No. 1 Lions fall in overtime
FLORENCE – The University of North Alabama had a three-point lead with less than two minutes remaining and had Delta State staring at a 99-yard drive to win the game, so things were looking good for the Lions.
The UNA defense had come up with several big stops all night and it looked as though the top-ranked Lions would escape Thursday’s game against No. 2 Delta State with a victory.
The Statesmen refused to go down without a fight.
Delta State put together a 13-play drive, ending with a 27-yard field goal by Matt Dean to tie the game 24-24 as time expired to send the contest into overtime.
“We didn’t play tight enough. We gave them loose, underneath stuff,” UNA coach Terry Bowden said. “We played like we were trying to preserve a win.”
Having seized momentum, the Statesmen kept UNA scoreless in overtime then won the game on a 4-yard run by Brant Botill.
“Momentum is a funny thing, it is elusive,” said Bowden. “They got it in the fourth quarter on their last two drives.”
Early indications were the game would be a low scoring affair as neither team could put points on the board in the first quarter.
UNA’s defense set up the Lions with great field position in the second quarter when Delta State failed to convert on fourth down at midfield. The Lions (6-1, 0-1) took the ball at their own 48-yard line and wasted little time getting in scoring position when Lee Chapple connected with Mo Miliam for 43 yards on the first play of the drive. Two plays later Demetrius Goode scored on a 4-yard run to give the Lions a 7-0 lead.
Delta State (7-1, 1-0) responded with a 76-yard touchdown drive capped off with a 2-yard scoring run by Brandon Lucas to tie the game.
Goode picked up his second rushing touchdown of the night, this one a 6-yard dash, a few minutes later as UNA reclaimed the lead.
The Statesmen were driving to tie the game before halftime, picking up 57 yards – and converting on fourth-and-1 at the Lion 14-yard line – before UNA’s Bryan Thomas intercepted a pass in the end zone with less than a minute remaining.
UNA took the opening drive of the second half to the Statesmen 9-yard line but had to settle for a 26-yard field goal by Nathen O’Jibway to extend the Lions’ lead to 17-7.
Delta State responded with an 81-yard touchdown drive, a score that was costly for the Lions. After Tim Smith broke loose for the 27-yard scoring reception, there was a pile up of players in the end zone. During the scrum UNA’s Janoris Jenkins received a personal foul penalty and officials ejected him from the game.
“Both teams got a lot of personal fouls,” Bowden said. “The Gulf South Conference is much stricter than the NCAA.”
Delta State finished the game with 11 penalties for 104 yards while UNA had seven penalties for 75 yards.
The Lions reclaimed their 10-point lead on the first play of the fourth quarter when Chapple hit Miliam for a 20-yard touchdown strike. It was the last time UNA would come close to scoring.
On the Lions’ next drive, UNA drove from its own 19-yard line to the Delta State 28 before Statesmen defensive lineman Anthony Daniels intercepted a Chapple pass and returned it to the UNA 35-yard line.
“If that didn’t happen we still would have had to go down and do something,” Bowden said.
Eight plays later Micah Davis scored on a 6-yard run with 4:24 remaining to pull the Statesmen within three points.
Delta State attempted an onside kick, but UNA’s Robbie Burdine recovered for the Lions.
UNA was unable to pick up a first down and was forced to punt the ball away. Michael Schuster’s kick rolled out of bounds at the 1-yard line with 1:56 remaining in the game to set up the thrilling ending.
Delta State won the coin toss to begin overtime and elected to go on defense. UNA picked up a first down when Chapple moved the chains with a successful run on fourth-and-1, but the Delta State defense stiffened. The Statesmen stopped UNA, forcing O’Jibway to attempt a 31-yard field goal. The kick sailed wide and Delta State took over for its 6-play, game-winning drive.
“These are the toughest kind (of losses),” Bowden said. The kids put themselves in position to win, but Delta State did more.”
Chapple completed 20 of his 34 passing attempts for 220 yards and one touchdown. Miliam became the first UNA receiver of the season to have 100 yards receiving. He pulled in eight passes for 125 yards and a touchdown.
Goode led the Lions with 92 rushing yards on 17 carries.
UNA has an open date next week, and will return to action Oct. 27 when the Lions travel to West Alabama.