The two most successful football programs in Gulf South Conference history are set to square off for the 38th time Saturday when the fifth ranked University of North Alabama Lions host the 21st ranked Valdosta State Blazers at Braly Stadium at 6 p.m.
This game will mark the 27th time in the 38 all-time meetings that at least one of the teams enters the game with a national ranking and the 15th time where both teams have been nationally ranked. UNA holds an 8-5-1 advantage in those games.
The Lions and Blazers have each won three NCAA Division II National Championships, have made a combined 30 playoff appearances, winning 13 NCAA regional titles and 16 GSC titles. Over the last 25 seasons (since 1990) both schools have won more than 72 percent of their games as UNA has gone 204-82-1 and VSU is 202-76-0.
UNA enters this season's matchup with a perfect 2-0 slate with impressive wins over Mississippi College (58-0) and Langston (56-7). Not only have the Lions allowed just one score in eight quarters but also scored over 50 points in back-to-back games for just the second time in school history.
Valdosta State will be facing its third consecutive nationally ranked opponent. The 2-1 Blazers downed Winston-Salem State two weeks ago before being blistered at home last week by Delta State, 49-32.
VSU is averaging an impressive 30.7 points and 415 total yards per game on offense but the Blazers defense gave up over 600 yards in last week's loss at Delta State.
"This has always been a great rivalry and Valdosta State has another outstanding team this year." said UNA Head Coach Bobby Wallace. "This is always a special game with the great traditions of both schools and its always a hard-fought battle." This will be the 38th all-time meeting between North Alabama and Valdosta State, with UNA leading the all-time series 21-15-1. The two schools have faced each other every season since the Blazers began their football program in 1982 and have played each other twice in a season five times (1994, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2010), meeting in both the regular-season and playoffs. North Alabama has won six of the last eight meetings. UNA's home-field advantage at Bradly Stadium may be put to the test as the road team has won the last six meetings in the series. The last home team to win was North Alabama, 37-10, in Florence in the 2008 NCAA Division II Playoffs. Valdosta State has won the last two meetings in Florence by narrow margins - 5-0 in 2010 and 24-21 in 2012. UNA has won the last four games played in Valdosta by a combined score of 192-77, winning 62-27 in 2009, 43-20 in the 2010 NCAA playoffs, 30-23 in the 2011 and 57-7 last season.
A win by the Lions would be the 100th coaching victory at North Alabama for head coach Bobby Wallace, who enters the game with a 99-44-1 record in 13 seasons at UNA. He is the second winningest football coach in UNA history, trailing only Hal Self who had a 109-81-8 record over 21 seasons with the Lions. Wallace has averaged 8.1 wins per season at UNA and has enjoyed four seasons with 10 or more wins. Through the first two games of the 2014 season the Lions have been unstoppable early, scoring on 12 of their 14 total offensive possessions in the first half. The Lions scored six touchdowns and added a field goal on eight possessions against Mississippi College in the first half and scored five touchdowns on six possessions against Langston in the opening two periods. UNA has also done a remarkable job of spreading the offensive wealth so far in 2014. Through the first two games of the season the Lions have scored 16 touchdowns - and those touchdowns have been scored by 13 different players. Luke WIngo, Diamond Simmons and Hagan Scott have two TDs each. Ten other players have scored one touchdown each. Defensively, UNA picked off five passes in last week's win over Langston has nine total take-aways in two weeks. UNA led Division II in both interceptions and total turnover take-aways last season.