Lions to change gameplan against option offense

UNA junior defensive end Tyler Smith prepares to defend Shorter University’s offensive attack in last year’s 45-7 UNA victory at Braly Stadium Nov. 9. This season, Smith and the Lions will travel to Rome, Georgia in hopes of another victory.

by Sports Editor Mike Ezekiel

After losing to West Georgia two weeks ago, the UNA football team responded with a 43-17 win over conference rival Delta State.

The win helps the No. 19 Lions (6-2, 4-1) remain in good standing in the NCAA Division-II Super Regional rankings. UNA moved up to the second spot in Super Region 2 behind the undefeated West Georgia Wolves.

UNA head coach Bobby Wallace said the Lions are battle-tested, given they were able to overcome the two previous losses and inclement weather last week.

“I really think this team is too experienced to be shaken easily,” said UNA head coach Bobby Wallace. “A game like (Delta State) is where experience and having some great seniors who have played a lot of ball comes in.”

The Lions jump Tuskegee in the regional polls, despite the Golden Tigers’ 19-7 win over Central State last week. North Greenville, Catawba, Valdosta State and Carson Newman round out the top seven in the region.

UNA’s opponent Nov. 7 is the Shorter Hawks (2-6, 1-4), who are all but out of the running for the playoffs. While the Lions are the heavy favorite on paper, the Hawks still pose a threat to UNA defensively.

Shorter is notorious for the use of the option offense, which forces the Lions to spend extra time in the film room preparing for the Hawks’ unique playing style.

“We will have to spend all week (game planning),” Wallace said. “It’s hard to prepare for (their offensive style), but we have the experience of playing that offense many times. We will look at previous game plans and see what we want to go with.”

The Hawks have the GSC’s rushing yards leader in junior B.J. McCoy. Football terminology labels him as an “A-Back,” a rare position in football. The player lines up at the wing, typically taking handoffs on end-arounds rather than from the backfield.

Shorter has taken its fair share of defeats in the past few years since joining the GSC, but Wallace said the Hawks have progressively gotten better and the Lions should not overlook them.

“They are a much-improved team, so we need to be ready to play,” he said. “(McCoy) has won conference player of the week three times and is one of the leading rushers in the conference. He will be tough to stop.”

Sophomore defensive tackle Freddie Reed said it will take a complete focus in order to prepare for the offense.

“We will really need to lock in this week,” Reed said. “They are a good team that should not be underestimated. We can’t go into this game lackadaisical. We need to go into this game like we did against Delta.

While the defense attempts to stop Shorter’s unusual attack, the offense will look to build on a 43-point performance from last week.

“It’s very important for us to have a good week of practice,” said junior offensive lineman Jess Cooper. “Shorter runs just about the same defense we saw against Delta. We just need to execute well.”

The game is set to begin Nov. 7 at 12:30 p.m. EST in Rome, Georgia. The following week, the Lions will close out the regular season against rival West Alabama Nov. 14 in Braly Stadium.