Lions set to play West Florida this Saturday at 4:00 pm

FLORENCE — The University of North Alabama continues its pursuit of a possible 2017 Gulf South Conference football crown when the Lions travel to Pensacola, Fla., Saturday to take on West Florida at Blue Wahoos Stadium at 4 p.m. (Central).

North Alabama, 4-4 overall, is the four-time defending GSC champion and is part of a four-team race for the 2017 title. West Alabama is control of its own destiny at 6-1 in league play, with UNA, Valdosta State and West Georgia all at 4-2. West Alabama would need to lose at Valdosta State this Saturday and UNA would need to win its final two GSC games against West Florida and Mississippi College to earn a share of a title.

“Our players understand what’s at stake and what they are still playing for a possible conference championship,” said UNA head coach Chris Willis. “Getting up and ready to play won’ be a problem. We just have to execute what we do against a good football team and limit our mistakes. We also still have a lot of people who are questionable from an injury stand-point and some we won’t know about until game time.”

UNA enters the game with West Florida boasting one of the premier defenses in the NCAA Division II, particularly against the pass. UNA is second in the nation in interceptions with 17, fifth in total turnovers gained (24), seventh for fewest passin yards allowed (1,222), third for fewest passing yards allowed per completion (9.70), eighth in pass efficieny defense (93.63), 13th in total defense (283.9) and 19th in scoring defense (17.3). North Alabama’s defense has only allowed four passing touchdowns all season and has not allowed a single passing TD in its last three games.

West Florida counters with a passing offense led by freshman quarterback Mike Beaudry who is 26th in Division II with 254.3 passing yards per game. The UNA defense has already faced three of the top passing quarterbacks in the NCAA Division II this season. Texas A&M-Commerce quarterback Luis Perez leads Division II with an average of 331 passing yards per game – but he threw for just 179 against UNA, was picked off three times and Commerce did not score a touchdown in the game. West Alabama’s Harry Satterwhite is ranked 22nd nationally at 257.8 passing yards per game. UNA held him to 181 passing yards. Central Washington’s Reilly Hennesey averages 215.8 passing yards per game but picked up just 128 against UNA and was intercepted twice.

“West Florida is a very good football team and one that is well coached with a good up-and-coming quarterback,” Willis said. “Not only do you have to be aware of the quarterback but they also have a strong group of receivers. Their defense is also way ahead of where it was last year. They are strong up front and get after your quarterback.”

This will be the first trip for a UNA football team to Pensacola, Fla., and will be just the second meeting between North Alabama and West Florida, with the Argonauts having just begun their program in 2016. UNA dominated the only previous meeting, 51-3, last year in Florence. UNA gained 528 yards of total offense and held UWF to just 172 yards. The Lions led 34-3 after one quarter and 48-3 at the half.

After a 4-1 start, West Florida has lost two of its last three games and stands at 5-3. The Argonauts had their second game of the year against Midwestern State canceled due to the threat of hurricanes.

UNA has faced the toughest schedule in Division II this season, according to the latest NCAA statistics, with an opponents winning percentage of .682. All four teams that have defeated the Lions this season are currently ranked in the Division II Top 25 with Central Washington seventh, Texas A&M-Commerce ninth, West Alabama 23rd and West Georgia 25th.

UNA senior receiver Dre Hall needs one catch against Wst Florida to break the all-time NCAA Division II record for catches in consecutive games at 45. He has caught at least one pass in every game that he has played at UNA and is in a three-way tie for the current record at 44.

Comments are closed.