FLORENCE — What appeared to be a great come-from-behind victory instead turned into a heartbreaking loss for North Alabama on Saturday as Tarleton State rallied to beat the Lions 38-28.
The Lions rallied for two fourth-quarter touchdowns and took a 28-27 lead with 4:37 remaining. But the defense, which had forced punts on four straight possessions, was unable to hold on as the Texans drove 75 yards in 10 plays to take a 35-28 lead.
“We fought hard, but we couldn’t stop them on that last drive,” said linebacker Brion James. “We had trouble stopping the run and they mixed up their plays well with the short passes. It’s very frustrating to let them score, but we just have to learn from our mistakes.”
Junior cornerback Delvin Ervin said Tarleton State did nothing special on the game-winning drive.
“They just nickle and dimed us the whole drive,” Ervin said.
“The problem was we were missing tackles. We were in position to make plays and just missed some tackles.”
Senior linebacker Donelli Johnson was expected to get his first career start Saturday. Instead, Johnson missed the game after being suspended by coach Bobby Wallace.
“Donelli Johnson missed a team meeting last night and that’s the third time he’s missed on a Friday,” Wallace said. “We have a lot of players that I question how hard they want to win when they miss a meeting on a Friday night.”
Sophomore Cedrick Wilcox took over for Johnson at the Will linebacker spot. It was the first career start for Wilcox, who moved over from fullback four weeks ago.
Wilcox responded by making 11 total tackles, which was second on the team behind Tavarius Wilson’s 16.
“I didn’t find out till this morning that I was starting,” Wilcox said. “I love playing linebacker and I’m just trying to help the team any way I can.”
UNA honored its 10 seniors who played their final regular season home game at Braly Stadium on Saturday. Each senior was honored in a pregame ceremony with their family and coach Bobby Wallace.
The 10 senior are: defensive tackle Brian Allen; wide receiver Daniel Almon; defensive end Dimitri Benoit; linebacker Rod Byrd; offensive tackle Will Furlong; defensive end Richie Mata’afa; offensive guard Blake Ray; long snapper Josh Roberts; wide receiver Brandon Warren and linebacker Rod Woodson.
Wide receiver Brian Sutherland was back with the Lions after missing five games after having surgery to repair a torn meniscus. Sutherland finished as the Lions’ leading receiver with five catches for 66 yards.
It took nine games, but North Alabama finally threw a pass to a tight end Saturday when Mabry Cook had a 9-yard reception from Luke Wingo.
The catch was the first career reception for Cook. It was the first reception by a tight end this season and the first since the 2010 season when Thor Merrow had seven catches.
Tarleton State’s 99-yard touchdown pass from Jake Fenske to Cordell Valentine was the first 99-yard play from scrimmage in UNA history.
The longest play from scrimmage for a UNA player was Brian Satterfield’s 97-yard touchdown run against Fort Valley State in 1993.
Jeff McIntyre can be reached at
256-740-5737 or jeff.mcintyre@TimesDaily.com.