The only two remaining unbeaten teams in Gulf South Conference play will square off this Saturday when North Alabama and West Georgia meet in a battle of Top 20 NCAA Division II teams at University Stadium in Carrollton, Ga., at 1 p.m. Central.
Thirteenth ranked UNA, 5-1 overall and 3-0 in the GSC, faces a No. 2 ranked West Georgia team that is 7-0 overall and also 3-0 in the GSC. The Wolves will be the highest ranked opponent that the Lions have faced since 2003. That season UNA travelled to No.1 ranked Valdosta State and knocked off the Blazers 17-10, ironically with current West Georgia head coach Will Hall as the Lions' quarterback.
This will be UNA's second Top 20 battle of the season as the Lions (then No. 8) knocked off ninth ranked Valdosta State on the road, 34-12 on October 3.
UNA and West Georgia rank among the division's top offensive teams, with the Wolves ranked 11th nationally in scoring (42.7) and the Lions ranked 19th (40.2). Defensively, West Georgia is ranked in the top eight in the nation all four major categories. The Wolves allow just 81.1 yards rushing (8th), 132.6 yards passing (8th), 213.7 total yards (3rd) and 13.7 points (7th) per game.
"They are a great football team," UNA Head Football Coach Bobby Wallace said of West Georgia. "They are fast. They have an experienced quarterback and quick running backs. They have a big-time receiver and their defense is solid all the way round. We've got to play as good as we can play to have a chance to win."
Wallace said UNA's 62-28 Homecoming win over UNC-Pembroke last weekend helped get the Lions back in a positive frame of mind, but he said the total focus is on West Georgia.
"That win made everybody feel better but we put that behind us right away," Wallace said. "We know the kind of challenge that's ahead of us and we're working hard for this weekend's game."
UNA will attack the Wolves with a balanced offense that averages 235 yards rushing and 266 yards passing per game. Senior running back Lamonte Thompson has rushed for 755 yards and seven touchdowns this season and ranks fourth on the school's career rushing list with 3,067 yards. Senior quarterback Luke Wingo has thrown for 1,492 yards and 12 touchdowns this season and is UNA's second all-time leading passer with 6,663 career yards.
North Alabama holds a 21-11 advantage in the all-time series with West Georgia and the Lions have dominated in recent years, winning nine of the last 10 meetings. West Georgia's only win over UNA since 2005 was 38-23 on the Lions last trip to Carrollton in 2012. That was Wingo's first game as UNA's starting quarterback during his freshman season. This will be Wingo's 31st career start and he now has a 22-8 record as UNA's starter.
UNA holds a 9-7 advantage in the 16 games played in Carrollton in the series and current UNA head coach Bobby Wallace is 9-4 against West Georgia as the Lions' coach.
North Alabama will be facing Hall, its former All-American and Harlon Hill Trophy winning quarterback (2003), for the sixth time
as an opposing head coach. UNA faced Hall in 2011, 2012 and 2013 as head coach at West Alabama and last season as head coach at West Georgia. UNA has a 3-2 record in those five contests, including dramatic wins the last two seasons. Hall was also a former offensive coordinator under Bobby Wallace at West Alabama in 2008-10 and this will be their fourth head-to-head meeting.
In last season's meeting between UNA and West Georgia, the Wolves took a 28-24 lead with 6:25 left in the game. UNA then fumbled the ball away on its next possession but forced a UWG punt with just 2:04 left to play. Wingo then engineered an eight-play, 80-yard drive that was capped by a nine-yard TD pass to Delvon Carpenter with 44 seconds left. The play gave UNA a 31-28 win. Wingo threw for 316 yards and two touchdowns in the game and rushed for 21 yards and one TD.