FLORENCE — North Alabama coach Bobby Wallace hopes this week’s open date will get several players back in the lineup for the final two games.
The Lions (5-3, 2-2 GSC) returned to practice Tuesday after getting four days off following their 38-23 loss at West Georgia last Thursday. UNA practiced again Wednesday and will also practice today before getting the weekend off and returning Monday to prepare for its Nov. 3 game against Tarleton State.
“We wanted to give them some good time off to recover,” Wallace said. “Hopefully we’ll get Brian (Sutherland) back this week and Brion (James). Several other guys are banged up as well.
“It’s good that we have the break, although it’s disappointing to have to wait so long to get back on the field after we didn’t play up to our capability against West Georgia.”
UNA is coming off one of its worst performances in the loss at West Georgia. The Lions allowed West Georgia to control the game by rushing for 313 yards and had two running backs go over 100 yards.
The Lions, meanwhile managed just 132 yards rushing. UNA also turned the ball over three times while forcing none.
Wallace said the time off gives his team time to make some minor adjustments, but there will be no big changes.
“We are changing some little things but you don’t want to change too much,” he said.
“We’ve worked hard all year long to get to where we are as far as knowledge of what we are doing. We just have to execute better and we have to play smarter.”
The players understand that last week’s loss likely cost them a chance to play for the Gulf South Conference championship. The loss also seriously damaged UNA’s chances of being selected for the Division II playoffs.
UNA was not among the 10 teams ranked in Super Region Two when the first regional rankings were released Tuesday. Only the top six teams in each region earn a berth in the playoffs.
The players understand that to have any shot at making the playoffs they must win the final two games against Tarleton State and West Alabama.
“All we can do is keep trying to get better and try to make a run,” said quarterback Luke Wingo, who threw for 226 yards and a touchdown in the loss to West Georgia. “We just have to try to win these next two games and put ourselves in position to make the playoffs.”
Wallace said he was not surprised that the Lions were not among the teams in the regional rankings, but that a lot can happen in the final three weeks of the regular season.
“I wasn’t expecting to be there, but there is still a lot of football left to be played,” Wallace said. “Right now, some teams have five Division II wins and we only have four, and that’s what they are going to go by. We have two more games and we have to hope to get to 6-3 in Division II games.
“It is evident that we’ve played a tough schedule and maybe that will come into play in the end. But we have to take care of our own business and not worry about that. We have to play well and try to get a win against Tarleton State.
Regardless of the conference standings or regional rankings, Wallace said the Lions must bounce back strong against Tarleton State.
“If you’re a competitor you want to win any game you play,” he said. “We can’t worry about the playoffs. Playing Tarleton State is all we need to be worried about right now.”
Jeff McIntyre can be reached at 256-740-5737 or jeff.mcintyre@TimesDaily.com.