West Point, Miss., - West Point built a solid 20-0 lead and holding Starkville to only 33 yards and three first downs at halftime Friday night.
But the Green Wave committed three turnovers and numerous penalties allowed the Yellow Jackets to pickup momentum in the second half. That was all the opening Starkville needed to rally back and take the game with a 21-20 victory marking the first signature win of the Jamie Mitchell era and first victory in the rivalry for the Yellow Jackets in four years.
"We're not going to be satisfied with playing great teams close," Mitchell said. "West Point is as good as we've been out there with. Finally we kicked the door down and beat a good football team and at their place. You don't come here and win very often."
The Yellow Jackets (2-2) compiled 227 yards in the second half and their defense stood tall shutting out West Point in the final two quarters and forcing three turnovers. Starkville finished the night with 260 total yards with 165 yards passing and 95 yards rushing.
"I thought we laid down in the first half and I'm not sure why," Mitchell said. "But we challenged them with everything but their mother's love at halftime. Wow, I just don't know what to say. There were so many big plays in that game. I'd hate to mention only one player because it took every player we had to win that ballgame."
Yellow Jacket quarterback Jaquez Johnson compiled 208 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns on the night. Johnson completed 11-of-21 passing for 165 yards and a touchdown while rushing 11 times for 36 yards and another score.
Shaquille Hill led Starkville with four catches for 66 yards and a touchdown while Garrett Smith added three catches for 75 yards out of the backfield as well as one rushing score.
West Point came out after a two week layoff on fire. The Green Wave marched their opening possession 66-yards in 10 plays and scored when quarterback Justin Cox, a Mississippi State commitment, bootlegged left and ran in from 14-yards out. Kwame Williams added the extra point for the early lead.
West Point added their next score midway through the second quarter when Cox connected with Tez Pulliam on a 49-yard touchdown strike. Williams again provided the point after to take a 14-0 advantage.
The Green Wave added another score before halftime when LaKenderic Thomas plowed in from 3-yard out but this time the PAT was missed with 1:47 remaining in the first half.
Starkville, who had not picked up a first down until that point, moved the chains three times on the final drive of the half to set up a 41-yard field goal by Daniel Fumo. But the Green Wave's Kendrin Thompson was able to block the attempt to keep the shutout intact as the two teams headed to the locker room.
West Point turned the ball over on their first two drives of the second half with the second coming on a goal line interception by Bryce Henderson.
The Yellow Jackets were able to capitalize on the mistake as well as four West Point personal foul penalties to reach the end zone. Johnson scored on a 10-yard run to put Starkville on the board for the first time. Fumo kicked the extra point with 2:30 to go in the third quarter.
The Yellow Jackets would add another touchdown midway through the fourth quarter as Johnson tossed a 23-yard score to a diving Hill in the end zone. Fumo's point after pulled Starkville within one touchdown.
After the Green Wave failed to convert a 4th-and-5 at midfield, Starkville took possession and drove down to score the tying touchdown with 43-seconds remaining. Smith took a sweep to the left and crossed the goal line from 8-yards out. Fumo's PAT put the Yellow Jackets on top for the first time all evening.
West Point had one final opportunity to orchestrate a game-winning drive. With only 37-seconds left, the Green Wave marched down as far as the SHS 25-yard line in six plays to set up a 41-yard field goal try for Eric Lemus. But the kick fell just a yard short of the crossbar as time expired.
West Point outgained the Yellow Jackets with 376 total yards and picked up 21 first downs on the night. The Green Wave finished with 211 yards on the ground and another 165 through the air but fell to 2-1 on the year.
"It's a bad feeling but they outplayed us tonight," said West Point head coach Chris Chambless. "It doesn't matter what the stats say. If you don't take care of the football and do the little things right, we had two weeks to work on those little things. We just didn't get the job done."
Thomas led the way for the Green Wave on the ground with 176 yards on 26 carries and one touchdown.
Cox finished with 199 yards of offense and two touchdowns. Cox completed 8-of-15 passing for 165 yards, a touchdown and an interception while carrying 10 times for 34 yards and another score.
Jamarius Tallie hauled in three passes for 40 yards for West Point.
Green Wave defensive tackle Vontarrius Dora ended the evening with eight tackles including four tackles for loss and a sack.
Starkville will look to continue its winning ways with their fourth consecutive road game at DeSoto Central (0-4) while West Point tries to bounce back at home against Noxubee County (4-0).
Starkville 0 0 7 14 - 21
West Point 7 13 0 0 - 20
WPHS - Justin Cox 14-yard run (Kwame Williams kick)
WPHS - Cox 49-yard pass to Tez Pulliam (Williams kick)
WPHS - LaKenderic Thomas 3-yard run (kick failed)
SHS - Jaquez Johnson 10-yard run (Daniel Fumo kick)
SHS - Johnson 23-yard pass to Shaquille Hill (Fumo kick)
SHS - Garrett Smith 8-yard run (Fumo kick)
First Downs: 9 21
Rushes: 29-95 45-211
Passing: 165 165
Comp-Att-Int - 11-21-0 8-16-1
Return Yards: 81 66
Fumbles- Lost: 0-0 4-2
Penalties - 10-90 10-115
Starkville - Jaquez Johnson 11-36, Garrett Smith 11-30, Jakarta Agnew 5-15, Taego Catledge 2-14; West Point - LaKenderic Thomas 26-176, Justin Cox 10-34, Jacoby Lee 3-4, Stefon Branham 1-1, Tez Pulliam 3-0, Team 2-(-4).
Starkville - Jaquez Johnson 11-21-165-0; West Point - Justin Cox 8-15-165-1, Team 0-1-0-0
Starkville - Shaquille Hill 4-66, Garrett Smith 3-75, Martavious Foster 3-29, Jakarta Agnew 1-(-5); West Point - Jamarius Tallie 3-40, Michael Bush 2-43, Tez Pulliam 1-49, Lakenderic Thomas 1-20, William Harrell 1-13.