LIVINGSTON, Ala. Matt Gravely nailed a 34-yard field goal with 16 seconds left to lift North Greenville to a 29-28 Gulf South Conference football victory over West Alabama Saturday at Tiger Stadium.
The Tigers and Crusaders have now played four times since 2016 with all four games being decided by a total of nine points and three of the four outcomes coming out in favor of North Greenville.
West Alabama is 3-2 overall, 0-2 in the GSC play. North Greenville broke a three-game losing streak, improving to 2-3 and 1-2.
"The GSC is a great league, so you have to come to play every day," West Alabama head coach Brett Gilliland said. "We came up short today and have a 1,000 miles to go. We will see where we go from here."
After taking a 28-17 lead when Demetrius Battle scored on a 4-yard run with 5:54 to play in the third quarter, West Alabama failed to score over the final 20:54 of the game. The Crusaders connected on a 52-yard scoring pass on the next play following a blocked field goal by Emmanuel Tatum with 5:20 left in the game to cut the UWA lead to 28-26.
"We were feast or famine, but their defensive scheme creates some of that," Gilliland said. "We can't go the whole fourth quarter without scoring and come out good."
West Alabama went three-and-out on the ensuing drive to set up Gravely's game-winning kick, which capped a 12-play, 53-yard game-clinching drive for North Greenville. Bryce Fields connected with Kyle Belack for 20 yards to the UWA 23-yard-line on fourth-and-10 with less than a minute to play to set up the game-winning kick.
North Greenville outgained West Alabama 479 yards to 381, 149-69 in the final 15 minutes of the game. UWA ran for just 111 yards, while NGU collected 197 on the ground.
West Alabama opened the scoring on its second possession when Jack McDaniels found Qua Boyd down the seam for a 16-yard touchdown toss. Tre Jackson's point after kick was blocked and UWA led 6-0 with 9:06 left in the first period.
North Greenville took a 7-6 lead into the second quarter when Fields connected with Dre' Williams on a 29-yard screen pass to give the Crusaders a 7-6 lead with 1:29 left in the first period. The scoring play finished an 11-play, 75-yard drive.
West Alabama regained the lead at 13-7 when Battle barreled in from two yards out at the 7:24 mark of the second period. Zach Gaines point after was good and the Tigers led 13-7. The 2-yard run capped an 8-play, 45 yard drive.
North Greenville drove 70-yards in seven plays after West Alabama failed to convert on fourth down from the Crusader 30. Tyler Bell managed the last two yards on a direct snap and the Crusaders took a 14-13 lead into the half.
West Alabama regained the lead when Derrick Underwood rambled in from 9-yards out for the score on the Tigers opening possession of the second half. Christian Saulsberry added the two-point conversion on a broken play to give UWA a 21-14 lead with 12:20 left in the third period. The TD was Underwood's sixth of the season.
The Crusaders cut the lead to 21-17 on their opening drive of the second half on a Gravely field goal from 23 yards out at the 8:21 mark in the third quarter. The field goal was set up a kickoff return to the NGU 49 to start the drive.
The Crusaders tried an onside kick following the field goal, but Owen Harper fielded the offering to set the Tigers up at the NGU 48-yard-line. Seven plays later the Tigers led 28-17 when Battle scored his second TD.
NGU refused to go away, cutting the West Alabama lead to 28-20 on the ensuing possession on a 32-yard field goal by Gravely with 1:49 left in the third quarter.
Fields completed 19-of-34 passes for 282 yards and two scores. He was not intercepted. McDaniels was 22-of-38 for 248 yards with one TD and an interception.
NGU's Williams led all rushers with 127 yards on 19 carries and all receivers with seven catches for 69 yards. Underwood gained 120 yards on 19 carries for UWA. Bayley Blanchard caught five passes for 80 yards.
Crusaders linebacker Dantevian Byrd amassed 11 tackles to lead all defenders. Jeremiah Boyd and Terrence Jones had 10 stops each for West Alabama.
North Greenville picked up three sacks off a Tiger offensive line that had just given up two in the first four games. The Crusaders had eight tackles for loss, broke up six passes and blocked two kicks.
West Alabama had a pair of sacks and seven tackles for loss, breaking up eight passes and collecting nine quarterback hurries.
West Alabama closes a three-game homestand against Shorter for Homecoming next Saturday. Kickoff is set for 4 p.m. North Greenville is host to West Georgia at 7 p.m.