The Statesmen (1-1) and Lions (1-1) are meeting for each other for the 57th time with North Alabama leading the series 31-24-1. North Alabama won last year’s meeting between the two teams with the Lions winning 20-12 in Cleveland.
Last week, Delta State lost to Texas A&M Commerce 45-37, while North Alabama lost to Jacksonville State 24-21 in double-overtime. Both teams also opened the year with wins two weeks ago as DSU defeated Mississippi Valley State University 24-14, while North Alabama beat Miles College 42-7.
Delta State head football coach Todd Cooley said the Lions will provide the most difficult challenge in this early part of the season.
“With no disrespect to Mississippi Valley or Texas A&M Commerce, North Alabama is just a better football team than those two teams,” Cooley said. “It’s going to be a tough challenge for us on the road. It’s the third game in a row away from our home stadium.”
Cooley said he is not bothered by having to face a team like North Alabama to open GSC play.
“You’ve got to play them some time, you might as well,” Cooley said. “I think rather you play them week eight, week three, week one, you’ve still got to play everybody in the conference. You’ve got to be ready any time. It is what it is. I think it’s a great opening game for our conference.”
North Alabama’s offense is anchored by sophomore quarterback Luke Wingo, who has completed 35-of-65 passes for 381 yards with a touchdown and one interception. He has also rushed for 107 yards with three touchdowns on 29 carries.
“He is a very good football player,” Cooley said. “He’s starting to come into his own. He can hurt you a lot differently than one last week.”
Other players on offense that have been good for the Lions are running backs Lamonte Thompson (29 carries, 256 yards, 2 TDs, So.) and wide receiver Lee Mayhall (11 catches, 96 yards, 1 TD).
“Their tailback is a very good football player, and they have a couple of receivers that can hurt you,” Cooley said. “Offensive line is playing at an extremely high level.”
On defense, Cooley said North Alabama doesn’t lack in size or experience.
“Defensively, they’re very, very big,” Cooley said. “Their two starting ends, I think one is 6-6 and the other one is 6-4. Their back ups are 6-7 and the other one is 6-3. They have a 325-pound nose guard. They all can run. You see a lot of up classmen on that defense.”
UNA’s defense is led by senior linebacker Tavarius Wilson (18 tackles, 2.5 tackles-for-loss).
DSU’s offense is anchored by quarterback Travis Champion (50-of-69 passing, 511 yards, 3TDs, 3 Ints, Jr.) and wide receivers Casey Osborne (17 catches, 170 yards, 3TDs, So).
DSU’s defense is led by sophomore Richard Nash (17 tackles, 2 tackles-for-loss) and junior linebacker Rory Island (15 tackles, 3 tackles-for-loss).
Kickoff for Saturday is set for 6 p.m. at Braly Municipal Stadium.