FLORENCE, Ala. – Luke Wingo rambled 16 yards for a touchdown in the first overtime to lift North Alabama to a 30-27 Gulf South Conference victory over West Alabama Saturday at Braly Municipal Stadium.
The victory improves UNA to 6-2 overall and 4-1 in the GSC. The Lions have won five straight games. West Alabama dropped to 6-3 with its second loss in three weeks. The Tigers are also 4-1 in GSC play.
"This is a devastating loss, but when you turn it over in the red zone twice and come away with no points on three other trips you aren't going to win against a good football team like North Alabama," UWA head coach Will Hall said. "Hats off to UNA. They had a great plan and came up with plays when they needed to."
West Alabama running back Javae Swindle ran for a career-high and school record 228 yards on 30 carries, but was almost at a loss for words following the game. The sophomore from Jemison, Ala., broke the rushing record set by Marcus Ross, who ran for 226 against Arkansas Tech in 2004.
"It doesn't even matter," Swindle said about the record. "I have a numb feeling. It feels like when you thought your girlfriend or your wife had been perfect and then you found out she had been cheating on you and all you can think about is what you could have done better."
Wingo ran for three touchdowns and passed for another. He ran for 72 yards on 17 carries and completed 13-of-26 passes for 275 yards. He was intercepted twice, but led Lion rushers and passers.
Mark Grant hit a 33-yard field goal on West Alabama's first overtime possession. The Tigers missed a touchdown opportunity when Kyle Caldwell's first-down pass sailed over an open Malik Lofton's head in the corner of the end zone. After the next two plays lost five yards, Grant converted the field goal attempt.
"You can't turn the ball over like we did, especially against a good team," Caldwell said. "I missed Malik when he was wide open in overtime and then slipped on the next play."
West Alabama opened the scoring with a 28-yard Grant field goal to take a 3-0 lead at the 9:39 mark of the first quarter, but UNA answered with a 4-yard touchdown run by Wingo to give the Lions a 7-3 lead with 7:52 left in the first quarter.
Less than a minute later, Swindle put West Alabama back on top with a 70-yard touchdown run to give the Tigers a 10-7 lead with 6:44 left in the opening period. The 70-yard run was UWA's fifth play of 70 yards or more this season.
Will Craig drilled a career-long 44-yard field goal with 0.2 seconds left in the first quarter to cap a 16-play, 61-yard drive and tie the score at 10-10.
Not to be outdone, West Alabama drove 75 yards in nine plays on its next possession to take a 17-10 lead on an 11-yard touchdown run by Caldwell.
UNA fumbled the ensuing kickoff and DeQuan Shockley recovered at the Lion 20. On the next play from scrimmage Caldwell connected with Chad Toocheck on a 20-yard touchdown pass and the Tigers led 24-10.
Qyen Griffin intercepted Jacob Turner on UNA's next possession, but West Alabama could not convert, with the drive stalling on the Lion 30 after four Tiger penalties, two as UWA tried to convert on fourth down at the UNA 20.
The Tigers foiled a fake punt attempt on North Alabama's next possession, but untimely penalties again caused the drive to stall. UNA couldn't move the ball following the punt and the Tigers led 24-10 at the half.
North Alabama cut the UWA lead to 24-17 on its first drive of the second half, capping a nine-play, 75-yard drive with a 2-yard pass from Wingo to Grant Lake.
UNA tied the score at 24-24 on a 1 yard run by Wingo with 12:52 to play. A 93-yard Wingo to Corey Jones completion set up the score after UWA punters Jordan Ikner pinned the Lions on their own 2 yard line.
"I am at a loss for words and sick at my stomach," UWA defensive end Ryan Jones said. "We have to find a way to fight back from this."
UWA got into the red zone four times in the second half and came away without points, leaving UNA unscored on in the third quarter for the entire season. UNA linebacker Tavarius Wilson picked off both Tiger passes in the red zone and also recorded a game-high 13 tackles.
The Lions drove to the West Alabama 28 before Frank Richardson intercepted Wingo with 39 seconds left in regulation. With the ball at its own 14, the Tigers kneeled on the ball to force overtime.
Demetruce McNeal and Ricky Willis had 11 tackles each to lead the West Alabama defense. Robert Jones, Griffin and Richardson each had an interception for the Tigers.
Caldwell finished the day 14-for-23 for 144 yards passing. Seven of those completions were to Toocheck for 87 yards. Reggie Hall had four catches for 26 yards.
The Tigers return home for the final two games of the regular season, closing out the GSC portion of the schedule Saturday when Shorter visits Tiger Stadium. Kickoff is 6 p.m.