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Pippin's plan includes good times for West Alabama football team

By By Jeff Byrd / staff writer
Oct. 3, 2002
LIVINGSTON, Ala. Getting beat by West Alabama last Saturday was such a calamity for Delta State, the Statesmen fired their special teams coach.
The Tigers used a blocked punt and a 41-yard punt return by Gerald Gales to beat Delta State 30-24. Just two years ago, Delta State won the NCAA Division II National Championship.
Second-year head West Alabama coach Randy Pippin was startled by the news that Delta State had dismissed their special teams coach. Yet Pippin is not surprised on how well his team has played in opening the season with three wins in four games.
Judging by the Tigers' recent three-year history of just 5 wins against 28 losses, a 3-1 mark including a win over one of the Gulf South Conference's top programs, would be a downright amazing accomplishment.
Pippin thinks the Tigers can and will do better.
The team didn't let the bitter loss get them down. They bounced back by winning at Cleveland for the first time since 1992.
And emotion. At Delta State, the Tigers were penalized twice for excessive celebration.
It starts with a plan
Pippin was a successful junior college head coach at Trinity Community College in Texas. In 1994, he directed Trinity to the National Junior College Championship with a 12-0 record.
Ironically, he says a 6-5 record four years later at Tennessee Tech where he was the offensive coordinator, was nearly as rewarding.
Following a two-year stint at Middle Georgia CC, Pippin interviewed and got the job at West Alabama. The Tigers haven't had a winning season since the last time they beat DSU in Cleveland, in 1992.
Pippin brought with him to UWA a plan. The first facet was to find an offense the players would like.
With a fun offense, Pippin and his staff could attract better players.
Tigers come together
The change of attitude leads to a mentally tough and caring team.
It starts at quarterback where Brett Gilliland has completed 59.4 percent of his 160 passes for 1,145 yards and eight touchdowns.
Wide receiver Kyle Henderson has seven touchdown receptions. Gales has 35 receptions for 356 yards. Former Northeast Lauderdale product Centel Truman has 19 catches for 171 yards.
The Tigers are still a work in progress on defense. The team is allowing 24.5 points and 421 yards per game. But some top players have emerged like linebacker Michael Sims who leads the team with 49 tackles. Then Aaron Nettles got in and blocked the punt for a touchdown at Delta State. Kevin Vann had a fumble return for another score.
Next up for West Alabama is a nine-hour road trip to Searcy, Ark., to take on 24th ranked Harding University this Saturday.