Trailing 14-0 just before the half, the second ranked University of North Alabama Lions put up 42 unanswered points on the way to a 42-14 road win over Southern Arkansas.
The win, UNA's 10th straight in the series with SAU, improves the Lions record to 5-0 overall. Southern Arkansas falls to 1-4.
North Alabama entered the game knowing that top ranked Northwest Missouri State had been upset by Pittsburg State, 38-35, and that third ranked Shepherd had fallen 28-14 to Concord. In the first half it appeared that the Lions might also fall victim to the upset bug, but a score in the final minute of the first half ignited a ferocious UNA comeback. The Lions scored touchdowns on five of six possessions from the second to fourth quarters and pulled away for the easy win.
The Lions gained 318 total yards in the second half and held Southern Arkansas to just 43 total yards. UNA finished with 484 total yards, rushing for 119 and passing for 365.
UNA quarterback Lee Chapple finished the game 21-of-38 for 321 yards and two touchdowns.
Southern Arkansas put together a 91-yard, 14-play drive on its opening possession of the game that ended with a five-yard touchdown run by Mark Johnson. Taylor Symmank added the extra point and SAU led 7-0 with 6:44 left in the first quarter.
The Muleriders extended their lead to two touchdowns late in the second quarter with another long drive. SAU began at its own 14-yard line and marched 86 yards in 16 plays for a touchdown. Johnson scored again, this time from one yard out, and Symmank added the PAT to make it 14-0 with 1:35 left in the half.
After gaining just 111 yards in the first 38 minutes of the half, UNA put together a quick five-play, 55-yard drive to score just before the half. Lee Chapple hit Jason Smith for a 42-yard gain to the SAU three and Wes Holland scored three plays later on a one-yard run. Nathen O'Jibway's PAT made it 14-7 with just 34 seconds left in the half.
SAU gained 249 yards in the half to 166 for UNA and had the ball for 20:18 to just 9:42 for the Lions. North Alabama rushed for just 22 yards on eight carries in the half. Johnson rushed for 102 yards in the half for SAU on 20 carries.
North Alabama's defense stopped SAU without a first down on its first possession of the second half and the Lions then responded with a seven-play touchdown drive to tie the game. Chapple hit Tristan Purifoy with a 33-yard scoring strike and O'Jibway's PAT tied the game at 14-14 with 12:08 left in the second period.
The UNA defense held SAU again on its next possession and Janoris Jenkins returned the ensuing punt 89 yards for a touchdown. It was the second longest punt return in UNA history. O'Jibway's kick gave the Lions a 21-14 lead at the 10:29 mark of the third quarter.
DeAndre Morgan picked off an SAU pass on the next possession but the Lions couldn't capitalize. On North Alabama's next possession, however, the Lions put together a nine-play, 77-yard drive to extend their lead. Chapple again connected with Purifoy, this time from 29 yards out, for the touchdown. O'Jibway's kick made it 28-14 with 3:41 left in the third quarter.
UNA found the end zone again on its next possession after Jenkins blocked an SAU field goal attempt. Chapple hit Daniel Almon for a 58-yard gain down the middle of the field and Chris Coffey punched it into the end zone from one yard out just three plays later. O'Jibway's kick extended the lead to 35-14 with 10:54 left in the game.
North Alabama added another TD after a botched punt attempt by the Muleriders. The Lions drove 52 yards in four plays under the direction of Chris Alexander. He hit Marcus McQuarley with a 34-yard scoring pass with 6:51 left in the game and Michael Schuster's PAT made it 42-14. McQuarley made a spectacular catch in the front left corner of the end zone, reaching around the defender to pull the ball in.
North Alabama plays at Arkansas Tech on October 8 at 6 p.m.