FLORENCE — It has been a long two weeks for North Alabama’s defense following the Lions’ 38-23 loss at West Georgia on Oct. 18.
UNA saw West Georgia pretty much run the ball at will as the Wolves finished with 314 yards rushing. Both West Georgia tailbacks went over 100 yards and quarterback Dallas Dickey added 73 yards rushing and three touchdowns.
Having to wait more than two weeks to play again has been tough on the defensive players.
“Having a bye week after a loss like that was hard,” senior defensive tackle Brian Allen said. “We are bitter in the locker room and we can’t wait to get back out there and establish ourselves as a defense. We have to come back and show our everyone that we’re still the defense we’ve shown throughout the season.”
UNA (5-3) returns to action Saturday when the Lions host Tarleton State (4-4). Kickoff at Braly Stadium is at 3 p.m.
Defending the run has been somewhat of an Achilles’ heel for the defense this year. The Lions rank last in the Gulf South Conference in rushing defense, allowing 187.4 yards per game.
Coach Bobby Wallace said part of the problem against West Georgia was simply effort.
“It was a combination of getting beat and West Georgia getting after us a little more than we got after them, which is not good,” Wallace said. “There were a few plays where we took the wrong assignment or wrong gap. They are all correctable things, but the biggest thing will be how much character we have to bounce back and give great effort this week.”
Allen said character was a problem against West Georgia. The defense was hit with two personal foul penalties in the third quarter that kept a West Georgia drive alive and allowed the Wolves to score a touchdown that made put them up 31-20.
“We had the two 15-yard penalties on defense and that kind of shifted the game a little bit,” Allen said. “Those were crucial mistakes. We lacked character on those two plays and they might have cost us the game.”
In addition to allowing over 300 yards rushing, the UNA defense did not force any turnovers. It was the second straight game with no turnovers by the Lions, both of which resulted in a losses.
Wallace said he hopes the defense is looking to redeem itself this week.
“If they are competitors they are looking for some redemption,” he said. “I know I’ve seen some leadership out of them this week.
“We have to play tougher and play with more desire and effort. It wasn’t a good performance and we have to rebound from it.”
Allen is confident that the defense will bounce back strong Saturday.
“Last week was not a good performance and we hope to rebound this week,” Allen said. “We didn’t play as a unit last week and they gashed us.
“We’re mad and we’re playing with a chip on our shoulder this week. We definitely have something to prove.”
Jeff McIntyre can be reached at 256-740-5737 or jeff.mcintyre@TimesDaily.com.