FLORENCE -- The University of North Alabama will enter its 2009 regular season finale against West Alabama as the No. 1 ranked team in the NCAA Division II. The Lions are ranked No. 1 nationally for the third week in a row in the latest American Football Coaches Association poll released Monday. UNA received all 25 first-place votes and 625 total points in the voting.
UNA will try and put the wraps on a perfect regular season Saturday for the fifth time in school history.
Appropriately enough, the Lions will try and do that against a coach who led UNA to its first two perfect seasons in 1993 and 1995. Bobby Wallace brings his 6-4 West Alabama Tigers to Braly Stadium in hopes of spoiling a chapter in UNA's growing football history. Wallace helped write much of that history with an 82-36-1 record over 10 seasons from 1988-97 that included six NCAA playoff appearances, three conference championships and three NCAA Division II National Championships.
Under current head coach Terry Bowden, the Lions clinched the out-right Gulf South Conference championship, the ninth in school history, with a 27-13 road win at Arkansas-Monticello last week. Now the 2009 Lions are hoping to become just the second UNA team to win 11 regular season games, with the other in 2003.
UNA has had perfect regular seasons in 1993 and 1995, both under Wallace, and in 2003 and 2006 under Mark Hudspeth.
North Alabama is also sporting a No.1 ranking in the NCAA Division II for the third straight week. The last time UNA was ranked No. 1 was also under Wallace, for 27 straight weeks from 1993 to 1996.
This game is also a special one for UNA's Senior Class of 2009. This group of Lions has never lost a regular-season home game at Braly Stadium and has an overall 43-5 record in their collective careers from 2006-09. They have also been ranked no lower than 11th in the nation every week that they have lined up to play for UNA. If the Lions roll all the way to the Division II National Championship, this group would equal the legendary 1992-95 class with 48 wins and tie for the winningest senior class in school history.
As far as current streaks, UNA has won its last 24 straight regular season games at home and has 17 straight home wins overall. The Lions have also won their last 13 straight regular-season games and their last 13 straight against GSC opponents.
Wallace and his UWA Tigers were in the playoff picture just two weeks ago before a 10-9 road loss at West Georgia. The Tigers rebounded with a solid win over Ouachita Baptist last week and bring a 6-4 record to Florence, marking the second winning season under Wallace in the last four years. Those are the only two winning seasons at the school since 1992. An upset win over UNA wuld give West Alabama its first season with seven or more wins since 1975.
UNA holds a commanding 46-14-1 lead in the all-time series with West Alabama. UWA is the only program that UNA has faced in every season since the Lions restored their football program in 1949. In fact, the Lions and Tigers even played twice in 1986. The 61 overall meetings marks the most games UNA has played against another school and the 46 wins are also the most against an opposing institution. UWA did upset UNA in both 2002 and 2004 in Livingston.