For the 10th time in the last 12 seasons and for the 19th time in school history, the University of North Alabama football team received a bid to the NCAA Division II Football Playoffs Sunday and will host Valdosta State on Saturday, November 22 in a first round match-up at Braly Stadium. Kickoff is set for noon.
UNA's 19th selection ties Northwest Missouri State for the most playoff appearances by any school in Division II history.
With a 9-1 overall record and a co-championship in the Gulf South Conference, UNA will host a Valdosta State team that is 8-2 and has won six straight games since losing to North Alabama 31-29 on a 54-yard field goal on the final play of the game at Braly Stadium back on September 27.
“We're excited to be in the playoffs and pleased to be hosting in the first round,” said UNA head coach Bobby Wallace. “Winning the Gulf South Conference championship and making the playoffs were our first two goals and now we just have one left - and that's winning a national championship. This gets us one step closer to that goal but we know we have a long way to go and will have to win five more games to reach that goal. That's half as many as we've played in the regular season. We've got our work cut out for us but we're excited to have the opportunity.”
"We have a tough draw, but there are no easy games at this stage," Wallace added. "Facing Valdosta State again will be a tremendous challenge, not only because they are a really good football team but it is always tough to play a team twice in a season."
A total of 24 teams were selected for the playoffs with six from each of the four NCAA Super Regions. UNA was seeded fourth in Super Region 2 behind Lenoir-Rhyne, Delta State and Tuskegee. The winner of the UNA-Valdosta State game will face Lenoir-Rhyne in the second round. Third seeded Tuskegee hosts sixth seeded West Georgia in the other opening round game with the winner facing Delta State.
UNA has an all-time 31-15 record in the Division II playoffs with nine regional championships and three national championships. UNA's 31 playoff wins are the second most in Division II history and second most among current Division II schools. The Lions are 23-6 all-time at Braly Stadium in the playoffs. Of UNA's 31 all-time post-season wins, the Lions are 21-9 against non-GSC schools in the post-season and 10-6 against GSC squads.
In the 24 seasons since the NCAA went to the Super Regional format in 1990, a Gulf South Conference school has won the regional crown 17 times, including in 10 of the last 12 years. UNA has six of those (1993, 1994, 1995, 2003, 2005, 2008).
This will be the 20th time that UNA has faced the same team twice in a season and the Lions are 12-7 in the repeat games. In 11 of the 19 previous meetings, the team that won the first game also won the rematch. It will be the 17th time that UNA has faced another GSC squad in the playoffs and the Lions are 10-6 all-time against league schools in the post-season.
UNA has dominated the recent series with Valdosta State, winning seven of the last nine meetings to hold a 22-15-1 all-time record against the Blazers. This will be the sixth time that the Lions and Blazers have met in the playoffs and UNA has won four of the previous five post-season meetings. UNA has won both of its playoff games against VSU in Florence in 1994 and 2008.
The playoff selection is the eighth for UNA under Bobby Wallace and the Lions are 15-4 in the playoffs under Wallace. Wallace led UNA to the post-season in 1990, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995 and 1997 during his first stint as the Lions' head coach and is now taking UNA back to the post-season for the second straight year since his return to Florence in 2012. Wallace also led the University of West Alabama to the NCAA Division II playoffs in 2009, marking that school's first post-season trip since 1975. Wallace has an overall 16-5 all-time playoff record and he and former Northwest Missouri State Head Coach Mel Tjeerdsma are the only coaches to have won three Division II football national championships.