Lions shut out season-opening opponent and turn focus to first home game

Quarterback Luke Wingo fights off a Mississippi College defender Sept. 13

For the first time since 1994, the Lions football team shutout its season-opening opponent.

UNA (1-0) took the opening drive 76 yards down the field for a touchdown, and the team never looked back, leading to a 58-0 romp against Mississippi College.

The Lions dominated on both sides of the ball the entire game as they piled up 469 total yards and surrendered only 151 yards.

“I’m pleased we executed and did as well as we did tonight,” said head coach Bobby Wallace. “We played everybody. Everybody that came on the trip played which was 60, which is all that they allow us to bring (on the road).”

The Lions scored on seven of its eight possessions in the first half, resulting in a 45-0 lead at the break. The lone possession not resulting in a score was a fumble deep in Mississippi College’s territory.

“This says a lot about our offense’s preparation, it says a lot about the coaches coming up with the game plan and the players executing it,” Wallace said. “And that’s what got us out to such a tremendous start.”

Like last season, the use of two quarterbacks throughout the game worked in the favor of the Lions.

Junior quarterback Luke Wingo completed eight out of 11 passes for 88 yards and two touchdowns, also adding 71 rushing yards and a touchdown on the ground.

Sophomore quarterback Jacob Tucker threw for 50 yards and a touchdown and also showed off his legs by running for 66 yards and a score.

“We felt like we could do whatever we wanted to do offensively out there,” Wingo said. “I think me and Jacob both complement each other very well.”

Junior and Boston College transfer Tahj Kimble led the Lions in rushing with 68 yards and a touchdown. He and a stable of other runners helped UNA rush for 329 yards.

The Lions showed their many weapons in the receiving game, as 10 different players caught a pass, led by junior Lee Mayhall with two catches for 30 yards.

“Offensively we have a lot of weapons and we had a great game plan,” Wallace said. “When you match up execution, effort and then being better than the other team that’s what happens and defensively it was the same thing.”

The Lions’ defense bottled up the Choctaws’ rushing attack by holding them to 132 yards and just 2.8 yards per carry. Mississippi College did not catch a break in the air either as the team only passed for 19 yards.

“We wanted to send a message, and I think we did that,” said senior defensive lineman Taylor Carney. “Everybody did their assignments, everybody did their job, and I was really happy to see how everybody flew to the ball.”

The defense also got in on the scoring act when junior defensive lineman Jalan Jones scooped up a Choctaws’ fumble for a touchdown. The Lions forced three total fumbles.

Wallace said he was glad to see how all of the players that made the trip not only got to play but to play early and left the game impressed with the depth of the team.

“We have tremendous depth, more so than I’ve ever had in Division II anywhere I’ve ever coached,” he said. “Even the championship teams in the ‘90s didn’t have the anywhere near this kind of depth.”

The Lions will now turn to focus on their home opener this Saturday at 6 p.m. against Langston University (1-1).

The Langston offense will come into Braly Stadium averaging 30.5 points per game and 411 yards per game this year.

“Their offense is very similar to ours in the running game and in the passing game,” Wallace said. “Their quarterback is a great player, most of their offense is around him.”

Carney said the defense will work hard to contain the quarterback that can pass and run the ball.

“We go against a quarterback that can run and throw everyday during practice,” he said. “Our coaches will have a good plan to contain him.”

The Lions were ready to play their first home game in 301 days, when they defeated Tuskegee University 30-27 in the first round of the playoffs last year.

“It seems like it’s been forever since we last played at home,” Tucker said. “There’s not many places in Division II that have an atmosphere like Braly on Saturday, and as a player that’s exciting.”