LIVINGSTON, Ala. – Kyle Caldwell combined for 321 yards and passed for three touchdowns as West Alabama crushed West Georgia, 45-14, in Gulf South Conference action Saturday at Tiger Stadium.
West Alabama improved to 6-2 overall and 4-0 in GSC action heading into next week's game at rival North Alabama (5-2, 3-1). West Georgia lost its third straight, dropping to 4-4 and 1-3.
Caldwell ran for 146 yards in addition to completing 14-of-19 passes for 175 yards, but the junior from Dadeville, Ala., said this Homecoming victory was sealed long before the Tigers ever stepped on the Tiger Stadium turf.
"We won this game Monday through Friday at practice," Caldwell said. "I knew I needed to have a great week for us to bounce back and the guys around me made it easy for me to have a decent night."
Chad Toocheck, who had a touchdown reception as one of his four catches for 49 yards, agreed with Caldwell. Seth Roberts led Tiger receivers with five catches for 70 yards and a score. Tyler O'Neal hauled in Caldwell's other TD pass.
"Most of our wins come during the week and we had a good week of practice," Toocheck said. "When we practice and prepare the right way then the games are easy. Kyle had a great game and we were running all over the place."
West Alabama rang up 520 yards of total offense, while holding West Georgia to just a pair of scores after building a 35-0 lead. The Tigers had 31 first downs and rushed for 335 yards, including 130 from Javae Swindle.
"I was pleased by the way we played in the first half, scoring the first three time we had the football and playing lights out on defense," UWA head coach Will Hall said. "We really played well and got up big by getting back to playing Tiger football."
The West Alabama defense allowed two West Georgia quarterbacks to complete just 11-of-27 passes for 155 yards while intercepting the Wolves three times. Demetrus McNeal had a pair of interceptions and Malcolm Butler added another for UWA.
"We just kept pushing and making plays," McNeal said. "You know they are going to make some plays, but we have to make more than they do. That's what playing defense is all about."
"Demetrus' (McNeal's) interception late in the first half kind of sealed it for us," Hall said. "We wanted to come out, get a convincing win and then get ready to go to UNA."
Tied with Marty Washington (92-93) coming into the game, Caldwell moved into second place on the West Alabama career touchdown pass list in the first quarter, tossing his 41st and 42nd to Toocheck and O'Neal, for 16 and 19 yards, respectively.
Gary Johnston added to his career rushing touchdown record with his 24th and 25th TD runs on 1-yard plunges in the second and third quarters.
West Georgia threatened late in the first half, but McNeal intercepted Wolves quarterback Dallas Dickey in the end zone to end the threat and West Alabama took a 21-0 lead into the half.
The Tigers stretched the lead to 35-0 with just over 10 minutes left in the third quarter on Johnston's second touchdown and a 15-yard scoring pass from Caldwell to Roberts. The TD reception was the ninth of the year for Roberts.
West Georgia got on the scoreboard with 5:50 left in the third period on an 11-yard scoring pass from Dickey to Bobby Burum, cutting the UWA lead to 35-7.
The Wolves then recovered an onside kick to retake possession, then converted a fourth-down try at the UWA 47 to set up a 23-yard scoring pass from Dickey to Denarius Appling to cut the UWA lead to 35-14 with 3:37 left in the third period.
McNeal's second interception of the game set the Tigers up at the West Georgia 36, where Caldwell navigated his way for a 36-yard score, and then a 1-yard touchdown run, only to have both called back for holding.
Swindle scored for the third time on the five-play, 36-yard drive, this time from 10 yards out on an untimed play, to give West Alabama a 42-14 lead at the end of third quarter.
Mark Grant capped off West Alabama scoring with a 32-yard field goal with 5:11 left to play, leaving him a perfect 5-for-5 this season. Grant was also perfect on all six PAT kicks.
Robert Jones led West Alabama defenders with 10 tackles. Mario Gainer had five stops, including one sack and one tackle for loss. Tyrell Adams had seven tackles for West Georgia, who recorded eight stops behind the line of scrimmage for minus 33 yards.
Dickey led UWG rushing with 69 yards on 12 carries. Burum caught five passes for 80 yards.