Missed Opportunities Cost Tigers in The Delta

(UWA Athletics)
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CLEVELAND, Miss. West Alabama managed just one score in five trips to the red zone on the way to a 14-7 Gulf South Conference football loss at Delta State Saturday.

The Statesmen snapped a five-game losing streak against West Alabama while keeping the Tigers out of the endzone twice in late in the game from inside the DSU 5-yard-line. Both times the Tiger drive ended with no points after fourth-down stops by Delta State.

Delta State broke a two-game losing streak, improving to 4-3 overall and 3-2 in GSC play. West Alabama dipped to 4-3 and 1-3.

HOW THEY SCORED:
*Breck Ruddick connected on a 3-yard touchdown pass to Cam Shelton with 7:33 left in the third quarter. Taylor Crabtree kicked the PAT and Delta State led, 7-0. The scoring pass capped a 7-play, 25-yard drive that started with a Statesmen interception.

*West Alabama evened the score at 7-7 when Jacob Murphy and Jonnas Spivey connected on a 4-yard TD pass with 5:00 left in the third quarter. The Tigers got a reprieve on the extra point. The first attempt was blocked, but UWA was called for illegal motion and Zach Gaines made the longer attempt. The drive covered 50 yards on seven plays.

*Delta State's final score came on an 11-yard run by Rico Owens II to cap an eight-play, 65-yard drive with 55 seconds left in the third quarter.

QUOTING COACH BRETT GILLILAND:
"We had several guys making big time plays. In the end we just didn't make enough. It was a physical GSC football game.

"It hurts because we know how many chances we had to change the outcome. Credit goes to Delta State. they played well and made the plays to win.

"There is nothing we can do now to change the outcome of the game, but we can learn from it and decide as a team to rally together and finish strong. I wouldn't count this team out yet."

WHAT HAPPENED OFFENSIVELY:
*West Alabama managed just 266 yards total offense, 199 through the air and 67 on the ground. Delta State had 329 yards, 129 passing and 200 rushing.

*West Alabama managed to convert just 7-of-20 attempts on third down, 2-of-5 on fourth. DSU was 10-of-19 on third down and 0-of-2 on fourth.

*Murphree converted 12-of-25 passes for 105 yards after taking over for starter Jack McDaniels on the third possession of the second half. McDaniels was 9-of-21 for 94 yards and an interception that set up the game-winning score for the Statesmen.

*Bayley Blanchard's one-handed grab for 32-yards set up the Murphree to Spivey touchdown, moving UWA to the Delta State 6-yard-line. Blanchard led UWA with six receptions for 75 yards and was one of 10 Tigers to catch a pass.

*James Smith carried seven times for 50 yards and Derrick Underwood seven for 32 to pace the Tigers.

*Ruddick completed 24-of-32 for DSU or 129 yards, a TD and a pick. Owens II rushed for 107 yards on 14 tries for the Statesmen. LJ Hawkins was one of 10 Statesmen to have a reception, catching five for 30 yards.

WHAT HAPPENED DEFENSIVELY:
*Tiger linebacker Josh Hatcher recorded his first career interception.

*Tavarius Hutchison recorded 11 total tackles to lead West Alabama. Corey Proctor was credited with 10 tackles, including two for loss.

*Jordan Jones and Dorsett Johnson were both credited with a pair of tackles for loss. Terrence Jones and Proctor both recorded sacks.

*Linebacker Vada King had 13 total tackles to lead Delta State, including two tackles for loss and a quarterback hurry.

*King, Dante Williams, Zane Samuel and Kahlil Johnson had two tackles for loss each.

THIS AND THAT:
Delta State outgained the Tigers 88-18 in total yards in the first quarter, even though neither team scored in the first quarter.

The Tigers blew a scoring chance midway through the second quarter, setting up shop at the DSU 15-yard-line . Four plays and a penalty later, the Tigers were punting on 4th-and-28 from the DSU 33.

West Alabama also failed to score on first down from the Delta State 2-yard-line late in the half. A 44-yard completion from McDaniels to Christian Saulsberry set up the scoring opportunity. UWA running back Demetrius Battle was stopped three times inside the Statesmen 5-yard-line.

The Tigers began the second half with 78-yard kickoff return by Saulsberry to set up the UWA offense at the DSU 17. Four plays later Zach Gaines missed a 32-yard field goal and the Tigers had made it to the Statesmen red zone three times without points.

Tim Hall intercepted McDaniels on an overthrow to Qua Boyd in the third quarter to set up the Statesmen at the UWA 25-yard-line early in the third quarter. The Statesmen fumbled on two of the next three snaps, but DSU recovered the both to stay in business, leading to the 3-yard scoring pass from Ruddick to Shelton.

West Alabama was stopped three times from a yard out, the last time with 1:47 to play. After a 22-yard completion by Blanchard and a DSU penalty the Tigers failed to score on four tries from the DSU 3-yard line.

NEXT WEEK:
*The Tigers return home to host West Georgia on ESPN3. Delta State has the week off.