Caldwell
UWA

LIVINGSTON, Ala. -- Despite a second-half effort, North Alabama couldn’t overcome its first-half mistakes as the fifth-ranked Lions suffered a 31-26 loss to No. 23 West Alabama at Tiger Stadium. It was UNA’s second consecutive loss after a 6-0 start and the Lions fall to 0-2 in the Gulf South Conference.

UNA turned the ball over on its first two possessions of the game, missed a short field-goal attempt and was whistled for several key penalties that either stopped Lion drives or kept West Alabama drives alive. Still UNA only trailed 17-3 at the half. The Lions offense kicked in in the third quarter, scoring on each of its first three possessions, but West Alabama matched the scores and never relinquished the lead.

With the win, West Alabama improved to 7-2 overall and 2-1 in the GSC. The 31 points scored by West Alabama was the most allowed by UNA this season and equaled the third most points scored by the Tigers in the 64 all-time series meetings. UNA leads the series 47-16-1.

UNA quarterback Lee Chapple was 31-of-44 in the game for 397 yards and two touchdowns. Tristan Purifoy and Mo Miliam for UNA each had over 100 receiving yards. North Alabama finished the game with 516 total yards to 352 for West Alabama.

North Alabama’s defense forced a quick three-and-out on the game’s initial possession but the Lions’ Jason Smith fumbled the ensuing punt and the Tigers recovered at the UNA 32-yard line. It was just the fourth lost fumble by UNA all season and was the first since the third game of the season, Kyle Caldwell hit Matthew Willis with a touchdown strike on the first play. Ryne Smith added the extra point and West Alabama led 7-0 at the 13:37 mark of the first quarter.

North Alabama moved the ball on its initial possession, going from its own 34 to the Tigers’ 29 before a chop block backed UNA to the 44. Lee Chapple then threw deep but was intercepted in the end zone by Shontal Ford. After the UNA defense held, the Lions drove to the Tigers’ 33 before a holding penalty helped kill the drive.

UNA’s defense stopped the Tigers without a first down on the next possession but this time the Lions were whistled for roughing the kicker, giving UWA a fresh set of downs. Two plays later Caldwell hit Ken May with a 68-yard scoring pass. Smith’s PAT made it 14-0 West Alabama with 3:04 left in the first quarter.

North Alabama finally got on the board in the second period when Josh Montgomery booted a 36-yard field goal to make it 14-3 with 6:04 left in the half. The kick came after another UNA drive stalled. The Lions had marched from their own 18 to the Tigers’ 10-yard line before a sack and an incomplete pass killed the possession.

West Alabama answered with a five-minute scoring drive that ended with a 20-yard Smith field goal. The score, with 1:05 left in the half, extended UWA’s lead to 17-3.

UNA had another scoring chance before the half but Montgomery’s 20-yard field goal attempt on the final play of the half missed. UNA went in trailing at the half for the third time this season.

The Lions opened the second half with an impressive nine-play, 58-yard drive for their first touchdown of the day. Chapple hit Cameron Wade with an 11-yard scoring strike in the left corner of the end zone and Montgomery added the PAT to make it 17-10 with 11:40 left in the third quarter.

West Alabama’s Matthew Willis found the end zone less than two minutes later as he scored on a 40-yard run to push the Tigers’ lead back to 24-10 at the 8:47 mark of the third quarter.

North Alabama also scored on its second possession of the half, driving 49 yards in five plays for a touchdown. Chapple hit Mo Miliam with a key 31-yard strike over the middle and Chris Coffey scored on a six-yard run on the next play. Montgomery’s PAT was blocked, leaving the score at 24-16 with 7:08 remaining in the third period.

After a defensive stop, the Lions again got on the scoreboard, covering 59 yards in 15 plays. After getting the ball to the West Alabama one, the Lions couldn’t score on a quarterback sneak and then had a five-yard penalty before throwing an incomplete pass. Montgomery came on to boot a 22-yard field goal to make it 24-19 with 56 seconds left in the third.

The scoring fest continued as West Alabama took just six plays to cover 65 yards. Caldwell threw a 37-yard strike to May at the UNA one and Willis scored on the next play to extend UWA’s lead to 31-19 with 13:14 left in the game.

After North Alabama drove to the West Alabama 14 with just over eight minutes to play, Chris Coffey was stopped short on a fourth-and-one call and the Tigers took over with 8:14 left. The Tigers were able to run almost five minutes off the clock but UNA didn’t give up. The Lions put together a quick 79-yard, eight-play drive for their final score as Coffey raced to the end zone with a five-yard TD catch from Chapple. Montgomery’s PAT made the score 31-26.

Michael Schuster’s on-side kick was covered by the Tigers and West Alabama was able to run off the final minute and a half.