Daily photo by John Godbey|
North Alabama head football coach Mark Hudspeth, left, visits with Tim Tuggle, center, and Kevin Naumann at the Touchdown Club’s meeting Friday morning. Hudspeth’s Lions are 4-0, ranked third in the NCAA Division II and host Ouachita Baptist on Saturday. Kickoff is 6 p.m. at Florence’s Braley Stadium.
Powerful offense has UNA unbeaten
3rd-ranked Lions ‘don’t look ahead’
By Ashley Hargrove
FLORENCE — North Alabama’s football team is finding out what deja vu is all about this season.
Already, the No. 3-ranked Lions are 4-0 going into Saturday’s 6 p.m. home game against Ouachita Baptist and are favored to win the Gulf South Conference, which is exactly where UNA found itself last season. But the Lions aren’t looking too far ahead.
“We don’t look ahead to any team,” UNA quarterback A.J. Milwee said. “Each and every week, we have to figure out what we need to improve on. We know that we play Delta and Valdosta, but for us to win a championship, we have to play Ouachita first.”
The Lions have reached this point with a strong offense that ranks second in the GSC in scoring, third in total offense and first in passing efficiency.
UNA started the season off strong, averaging 50.5 points in the first two games. However, the Lions managed to put up 27 points against Southern Arkansas and Arkansas Tech.
Even though the offense may not have as played as well as it would have liked last week, offensive lineman Luke Chenault said he believes it has played pretty well so far.
“We still have a lot to improve on with our blocking,” said Chenault, a starting guard and a Decatur High graduate. “If we do that and do our job, that takes a lot of pressure off of A.J.
“He’s not real big, so it’s a huge responsibility for us to protect him, and so far I think we’ve done a pretty good job of that.”
With the loss of receivers Marcus Lewis and all-American Anthony Merritt to graduation, the Lions have had some adjusting to do, but that hasn’t seemed to be a problem.
Joemal Campbell has stepped in and taken over the role, as has Reggie Hubbard, who saw some playing time last year. Campbell ranks fifth in the GSC with 24 catches, while Hubbard is second on the team with 17.
Both seem to have adjusted well, and according to Campbell, a lot of that has to do with the work they put in this summer.
“Coming out every day during seven-on-seven (drills) this summer really helped in getting the timing down and getting A.J. used to throwing us the ball,” Campbell said.
“Any one of us can get open at any moment, and A.J. does a good job of finding that open receiver.”
The halfway point of the season is slowly approaching, and comparing where the Lions are now to last season, when they went unbeaten during the regular season, Milwee said he is confident they are on the right track.
“We got more work in during the spring and this summer, so we came into fall camp ahead of where we normally would have been,” Milwee said.
“I feel like we’re headed in the right direction, we just need to continue to work on executing.”
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