recovered and brought it out to the 3 where he was stopped.
JCJC then put together a 17-play drive that went 85 yards and used up 6:43 of the clock. The drive ended at the EMCC 12 and Farlow drilled a 29-yard field goal to give Jones a 27-19 lead with 5:59 remaining.
But the Lions would take the kickoff and march 55 yards in nine plays. Miller connected with Leonard on a 20-yard scoring pass with 2:35 left to make it 27-25.
EMCC went for the tying two-point conversion, but Abram came up with pass breakup in front of Crowell to preserve the lead.
The Lions had one timeout and went with another pooch kickoff. Parham made the fair catch at his own 33.
JCJC failed to pick up a first down and EMCC called its final timeout with 1:00 left.
Taylor Wallace punted the ball 37 yards and the Lions took over on its own 27 with 50 seconds left.
EMCC moved for a first down, but the game ended when Miller found Calvin Keys Jr. for an 8-yard pass to the Jones' 45 and time expired.
Miller was 22-of-37 for 242 yards and three touchdowns for the Lions.
The Bobcats, 1-0, will travel to Moorhead to face Mississippi Delta at 7 p.m. on Sept. 8. The game will air on www.jcjc.tv. Mississippi Delta lost 44-0 to Copiah-Lincoln on Thursday.
East Mississippi, 0-1, dressed 32 players because of suspensions resulting from last year's season-ending fight against Mississippi Delta. The Lions had won 52 of its previous 55 games.
EMCC visits No. 4 Mississippi Gulf Coast on Sept. 8. Itawamba upset MGCCC 23-12 on Thursday.