UNA TRAVELS TO FACE NORTH CAROLINA A&T SATURDAY

2021 Football vs. Campbell

Mason Matthews

Football

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FLORENCE, Ala. — The University of North Alabama will try and turn its football fortunes back in a positive direction Saturday when the Lions travel to Greensboro, N.C., to face North Carolina A&T at BB&T Stadium.

It will be the first ever meeting between the two schools in any sport and will be the second straight Big South Conference contest for both teams. The game will be broadcast on ESPN+ and as the Ingles Big South Game of the Week on Nexstar Networks, which will include WHDF in north Alabama. Kickoff is set for noon Central.

North Carolina A&T is in its first season in the Big South Conference and the Aggies are off to a 2-2 start, coming off their first conference win last weekend over Robert Morris.

“They are new to the Big South but we are certainly aware of their reputation as a strong, well coached football program,” UNA head coach Chris Willis said of North Carolina A&T. “They were nationally ranked in the pre-season and they are receiving votes, even though they are 2-2, because their losses were to Duke and Furman.”

A&T rebounded from those losses to win their last two games against North Carolina A&T and Robert Morris.

“They are a team that likes to line up and run the ball right at you, and that will be a challenge for us defensively,” said Willis. “They’ll be one of the best running teams that we will face all season.”

Willis said regardless of the opponent, his focus continues to be on his own team.

“We have to hold on to the football,” he said. “We continue to play well and have leads in the first half, then turnovers have flipped the momentum and we haven’t recovered.”

North Alabama is in its final season of a four year transition to Division I, and this is the first year that UNA’s games have counted in the Big South standings. UNA, 0-5, led Campbell 24-7 last Saturday at home before four turnovers helped contribute to a 48-31 loss in the Lions’ first Big South game.

In fact, UNA has held leads in four of its five games and led three contests late in the third quarter before they slipped away. UNA has outscored its opponents in the first half 62-61 but has been outscored 114-35 in the second half.

Turnovers have hurt the Lions at key points all season. UNA has lost 11 total turnovers and 10 have resulted in touchdowns, with seven having been imemdiately returned for TDs. The Lions have allowed at least one defensive score in every game this season and five of those have come in the second half with the game’s outcome still to be decided.

North Alabama has continued to battle injuries at quarterback. Transfer Jaylen Gipson started the first two games before being injured. Blake Dever then started the next two games, but he and Gipson were both unavailable last weekend. Rett Files then stepped up and threw for a career-high 378 yards and three touchdowns against Campbell.

Senior receiver Dexter Boykin turned in his fourth career 100-yard receiving game last weekend against Campbell that included two touchdown receptions. He has now caught a pass in all 30 of his career games at UNA.

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