With a week off looming ahead and a loss in the rearview mirror, tonight’s game at West Georgia could be the perfect trap game for North Alabama.
UNA (5-2, 2-1 GSC) will not play again for 16 days after tonight’s game against the Wolves (2-4, 0-3). In a season filled with injuries, the Lions are looking forward to the break but understand that they have to take care of business first.
“Coach (Bobby) Wallace told us that this was like a trap game and we can’t take it lightly,” defensive tackle Taylor Carney said. “We do need a break right now, but we know we have to be focused and finish on a good note. It’s not hard to get focused coming off the loss to Valdosta State.”
Even with a short week, Wallace said the Lions have bounced back well this week in practice after the loss.
“We had our normal Tuesday practice on Monday, but it was the best Tuesday practice of the season,” Wallace said. “I feel like our players gained a lot of confidence from the Valdosta game even though it was a loss. They now know that they can play with anybody.”
West Georgia enters tonight’s game on a four-game losing streak after opening the season with back-to-back victories. The Wolves lost 33-24 at Delta State last Saturday.
Defense has been the problem for the Wolves, who are giving up 29.2 points per game. They are especially vulnerable to the run, allowing 186.8 yards per game on the ground.
“They have a unique look defensively with a man lined up right behind the nose guard,” Wallace said. “It’s something we haven’t seen before and that’s a concern with a short week to prepare.”
UNA will be starting freshman Luke Wingo at quarterback for the first time. Wingo threw for 227 yards and a touchdown in leading the Lions to three second-half touchdowns against Valdosta State. Running back Lamonte Thompson, meanwhile is averaging 77.4 yards rushing per game.
Offensively, West Georgia ranks third in the Gulf South Conference averaging 30.2 points per game. Quarterback Dallas Dickey and tailback David Bailey each had over 100 yards rushing in last week’s loss to Delta State.
“West Georgia has a really good running game,” Carney said. “We have to be able to slow them down and force some turnovers. We didn’t have a turnover against Valdosta, so we’re due for some this week.”
Last week’s loss put UNA in a must-win situation as for as the GSC race is concerned. West Alabama is alone in first place with UNA and Valdosta State tied for second. A win tonight would give the Lions a chance to play for at least a share of the conference title in the regular season finale at West Alabama on Nov. 8.
“The opportunity to play for the conference championship in our last game if we win makes this a huge game for us,” Wallace said. “We also need to win to have a good chance of being in the top six in the region rankings next week. There’s a lot at stake in this one for us.”
Jeff McIntyre can be reached at 256-740-5737 or jeff.mcintyre@TimesDaily.com.