1. Another shutout: North Alabama’s defense has been on quite a roll since the Lions lost 31-10 to Harding in Week 2. In its last three games the Lions have posted two shutouts, including last week’s 41-0 homecoming victory over Shorter University. The Lions have not allowed a point in the last six quarters and have surrendered just one touchdown in the last 12 quarters. UNA’s defense now ranks 10th in the Division II in scoring defense (14.6), seventh in turnovers gained (16), seventh in interceptions (10) and 18th in red zone defense (.62).
2. To the air: One week after being held to 16 yards passing, the Lions showed significant progress in the passing game in the victory over Shorter. Quarterbacks Chris Alexander and Luke Wingo combined to complete 12 of 14 passes for 208 yards and no interceptions. Alexander also had a 33-yard touchdown reception to Marvin Harris, which was the Lions’ first scoring pass since the fourth quarter of the season opener against Miles College. It is clear that teams are going to crowd the line of scrimmage in an effort to slow down UNA’s running game, so the Lions must continue to improve their passing game to be successful.
3. More injuries: Head coach Bobby Wallace calls this season the worst he has ever seen as far as injuries are concerned. The bad luck began on the first day of practice when junior cornerback Justin Rogers was lost for the season with a torn Achilles. The latest player to go down is linebacker Rod Woodson, who was certainly one of, if not the top player on defense. Woodson suffered a broken leg and is out for the remainder of the season. Woodson’s toughness and experience will certainly be hard to replace. The offensive line hopes to have senior tackle Will Furlong back in the lineup today, but center Tyler Sizemore remains out after having his appendix removed last week.
4. No flags: One of Bobby Wallace’s main goals for his team this season was to be good in the intangibles. One of the intangibles he talked about most was penalties. The Lions have been among the national leaders in penalties several times in recent years, but that trend has changed this year under Wallace. Through five games, UNA is the sixth-least penalized team in Division II at just 36 yards per game. The Lions also rank 13th for fewest total penalties at 4.6 per game. Wallace wanted to eliminate the stupid penalties, such as the personal fouls that come after the whistle, and the Lions have showed much better discipline in that area this year. The drop in penalties is one reason why UNA has won four of its first five games.
UNA tailback Lamonte Thompson vs. Texas A&M-Kingsville linebackers: Thompson has been one of the biggest weapons for UNA this season, rushing for 360 yard on 63 carries. The redshirt freshman, however, had the worst game of his brief college career last week, rushing for just 11 yards on seven carries. The Lions were able to make some big plays in the passing game to break the game open against Shorter, but they need for Thompson to return to form if they are to get a win at Texas A&M-Kingsville. The strength of the Javelinas’ defense is at linebacker and middle linebacker Jeremy Aguilar is the top player. If Thompson is able to break 100 yards, then UNA likely leaves Texas with a victory.
Caleb Massey Safety 6-foot, 226, Junior
With the loss of Woodson along with the preseason loss of Nick Williams, UNA’s defense has now lost it’s two most experienced players and arguably it’s two best players. Woodson’s loss puts more pressure on Massey to make plays for the defense. The UNA coaches expected Massey to have a big season and he has not disappointed, ranking second on the team with 37 tackles and intercepting three passes. Massey’s leadership and playmaking ability will be keys for the defense tonight as well as the rest of the season.
0 — Number of UNA losses to Texas A&M-Kingsville in four games.
3 — Former Javalinas in the Pro Football Hall of Fame (Gene Upshaw, Darrell Green and John Randall).
5 — Seniors expected to start today for UNA.
16 — Turnovers forced by the Lions through five games.
36 — UNA’s penalty yards per game, which ranks as the sixth-least in Division II.
949 — Miles from Florence to Kingsville, Texas.
This is a battle between two teams currently going in different directions. UNA brings a three-game winning streak into tonight’s game, while Texas A&M-Kingsville has lost three in a row. The Javelinas returned 20 starers from a 6-5 team in 2011, so the 2-3 start is somewhat surprising. The Lions, meanwhile, are winning with a lot of young players and have done a great job filling holes after several seasonending injuries. Despite the three straight losses, Kingsville is still a very capable team and playing at home in a game like this is a huge advantage. But the UNA defense is playing great and if the offense can take care of the ball and make a couple of big plays the Lions have a chance at bringing home a victory.
UNA 23, Texas A&M-Kingsville 20