LIVINGSTON, Ala. - West Alabama allowed Delta State to convert just 2-of-15 on third down and limited the Statesmen to just 55 yards in the third quarter as the Tigers defeated the Statesmen, 17-14, Saturday at Tiger Stadium.
The win improved UWA to 5-2 overall and 2-2 in Gulf South Conference play. Delta State dropped to 0-7 and 0-5.
"Our defense played their tails off and in the end we found a way to win," UWA head coach Brett Gilliland said. "We tried to keep the kids focused all week on the fact that Delta State would fight tooth and nail and they did."
Jordan Graddy's diving interception finally sealed the deal for UWA with 1:12 left to play. Graddy's first career pick came just two plays after he was flagged for a questionable personal foul that gave DSU the ball with a first down at their own 44-yard-line.
"I am just thankful to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ," Graddy said. "I have been grinding for this day a long time."
Graddy had lots of help from linebackers Kirk Messick and Terry Samuel, who combined to 23 tackles. Messick had 12 stops, three for loss, and Samuel chipped in 11.
"(Defensive coordinator) Coach (Steve) Sisa put me in the right place and I still left a couple of plays out there," Messick said. "Coach told us there would be a lot of base defense, so I knew I would be getting a lot of snaps.
"I just zoned in to make plays to get us off the field," Messick said. "I just read my keys and hit it full speed."
West Alabama, who came into the game as the top defense in the GSC against the run limited the Statesmen to just 76 yards rushing on 33 attempts, just 2.3 yards per rush. Kelon Wilson, who scored both DSU touchdowns, was the Statesmen's leading rusher with 32 yards on 11 trips.
"We knew they would try to run on us. That's what they wanted to do," Samuels said. "They have been a power team all through the season and we knew they would man up and play the whole game."
West Alabama scored on its first possession when Derrick Underwood's 2-yard run capped a 10-play, 65-yard drive with 12:34 left in the opening period.
Delta State answered late in the first period on a 5-yard touchdown run by Wilson to finish an eight-play, 46-yard drive that tied the score at 7-7 at the 2:47 mark of the opening period.
Harry Satterwhite and Qua Boyd connected on a 10-yard scoring pass early in the second quarter to give West Alabama a 14-7 lead with 12:06 left in the first half. The TD pass was the 55th of Satterwhite's career.
"In the end we found a way to win the day," Gilliland said. "We made plays in the passing game when we needed to. That TD catch by Qua (Boyd) was vintage Qua."
Satterwhite finished 24-of-40 for 264 yards, with 16 of his completions ending up in the hands of Christian Saulsberry and Qua Boyd.
"They are a good defense that stacks the box and forces you to play pitch and catch," Satterwhite said. "Big props to our defense who kept us in position to win the football game."
Saulsberry hauled in a career-best 10 receptions for 122 yards, while Boyd caught six for 86 yards after missing the last three games due to injury. Underwood led Tiger rushing with 33 yards on nine carries.
"We knew they would play a lot of man coverage, so our goal was to win the one-on-one battles," Saulsberry said. "We wanted to start fast and get points early."
State knotted the score at 14-14 with 1:41 left to play in the third period. The Statesmen took advantage of an 11-yard West Alabama punt to score in seven plays from the UWA 35. Wilson capped the drive with a 1-yard plunge.
Jordan Bennett made a 39-yard field goal with 12:33 to play to give West Alabama the final 17-14 margin.
West Alabama travels top No. 4 West Georgia Saturday. Delta State is host to Shorter.