LIVINGSTON, Ala. – West Alabama recorded 570 yards in total offense, including 287 on the ground and 283 in the air, but it was not enough to put the Tigers ahead of Delta State as the No. 15 UWA fell 35-30 on Saturday in front of its homecoming crowd.
Quarterback Jack McDaniels passed for 283 yards, including a 93-yard strike to Tyriq Martin for a touchdown. Despite the hefty number of yards McDaniels amassed, the senior from Lorton, Va. struggled to connect with receivers, completing 17 of 51 passes.
The number one target of the night, Martin caught six passes for 169 yards and one touchdown. Bayley Blanchard was second with four receptions for 61 yards.
On the ground, senior running back Demetrius Battle had 26 carries for 111 yards, including a two-yard carry for the Tigers first touchdown of the competition. Ta’Bryious Webb also saw some yardage with 11 carries for 92 yards.
After UWA deferred to the second half, Delta State took first possession at its 32-yard to start the game’s first scoring drive. After several carries to its 43-yard line, quarterback Cole Kirk connected with Chancie Tidwell for 56 yards, a yard shy of the endzone. Rico Owens, II completed the drive with a one-yard carry for the touchdown with 12:53 left in the first quarter. Connor Mantellie collected the point after, and DSU took a 7-0 lead over the Tigers.
Two punts returned possession to West Alabama, and the Tiger offense took over at its 43-yard line. The Statesmen’s defense resulted in four incomplete passes, and UWA settled for a field goal. Senior kicker Gabriel Dunkle landed the 47-yarder to cut DSU’s lead to 7-3 with 8:53 left in the period.
Delta State answered on the next drive and, in under two minutes, added another seven points to the scoreboard. On a first and ten, Kory Gainwell for the Statesmen ran for 29 yards and a touchdown. The point after was successful, and DSU increased its lead to 14-3 with 7:53 remaining in the first quarter.
On the next campaign, the Tiger covered 59 yards in three plays in less than a minute. After a sack, UWA was 16-yard shy of a first down, and Dunkle ran on the field to attempt a 37-yard field goal. Sirvares Snow blocked the kick, and possession returned to Delta State.
The Statesmen did nothing with the possession, and a punt returned the ball to West Alabama.
In a drive bleeding into the second quarter, UWA kept the ball on the ground with multiple carries by running back James Smith, III. In three plays, Smith covered 51 yards to start the campaign. Demetrius Battle picked up yardage as well and punctuated the drive with a two-yard carry for a touchdown. The PAT was good, and the Tigers cut the Statemen’s lead to 14-10 with 13:48 left in the half.
Feeling the heat of the Tigers’ early game rally, Delta State’s offense pushed forward on the next drive. In eight plays, the Statesmen covered 69 yards in 2:06 for their third touchdown. Kirk found Dohnte Meyers in the endzone for 5 yards on the scoring play, and Mantelli secured the point after. Delta State moved to 21-10 over UWA.
Still in the game, the Tigers returned the favor on the next drive. After a slip by the return man on the punt, West Alabama started the drive on its 4-yard line. Battle grabbed a quick three yards on the first play, and on the second, McDaniels found Martin for 93 yards into the endzone for a Tigers touchdown. Dunkle added the point after, and West Alabama advances to within four of Delta State’s lead, 21-17 with 10:46 remaining before halftime.
The Stateman struggled on the next campaign. On a first and 20 after a penalty, a big play was needed to continue to advance the ball. On the third down with 17 yards left to reach a first, Kirk was sacked by Undraez Lilly, who forced a fumble. Davonchae Bryant recovered the fumble and picked up 12 for UWA to give the Tigers a first down on DSU’s 28.
Tigers did not capitalize on the Statemen’s miscue, and both teams went scoreless for the remainder of the half.
West Alabama earned the first possession of the second half, but it was short-lived. An interception by Sherrod Paige for Delta State resulted in a pick-six to end the drive. The point-after gave the Statesmen a 28-17 advantage just 32 seconds into the third period.
The Tigers reclaimed possession, and after a long drive, UWA settled for a 22-yard field goal by Dunkle to trail DSU 28-20 with 7:32 left in the quarter.
Delta State’s next campaign ended in a Tiger interception by Jeremiah Boyd, and West Alabama turned the Statemen’s miscue into points. After four plays, Dunkle returned to the field and kicked a 33-yard field goal to move the score to 28-23 with under four minutes left in the period.
Fighting to stay ahead, Delta State took advantage of its next possession to return to the endzone. Kirk kept the ball in the air for several plays, with a drive-long pass of 27 yards to Dohnte Meyers. After a Tiger penalty, Owens carried the ball three yards for the touchdown. The successful point after continued the Statesmen’s hold on the lead 35-23 lead with 13 seconds left before the final period.
West Alabama stayed focused and found the endzone again on its next possession. Covering 78 yards in five plays and 1:28, Bry Webb ended the campaign with a 34-yard run for a touchdown. The point after was successful, and UWA moved to just five points shy of the Statesmen’s lead.
Nine punts gave the Tigers the last campaign of the game with 1:47 to score a touchdown for a homecoming victory. McDaniels attempted nine passes during the drive but only connected for one. On the ground, West Alabama netted 15 yards and advanced to Delta State’s 24-yard line. A Statemen’s penalty brought the line of scrimmage to the 12-yard line with fresh downs with just five seconds left in the game. The Tigers tried several passing plays as time ran out, but three back-to-back DSU penalties extended West Alabama’s time on the field. Unfortunately, UWA did not find the endzone to suffer its second loss of the season.