Sitting on go

UNA players participate in a full contact scrimmage Saturday afternoon at Braly stadium.

Players and coaches of the Lions football team said they’re excited to play someone besides their own teammates as this weekend’s opening game against Miles College approaches.

The Lions will open their season at Legion Field in Birmingham, Ala., Sunday night at 6 p.m.

“We want to hit something other than purple, so, we’re excited,” said senior offensive lineman Will Furlong.

Miles College finished with a record of 7-5 last season, and is picked to finish first in its conference, according to

The Golden Bears return 23 starters overall, including quarterback David Thomas and running back Jordan Lewis. Thomas completed 383 plays for a total of 2,577 yards and 11 touchdowns last season, while Lewis accumulated 966 rushing yards in 282 plays.

The Lions completed the 2011 season with a record of 9-3, and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Division II Championship before losing to Delta State. The team returns only five starters this season, and will play with new quarterback Chris Alexander.

Alexander played in a back-up role to former starting quarterback Lee Chapple last season, and completed 14 passes for 208 yards and three touchdowns.

Other returning statistical leaders include running back Chris Coffey, who rushed for 307 yards and eight touchdowns, wide receivers Jason Smith (537 yds, 4 touchdowns) and Daniel Almon (317, 1), and defensive back Rod Woodson, who had 50 tackles total.

Willis said the defense’s main goal going into the game is to stop the Golden Bears’ running game. By making the team one-dimensional, allowing them only to pass the ball, he said the Lions will have a good chance to win.

“I think we’re stronger on pass defense—because we can rush the passer, we can cover really well, so it plays into our hands when teams throw the ball,” Willis said.

The offense’s main goal, Gross said, is to maintain control of the ball. Gross said the team plans to establish a strong running game before passing the ball.

“First and foremost, we want to take care of the football, that’s the biggest thing—ball security’s the biggest deal,” Gross said.

Furlong said the team has become more confident in recent practices, and there is a lot of talent on the team.

“I feel good,” Furlong said. “We’ve come a long way and we’re starting to come together as a team, (our) cohesion is good.”

Head Coach Bobby Wallace, who led the Lions to three consecutive national championships in the late ‘90s, said he’s as nervous about the upcoming game as he has been for a football game since his first UNA game as head coach.

“I’m real apprehensive; I want us to be good so bad, and I’m probably about as nervous as I’ve been for a football game maybe since 1988,” Wallace said.

Players and coaches alike agreed the team is ready to play its first game in front of the fans.

“I feel like we’ve really progressed mentally,” Wallace said. “I think we’re ready to play somebody else just like probably every team in the country.”

The Lions’ first home game will be against Harding Sept. 8 at 6 p.m. at Braly Stadium.