Bobcat defensive end Marquez Bembry (right) and defensive back Enrique Whaley (15) pursue Coahoma’s Fabian Franklin (22) last week. Photo/www.jucoweekly.org

By Shawn Wansley (Jones Sports Information)

ELLISVILLE – The No. 9 Jones College Bobcats will face a different type of challenge this week. The Bobcats will entertain a triple-option oriented Holmes Community College team in week two of the season. The Bobcats are 1-0 coming off a 44-0 thrashing of Coahoma, while the Bulldogs are also 1-0. Conner McKay kicked a 40-yard field goal with 34 seconds to play to lift head coach Jeff Koonz’s team to a 29-28 victory over Copiah-Lincoln. Jones head coach Steve Buckley knows Holmes will be a handful when the game kicks off at 7 p.m. Thursday at Bobcat Stadium/Sim Cooley Field. The game will air on www.jcjc.tvand WLAU-FM, 99.3, with Mark Easley and Luke Johnson on the call.

“Coach Koonz and what they do at Holmes is outstanding,” he said. “They are well-coached, play extremely hard and they are talented. Anytime you face a triple option team it is going to take discipline. It will take a real solid game of just doing your job. You cannot lose your gap integrity.

“Whoever has got dive, whoever has the quarterback and whoever has got pitch has to make sure that it’s handled.”

Buckley said the Holmes’ offense is similar to that of Georgia Tech. It’s been many years since the Bobcats and Buckley have faced a triple-option team.

“It’s been a long time for me,” he said. “The old split-back veer years ago for me was the last time. I know the defensive staff has been working on it diligently. They have watched as much tape as they can. It’s a nightmare to prepare for, but it is what it is this week.”

Holmes piled up 257 yards rushing and also threw for 187 yards last week. Darius May rushed 25 times for 128 yards to lead the Bulldogs. Quarterback Jesse Wilson was 9-of-18 for 187 yards and Dylan Kelly had two receptions for 70 yards. On defense, Holmes limited Co-Lin to 293 yards of total offense and only 73 yards on the ground.

“They have a very aggressive style on defense and they are very sound,” Buckley said. “They like to blitz and play zone defense behind it. They are very active with their linebackers and we have our work cut out for us. They bring pressure on you from everywhere.”

Holmes had eight sacks last week with linebackers Kendrick Haynes and Luke Wilson, along with defensive back Tyshauwn White getting two each. Haynes and Luke Wilson led the Bulldogs with eight tackles each. Buckley is impressed with the Bulldogs.

“They beat a good Co-Lin team last week,” he said. “I think at one time last year they were as high as No. 6 in the country. So, this is not their first rodeo. It’s a big ballgame and hopefully our kids will play well.”

The Bobcats did a lot of things right in their opening game blowout of Coahoma.

“Overall, it was one of the cleanest first games I’ve ever been a part of as a football coach,” Buckley said. “We were three and out on our first series and that was the only three and out we had the entire game. But we didn’t panic. We punted and it’s OK to punt. We had a 45-yard punt with no return.

“On the first play of the game for our defense, we missed a tackle and they had a 15-yard run, which was their longest play of the night. After the first couple of series, I thought we really settled down.”

Buckley was particularly happy with the way the Bobcats performed because of all the new players on the field.

“I was proud of the team because I thought we were focused, we were organized and we did not have a lot of first-game blunders that usually cost you ballgames,” he said. “At the same time, I don’t think we played as well as we are capable of playing, but when you play 41 freshmen in a ballgame you are going to have some things that aren’t just right.”

Quarterbacks Stetson Bennett (Blackshear, Georgia) and Fred Barnum (Warren Central) combined to complete 27-of-35 passes for 295 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. Bennett was 13-of-20 for 190 yards and Barnum was 14-of-15 for 105 yards.

“I thought Stet got into the flow,” Buckley said. “We had a three and out on first series and that was it. Stet had not played football in a game in over a year. He did some good things and he has a lot of room for improvement over the next couple of weeks. I thought Fred played well, too. We are prepared to play two quarterbacks, so it’s not an issue for us.”

Running back Kalyn Grandberry (Memphis, Tennessee) rushed 28 times for 137 yards and two touchdowns.

“Kalyn ran very well,” Buckley said. “He had a fumble that we have to correct because we can’t turn the ball over. But I thought he did well as the only tailback the other night.”

Buckley was pleased with the play of the offensive line, anchored by center Kordel Watts (Vicksburg).

“Up front, I thought we were good in protection and we can do better in the run game,” he said. “Nobody in that line had ever started a college game before. Hopefully, with such a young offensive line, they will improve. (Offensive Line Coach/Offensive Coordinator) Grant (Garner) did a good job of getting them ready.”

As far as receivers go, the Bobcats were led by Immanuel Jones (Amory) with seven catches for 88 yards and two touchdowns and Gabe Douglas (Denton, Texas) with two receptions for 72 yards and two scores.

“We had 11 different guys catch passes this week,” Buckley said. “The way we spin the ball around, we don’t plan that. It just happens. It just shows that our quarterback takes what the defense gives you. (Quarterbacks/Wide Receivers Coach) Brian (Hudson) did a great job preparing our quarterbacks. But when you have that many guys catch balls, it just shows you what we can do offensively. Every receiver, every tight end and the tailback caught passes.”

As good as Jones was on offense, they were equally impressive on defense. The Bobcats gave up six first downs – none in the second half – and 86 yards of total offense.

“In 20-plus years of coaching, I’ve never been a part of a defensive performance like that,” Buckley said. “The last six possessions they had were three and out. We played 15 snaps on defense in the second half. They had five possessions for 15 plays. It was an incredible effort.

“But I do not think we played to our capabilities on defense. I thought we were very sound. (Defensive Coordinator) Coach (Dwike) Wilson and the defensive staff did a great job of getting them into a great game plan. We had players do their job. When we get crazy on defense and try to do somebody else’s job is usually big plays occur. We gave up two explosive plays – one for 14 yards and one for 15 and those were early in the game.

“The last series they had in the first half was a three and out and all five possessions in the second half were three and out. When you go the final six possessions with a three and out, that’s pretty impressive.”

Buckley expects the Bobcats to do better this week.

“I think in a nine-game season, your biggest improvement is between week one and week two,” he said. “So, we have to show vast improvement this week.”

The Bobcats will open MACJC South Division play next week when they play at Hinds for a 6:30 p.m. kickoff on Sept. 13.

Holmes goes to Mississippi Gulf Coast on Sept. 13.