PERKINSTON, MS (WLOX) - No. 17 Mississippi Gulf Coast ran for 367 yards and got a 92-yard kickoff return by Saivion Smith to spark a 52-13 victory Thursday at A.L. May Memorial Stadium over Southwest.
"The team tonight played as close as a complete game as we've played all year," Gulf Coast coach Chad Huff said. "We've hit or miss a quarter or two, or come out in the second half and played better. I said let's start better tonight."
Gulf Coast improves to 5-2 overall, 3-1 in the MACJC South. The Bulldogs remain in third place in the division, a half-game back of Jones County. They travel to Poplarville to play Pearl River on Oct. 21 and end the regular season hosting second-place Jones County for homecoming a week later.
The top two teams qualify for the postseason.
Deandre Torrey (Fr, Gautier/Gautier), the nation's leading rusher, added 183 yards to his total to pass the 1,000-yard barrier. He had a touchdown and average 7.6 yards per rush.
Terrion Avery (Fr, Stone/Wiggins) ran 15 times for 121 yards and two scores, averaging better than 8 yards per rush.
"We were running a lot of power and counter and just running full speed, getting after it every play," Gulf Coast guard Nick Dunomes (Fr, Gulfport/Gulfport) said. "We have the confidence to finish a block because we know once we get them moved and we give them a path, they're going hit it and make a play."
Gulf Coast defensive lineman Daquan Newkirk (Fr, The First Academy/Orlando, Fla.) had a 49-yard interception return to set up the first Bulldogs score. Quarterback Larry Sisson (So, Resurrection/Pascagoula) scrambled in from 9 yards out.
"Daquan's interception there was a huge momentum change early," said Huff.
Southwest (0-7, 0-4) answered with a touchdown of its own, but Gulf Coast blocked the point-after and nearly returned it for two points. Torrey and Avery scored before halftime for a 21-6 lead before Smith jump-started the Bulldogs' third quarter.
He took the second-half kickoff near the left sideline. Smith's explosive speed and stellar blocking got him to midfield with only one Bear getting a piece of him. He then cut back on the kicker, who could only get a tug of jersey before Smith broke into the clear.
"We challenged the guys at halftime because we've been close, just a block or two away from having that happen," Huff said. "I'm proud of all 11 guys on that special team. They've taken pride in that all year, and Saivion did a great job finishing it off."
Southwest answered with a long touchdown pass to make it 28-13 before the Bulldogs pulled away. Avery had a 40-yard scoring run, and Javarous Walker (Fr, Pascagoula/Pascagoula) added a 14-yarder for a 42-13 lead.
Mason Hunt (Fr, Stone/Wiggins), who was perfect on point-afters, stroked a 27-yard field goal, and Antjuan Rogers (Fr, Meridian/Meridian) closed out the scoring with a 1-yard plunge dragging defenders into the end zone.
Gulf Coast was able to play all its offensive linemen, and the running game continued to churn out yards.
"They're steady and consistent, and they're getting better each week. We're seeing some guys step up. We've got some depth there, able to roll guys out without taking a step back."
Walker and Rogers combined for 65 yards in relief roles.
The Bulldogs defense held Southwest to 14 first downs and just 5-of-14 on third-down conversions. MGCCC was penalized only three times for 35 yards.