LIONS MOVE UP TO NUMBER TWO, FACE HARDING FOR HOMECOMING
FLORENCE -- Coming off an impressive 23-17 road victory over then No. 3 ranked Abilene Christian, the University of North Alabama football team will host Harding for Homecoming Saturday as the No. 2 team in the nation. Ranked fourth last week, UNA
moved up two spots to second in the latest American Football Coaches Association NCAA Division II poll.
Now the Lions face a 2-1 Harding team that has rolled up some impressive offensive numbers of its own.
The Bisons are rushing for 409 yards per game through the first three weeks, but Harding has just one win against a Division II opponent. After an easy 63-14 win over Southern Arkansas, Harding was thumped by Henderson State 35-21. Then last week Harding downed NAIA members Shepherd Technical College 75-0.
"Running the triple option at a time when most folks are running out of the shotgun or focusing on the passing game, Harding will give everybody they face challenges," said UNA head coach Terry Bowden. "They are very good at what they do, and last year it took us over a half to get out feet under us. They have put up incredible numbers this year and it will take a tremendous effort from our defense to slow them down."
Bowden said he isn't worried about a letdown by his team, coming off such a high profile win against Abilene Christian.
"All I have to do is show our players the film from last year when they beat us," said Bowden. "We got behind early, made a comeback and eventually lost a game that we had to win by one point in the last minute. "I can't imagine that there is a player in our program who was here last year that has forgotten about that game."
Last season in Searcy, Harding lost five fumbles and threw two interceptions but was still able to pull out a one-point win with a 22-yard touchdown pass with just 45 seconds left in the game. It was one of just three pass completions by the Bisons in the game.
Harding rushed for 328 yards in that game.
Bowden said the Lions were "beaten up pretty good" in the Abilene Christian game and had a lot of bumps and bruises. "Anytime you have injuries, it just gives another player a chance to step up," said Bowden. "And we will need some folks to step up on defense against Harding."
For the first time since the University of North Alabama and Harding University began facing each other on the football field in 2000, this will not be a Gulf South Conference game.
With the departure of the six Arkansas members of the GSC to form the new Great American Conference, this meeting between the Lions and Bisons is now framed as a non-conference battle of two teams trying to keep themselves in the hunt for a successful season and a shot at the NCAA Division II playoffs.
While UNA leads the all-time series 6-5, it has been one of interesting streaks.
Harding won four of the first five meetings, all by a touchdown or less, then edged the Lions by a single point last season in Searcy. The Bisons average victory margin over UNA in their five wins is just three points. In its six series wins, UNA has blown Harding out by an average of 44.4 points per game.
With UNA also celebrating its 2011 Homecoming, the stakes remain high for the Lions.
This will be Harding's first time to be the Lions' Homecoming opponent. UNA is 42-19-1 all-time in Homecoming contests and has won its last six straight dating back to 2004.
UNA has also not lost a regular-season, non-conference game at home since 2000 to Pittsburg State. In fact, since the GSC was formed in 1972, UNA has a 93-28-1 all-time record against non-conference opponents.
From 2005-2010, UNA won 27 straight games against schools from the state of Arkansas, but with one point losses last season to Ouachita Baptist and Harding, the Lions now have a two-game losing streak to teams from "The Natural State."
This Homecoming contest will be the last home game for the Lions until Oct.13. In fact, UNA will play four of its last six games on the road - including key GSC games on the road at West Alabama and Valdosta State.
In the Division II poll shake-up, three of the GSC's five football-playing schools are in the Division II Top Six. In addition to UNA being No. 2, Valdosta State is No. 5 and Delta State is No. 6.
2011 American Football Coaches Association Division II Coaches' Poll – September 19, 2011
Rank School (1st votes) Rec. Pts. Prev. Last Week Next Game
1. Northwest Missouri St. (26) 3-0 722 2 D. Lincoln (Mo.), 73-7 Sept. 24 vs. Fort Hays St. (Kan.)
2. North Alabama (2) 3-0 696 4 D. No. 3 Abilene Christian (Tex.), 23-17 Sept. 24 vs. Harding (Ark.)
3. Shepherd (W.Va.) 3-0 603 7 D. Seton Hill (Pa.), 64-7 Sept. 24 vs. Charleston (W.Va.)
4. Bloomsburg (Pa.) 3-0 584 8 D. Indiana (Pa.), 20-16 Sept. 24 vs. Millersville (Pa.)
5. Valdosta St. (Ga.) 3-0 562 12 D. No. 6 Albany St. (Ga.), 30-27 Sept. 24 vs. Southern Arkansas
6. Delta St. (Miss.) (1) 3-1 555 10 D. Arkansas Tech, 47-32 Sept. 24 at Henderson St. (Ark.)
7. Nebraska-Kearney 3-0 542 11 D. Colorado-Mesa, 52-10 Sept. 24 vs. Western St. (Colo.)
8. Washburn (Kan.) 3-0 506 13 D. Missouri Southern St., 30-14 Sept. 22 vs. Missouri Western St.
9. Wayne St. (Mich.) 3-0 475 14 D. No. 22 Michigan Tech, 27-10 Sept. 24 at Ohio Dominican
10. Abilene Christian (Texas) 1-1 465 3 Lost to No. 4 North Alabama, 23-17 Sept. 24 vs. Angelo St. (Tex.)
11. Minnesota-Duluth 2-1 464 1 Lost to Wayne St. (Neb.), 7-0 Sept. 24 at No. 24 Bemidji St. (Minn.)
12. Kutztown (Pa.) 3-0 402 16 D. Lock Haven (Pa.), 49-6 Sept. 24 vs. Cheyney (Pa.)
13. Albany St. (Ga.) 2-1 355 6 Lost to No. 12 Valdosta St. (Ga.), 30-27 Sept. 24 at Miles (Ala.)
14. Colorado St.-Pueblo 3-0 336 18 D. Adams St. (Colo.), 20-11 Sept. 24 vs. Fort Lewis (Colo.)
15. Pittsburg St. (Kan.) 3-0 321 19 D. Truman St. (Mo.), 27-26 Sept. 24 vs. William Jewell (Mo.)
16. Texas A&M-Kingsville 2-1 290 5 Lost to West Texas A&M, 42-21 Sept. 24 at Midwestern St. (Tex.)
17. California (Pa.) 2-1 182 21 D. East Stroudsburg (Pa.), 22-19 Sept. 24 vs. Clarion (Pa.)
18. St. Cloud State (Minn.) 2-1 180 9 Lost to Winona St. (Minn.), 29-16 Sept. 24 at Mary (N.D.)
19. Edinboro (Pa.) 3-0 142 NR D. Cheyney (Pa.), 41-13 Sept. 24 at Gannon (Pa.)
20. Central Missouri 2-1 130 24 D. Emporia St. (Kan.), 45-38 Sept. 24 vs. Truman St. (Mo.)
21. West Texas A&M 1-1 120 NR D. No. 5 Texas A&M-Kingsville, 42-21 Sept. 24 vs. Incarnate Word (Tex.)
22. Winston-Salem St. (N.C.) 3-0 113 NR D. Chowan (N.C.), 55-24 Sept. 24 vs. Fayetteville St. (N.C.)
23. Northern Michigan 3-0 101 NR D. Northwood (Mich.), 38-17 Sept. 24 at Ashland (Ohio)
24. Bemidji St. (Minn.) 3-0 72 NR D. Southwest Minnesota St., 41-10 Sept. 24 vs. No. 11 Minnesota-Duluth
25T. Carson-Newman (Tenn.) 2-1 68 17 Lost to Lenoir-Rhyne (N.C.), 20-7 Sept. 24 vs. Newberry (S.C.)
25T. New Haven (Conn.) 2-1 68 23 Lost to William & Mary (Va.), 13-10 Sept. 24 at Assumption (Mass.)
Dropped Out: Grand Valley St. (Mich.) (15), Colorado School of Mines (20), Michigan Tech (22), Mercyhurst (Pa.) (25)