Florence, Ala. – Coming off an open date last weekend, the University of North Alabama football team has had time for some injuries to heal but must quickly re-focus for a must-win game against Lone Star Conference member Tarleton State Saturday at 3 p.m. at Braly Stadium.
With back-to-back losses after a 5-1 start, UNA knows any chance it has of reaching the NCAA playoffs for a eighth straight season will depend on wins in the Lions’ final two regular-season games.
That will be a tall order, starting with a solid 4-4 Tarleton State team that is coming off a romp of Incarnate Word last Saturday.
“Having a week of was good for us, but now it depends on how well we practice this week,” said UNA head coach Bobby Wallace. “Our backs are to the wall and we have go out and have a great week of practice and play well against Tarleton. They have a very athletic team with a lot of upperclassmen. They have two quarterbacks that are producing for them and Rufus Johnson is a defensive end that can create problems.”
Aaron Doyle has thrown for 1,579 yards and 10 touchdowns, but back-up Jake Fenske came in against Incarnate Word and threw five touchdown passes. The Texans average 438 yards and 31.6 points per game.
Defensively, Tarleton State is giving up 27.2 points and 348 yards per game but has forced 11 turnovers. Johnson leads that defensive effort with 15 tackles for loss and eight quarterback sacks.
For UNA’s part, a win over the Texans would guarantee the Lions a winning season, which would be the program’s eighth straight. It would also keep alive any post-season hopes that UNA may have.
Although the Lions have dropped back-to-back games to Valdosta State and West Georgia, there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic.
Freshman quarterback Luke Wingo rolled up more than 300 yards of total offense in his first start and the 23 other freshmen that the Lions have played this season continue to gain valuable experience.
One concern for UNA is that the Lions’ defense has failed to force a turnover in its last two outings – both losses.
This will be UNA’s first meeting ever with Tarleton State in any sport. UNA does have a perfect 6-0 all-time record in football against schools from the Lone Star state and the Lone Star Conference. The Lions are 5-0 all-time against Texas A&M-Kingsville, including a 21-16 win this season back on October 6, and 1-0 against Abilene Christian.
North Alabama has also enjoyed tremendous success against non-conference opponents over the last 30 years. UNA has won 22 of its last 23 regular season games against non-GSC schools. Since joining the Gulf South Conference in 1971, UNA is 99-29-1 all-time in non-conference games. The Lions are 59-15 at home against non-GSC schools over that time period and 38-13 on the road and 3-1-1 on neutral fields.
Following the Tarleton State game, UNA will close out its regular season on Thursday, Oct. 8, at West Alabama.
Courtesy UNA Media Relations