UWA handles Limestone 27-17 in first game in over a year

The Tigers led the Saints 20-10 at halftime
The Tigers led the Saints 20-10 at halftime(Jordan Allison/UWA Athletics)
Published: Mar. 7, 2021 at 2:30 PM CST
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LIVINGSTON, Ala. (UWA Athletics) – It had been 475 days since West Alabama had played a football game at Tiger Stadium and the Tigers made the most of a long awaited opportunity by defeating Limestone University, 27-17, Saturday. 

Despite not playing in over a year due to the COVD-19 pandemic, West Alabama rolled up 515 yards of total offense and allowed less than 200 rushing and passing, making enough plays to take control of the game down the stretch and come away with the win. 

“At times it looked like we had not played in over 400 days, but one thing we don’t do around here is apologize for winning,” UWA head coach Brett Gililand said. “The last time I checked 27 is more than 17 and we will take that for sure. 

“Considering this game didn’t even exist 10 days ago I believe we did a pretty good job,” Gilliland said. “Not just us as a football program, but everybody on campus from the administration to the campus police to the physical plant and especially our athletic administration all came together to make today happen.”

Derrick Underwood rushed for a career-high 148 yards on 23 carries and Tyriq Martin caught a career-best 10 passes for 166 yards and a touchdown to highlight the day for the Tiger offense. Quarterback Jack McDaniels completed 21-of-36 for two TDs and was intercepted once on a tipped ball. 

“We have been practicing for a long time,” Underwood said. “It felt good to be out there. It was pretty exciting to be in a real game. Not a lot of people are getting to do that.” 

Linebacker Josh Hatcher recorded 10 tackles to lead West Alabama’s defense. Defensive end Undraez Lilly and safety Shamar Lewis followed with eight tackles each, with Lilly recording a half sack and 1.5 tackles for loss. Lewis had a tackle for loss and forced a fumble. 

“It definitely felt different than being out at practice,” Lilly said. “Hats off to our defense. What I saw today was very promising, but there is a lot of room to improve, especially in our tackling and communication.” 

West Alabama defenders broke up 11 passes, with TJ Newell slapping away three. Chris Terrell and Rakeem Terry were involved in tackles for loss. SchDarren Archie forced a fumble. De Mays and Terrance Carter recovered fumbles. 

West Alabama opened the scoring with 3:10 left in the first quarter when McDaniels and Bayley Blanchard hooked up on a 25-yard scoring toss to cap a seven-play, 78-yard drive that took 3:10. Gabe Dunkle kicked the extra point and the Tigers led 7-0. Blanchard caught four balls for 51 yards and a score.

James Smith rambled 28 yards on the first play of the second quarter for a touchdown and Dunkle’s PAT made it 14-0 Tigers with 14:51 left in the first half. Smith followed Underwood with 61 rushing yards on just six carries. Dunkle and Kevin Butchers added a field goals of 40 and 28 yards, respectively, to give UWA a 20-3 lead with 3:23 left in the second quarter. 

Limestone scored its first touchdown on a 48-yard pass from Dustin Noller to Juwan Scott. Austin Kemp’s PAT made it 20-10 Tigers with 1:52 until intermission.

Kemp missed a 37-yard field goal attempt as time expired in the first half to leave it 20-10 UWA at the midpoint. Noller hooked up with Demond Ellison on a 20-yard scoring toss to cut the West Alabama lead to 20-17 at the 8:26 mark in the third period. Noller finished 13-of-31 for 182 yards and the two scores. 

Jerko’ya Patton led Saints rushers with 122 yards on 26 carries. Scott led Limestone receivers with four receptions for 89 yards. 

McDaniels found Martin on a 25-yard touchdown pass with 9:51 left to play to ice the game away. Dunkle’s point after made it 27-17 West Alabama. 

“We have an embarrassment of riches at wide receiver with Tyriq, Bayley and Deyon Hill in the slot,” McDaniels said. “We are also pretty good up front with three starters back and some really good running backs and tight ends. 

“Twenty-seven points is not a bad number, but it’s not good enough,” McDaniels said. “We moved the ball well, but we had some execution pieces that held us back. We moved the ball well about 80 percent of the time.” 

West Alabama ends its two-game spring season Saturday against Savannah State Saturday at Ladd-Peeples Stadium in Mobile, Alabama. Kickoff for the Gulf Coast Challenge is set for 4 p.m. Limestone is at home March 20 against UVA Wise.

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