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FLORENCE, Ala. -- Every college football team wants to play well on Homecoming in front of the home fans and alumni. For the University of North Alabama football team, getting a win in its Homecoming game Saturday will be a challenge against a 4-1 West Georgia squad in what could prove to be a make-or-break game for both squads.
UNA comes in 2-2 overall and 1-1 in the Gulf South Conference after a 41-0 thumping of Shorter last Saturday. West Georgia is 4-1 for the first time since 2001 and is 1-0 in the GSC.
The Lions cannot afford another league loss and have any hopes of a shot at a GSC title or post-season playoff appearance. West Georgia hopes to have turned the corner in its program after suffering six losing seasons in the last seven years. A loss to the Lions, with three games remaining on the Wolves schedule against nationally ranked teams, would be a major setback.
"This is a huge game," said UNA head coach Bobby Wallace. "They're 4-1 and off to a good start and they will come in here with a lot of momentum. We're fighting back from having lost a conference game to Delta State so that puts even more importance on the game for us. Plus its Homecoming and you always want to play well in your Homecoming game."
From 1994 to 2001 the West Georgia football program was among the elite in the Gulf South Conference, posting eight straight winning seasons and winning three GSC titles. Since then UWG has suffered nine losing seasons in the last 11 years. The 2013 Wolves, however, are off to the school's best start in more than a decade.
The Lions and Wolves have faced two common opponents this season and both handily defeated Miles and Shorter.
UNA has dominated the series with West Georgia in recent years, winning nine of the last 11 meetings. The Wolves came from behind to beat UNA 38-23 in Carrollton last season but West Georgia hasn't won a game in Florence since 2004.
North Alabama will also place an eight-game Homecoming winning streak on the line. UNA hasn't lost a Homeoming game since 2004 and beat West Georgia 65-17 in 2007 in the only game where the Wolves served as the Lions' Homecoming opponent.
West Georgia brings a balanced offensive attack to Florence. The Wolves average 203 rushing yards and 191 passing yards per game. UWG has scored at least 28 points in every game and is averaging 34 points per contest.
The ground game is led by Quan Jones, who has picked up 375 yards and scored five touchdowns on 72 carries. Seth Hinsley has 306 yards and has scored twice. Austin Trainor and Dallas Dickey have split time at quarterback and both have been effective. Trainor has thrown for 570 yards and four touchdowns and Dickey has 326 yards passing and two TD passes.
Defensively, the Wolves allow 16.6 points per game and have held three of their five opponents to 14 points or less.
North Alabama's two losses were both by three points and both came after break-downs in the Lions' kicking game. The Lions hope to have remedied those issues against Shorter as Will Craig made all seven of his kicking attempts, while Michael Schuster averaged better than 40 yards per punt and kicked four of his seven kickoffs out of the end zone.
UNA has been looking for more balance in its offense and found it against Shorter, rushing for 237 yards and passing for 232.
The Lions defense was also dominant last week, allowing just just 178 total yards in recording the shutout at Shorter.
Next week, at the Lions home game against Texas A&M-Kingsville, UNA will be celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the Lions 1993 NCAA Division II Football National Championship with a reunion of the players and coaches from that squad.