190829 Western Illinois vs UNA 45

UNA's Jakobi Byrd gets behind Western Illinois' Derriyon Shaw for a long pass in the first half of the D1 opener at Braly Stadium. Byrd is coming off a six-catch, 103-yard effort against Montana. [MATT MCKEAN/TIMESDAILY]

When: 6:05 p.m., Saturday

Where: Braly Stadium, Florence

TV/Radio: ESPN +/FM-97.1

The line: UNA by 7 

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Four-down territory

1. Moving forward: North Alabama gave up 45 unanswered points in the second half in a 61-17 loss to Montana. The Lions entered halftime with a 17-16 lead after touchdown passes of 75 and 64 from Christian Lopez. But in the second half, the Grizzlies tightened up on defense, forced two interceptions and made big plays with their quarterback Dalton Sneed and in special teams to ensure the blowout. UNA will return home to face Alabama A&M at Braly Stadium for the first time since 1996. The Lions defeated the Bulldogs on the road last season, 25-20. 

2. Lions can’t escape penalties: The Lions were flagged nine times for 75 yards. In the first half, the Grizzlies weren’t clicking as much on offense as they were the rest of the game, but costly pass interference calls from the Lions allowed them to continue drives. Outside of taking advantage of UNA’s mistakes, the Grizzlies didn’t make much of their own. Montana was flagged twice for 20 yards but both of the penalties came in the second half when the outcome was decided. 

3. Receiving records: Despite the blowout loss, UNA walked away with a few bright spots. The Big South conference announced on Tuesday that redshirt sophomore wide receiver Cortez Hall is the second player in conference history to record a touchdown catch of at least 75 yards in consecutive games. Hall scored a 75-yard touchdown against Western Illinois and did the same against Montana. The feat makes him the 10th player in conference history to score twice from 75 yards out.  

4. Scouting Alabama A&M: The Bulldogs are 1-1 on the season after an opening-win over Morehouse College, 35-30, and a loss to Arkansas-Pine Bluff last week, 52-34. Quarterback Aqueel Glass, who’s thrown for 749 yards, six touchdowns and three interceptions, leads the Bulldogs offense. In the backfield, running back Jordan Bentley has accounted for 148 yards rushing and three touchdowns. 

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Key matchup

UNA receivers vs. Alabama A&M defensive backs 

Some of UNA’s biggest offensive plays this season have come from its receivers, namely redshirt sophomores Jakobi Byrd, Cortez Hall and Andre Little. Last week, Arkansas-Pine Bluff receiver Harry Ballard racked up 140 yards and three touchdowns on only four catches. The opportunities for big plays will be there for the UNA passing game and A&M’s defensive backs will be tasked with slowing down all three of the Lions’ receivers.    

Player of the week

Jakobi Byrd, WR

Byrd had six catches for 103 yards and a touchdown in Saturday’s loss at Montana. It’s the second week in a row the Lions had a receiver eclipse 100 yards as Cortez Hall reached 113 yards and scored a touchdown in the first week of the season. 

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By the numbers:

3: Number of interceptions thrown by Lopez. On the first drive against Montana, the Lions drove down the field only to stall after a Lopez pass was tipped and intercepted by Montana’s Robby Hauck. In the second half, in an attempt to get something going on offense, Lopez forced the issue on two occasions which resulted in two more turnovers. 

24: Number of points scored by Montana in the third quarter. After UNA took at 17-16 halftime lead, the Grizzlies offense exploded for 24 points and its defense kept the Lions from getting anything going offensively. The third quarter proved to be the turning point in the game that allowed Montana to cruise to the blowout win. 

314: The number of rushing yards given up by Alabama A&M in its 52-34 loss to Arkansas Pine-Bluff. UNA running back Terence humphrey ran for 102 yards in the first week of the season but only managed to get 28 yards on the ground against Montana. The opportunity to get back on track in the running game could be there for the Lions.  

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Prediction

UNA 38, Alabama A&M 21

Fresh off a blowout loss at Montana, UNA will look to right its wrongs against the Bulldogs. Historically, this game is a rivalry and should be close in the first half. But UNA, with its home crowd and talent on the field, will overtake the Bulldogs in the second half offensively and they’ll cruise to a three-score victory.

— Michael Hebert

 

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