Oct. 23, 2009

VALDOSTA, Ga. - The top ranked University of North Alabama Lions made quick work of rival Valdosta State Thursday as UNA rolled to a 34-6 halftime advanatage and cruised to a 62-27 win over the Blazers. With the win the 9-0 Lions are guaranteed at least a share of the Gulf South Conference Championship. The Lions are 6-0 in league play and hold a two game lead with two games left to play.

In a game televised by CBS College Sports, the Lions got 350 yards passing and five combined touchdowns from quarterback Harrison Beck. The senior from Clearwater, Fla., threw for four scores and rushed for another to lead the rout.

Beck was 25-of-39 passing for the Lions and Mico McSwain had six catches for 133 yards and two scores.

The win was UNA's first defense of it's No. 1 ranking in the NCAA Division II after the Lions moved into the top spot on Monday. North Alabama remained one of just six unbeaten squads in Division II. The 62 points scored by the Lions are the most ever scored against Valdosta State since the Blazers began playing football in 1982.

UNA finished with 518 yards of total offense with 439 passing and 79 rushing. The Lions scored seven touchdowns on offense, one on defense and one on special teams.

North Alabama fumbled the ball away on the opening kickoff at its own 21-yard line but the UNA defense pushed the Blazers backwards and forced a punt.

The Lions then responded with an 11-play, 80-yard touchdown drive for the first score of the game. Wes Holland scored on a 19-yard pass from Harrison Beck. Kenny Spencer's PAT made it 7-0 with 8:49 left in the opening quarter. The Lions added a second touchdown in the quarter when Thor Merrow pulled in a three-yard TD pass from Beck with 1:11 left. A bad snap on the extra point try prevented the attempt but UNA led 13-0. The score capped a 10-play, 77-yard drive.

Beck capped a 10-play, 62-yard drive with a one-yard quarterback sneak for the next score. Spencer's PAT made it 20-0 with 11:41 remaining in the second quarter. On the next play from scrimmage, UNA's Michael Johnson picked off a Kellen Lewis pass and returned it 23 yards for a touchdown. It was UNA's fourth defensive score of the season. Spencer's PAT extended UNA's lead to 27-0 with 11:34 left in the half.

Valdosta State finally got on the scoreboard with 9:29 left in the half on a 23-yard run by Ronnye Nelson. The extra point attempt was blocked by UNA's Montrel Craft and UNA led 27-6. The Lions put together a quick five-play, 44-yard drive to get one final score before the half. Marcus Sims dove over the top for the score from one-yard out and Spencer's kick made it 34-6 with 23 seconds left in the half.

The Blazers came out and got a quick score to open the second half on a 22-yard TD pass from Lewis to Gerald Ford. Daniel Anderson botted the PAT and UNA's lead was cut to 34-13 with 12:22 left in the third quarter.

UNA answered quickly as Beck hit a wide-open Mico McSwain with a 69-yard touchdown pass. Spencer's kick made it 41-13 with 12:03 left in the third. It was Beck's third TD pass of the game and marked the sixth straight game where he had thrown three or more touchdown passes.

With 6:19 left in the third, Beck hit McSwain with a six-yard TD pass that extended UNA's advantage to 48-13.

Valdosta State scored in the fourth quarter on a fake field goal attempt as Russ Callaway hit a wide-open Gerald Ford with an 18-yard pass. The PAT made it 48-20 with 13:13 left in the game.

Within eight seconds of the Blazers score the Lions were back in the end zone. After the Lions recovered an onside kick, backup quarterback Cory Eddinger threw a 38-yard TD pass to Jusmon Rivers to make it 55-20 with 13:05 left in the game.

Valdosta State drove 70 yards in nine plays for its final score as Lewis threw a 14-yard TD pass to Cedric Evans with 4:14 left.

UNA again answered within seconds as Brandenn Pickett picked up an onside kick attempt and returned it 40 yards for a touchdown. Spencer's PAT made the final count 62-27.

UNA now leads the all-time series with Valdosta State 18-13-1 and has a three-game winning streak in the series. The win was UNA's ninth straight GSC win and 12th straight win over a GSC school.

The win was the 42nd for UNA's senior class of 2009. This group of Lions now has a 42-5 overall record and is tied for the fourth most wins by any senior class in UNA history.

The Lions will travel to Monticello, Ark., on Saturday, October 31 to take on the Arkansas-Monticello Boll Weevills at 6 p.m.