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UWA faces giant challenge at McNeese State

Published 12:14pm Friday, September 13, 2013

West Alabama is loading the buses Friday morning, traveling to the southwestern region of the state of Louisiana in an effort to accomplish something on Saturday similar to what McNeese State did when they loaded the airplane and headed to Tampa, Fla., two weeks ago.

The Tigers (1-0) travel to Football Championship Series power McNeese State, a program ranked as high as No. 13 in one FCS poll, for game two of the 2013 season. Last week’s 42-6 rout of Clark Atlanta is in the rearview mirror as 11th ranked UWA motors toward a matchup where the opponent is playing with 29 more scholarships in one the nation’s best atmospheres for college football.

On Aug. 31 McNeese State (2-0) faced similar odds when the Cowboys sauntered into Tampa to face Bowl Championship Series member South Florida with 20 fewer scholarships.

Thing is, the Cowboys corralled the Bulls and galloped out of Raymond James Stadium with a 53-21 victory in addition to a nice payday.

“It’s a football game, no different from any other football game. We need to protect the football and do the things we do all the time,” UWA head coach Will Hall said. “This is a great football team we are playing, so win or lose, playing this games causes you to step your level of play up. We don’t feel like we are playing anybody else the rest of the year that is as talented as McNeese State. They are an all around great football team. If you don’t believe it, ask South Florida.”

After disposing of USF, McNeese State won its home opener last week, 58-14, over Arkansas-Pine Bluff.

The Cowboys lead the FCS nation in scoring at 55.5 points per game and have recorded 38 plays from the offense, defense and special teams that have gone for at least 10 yards.

West Alabama got off to a fast start against Division II South Region foe Clark Atlanta to open the season, jumping to a 21-0 lead in the first 11 minutes of the game. Hall was pleased with the Tigers, noting, “We did what we needed to do.”

The Tigers third-year head coach liked the play of a Tiger defense that limited CAU to just 2.5 yards per play and nine total yards in the third quarter.

He was also pleased with overall execution and a lack of mental errors.

More of the same – and then some – will be needed Saturday at Cowboy Stadium, but Hall knows that while the trip to McNeese State could be a defining moment for UWA’s program, there is plenty of football left to be played in 2013 and Gulf South Conference title to defend.

“We are preparing like we always do. We have good football players as well,” Hall said. “Our goals are to win the Gulf South Conference and a Division II national championship. This is the next step, game two. If we win the turnover and penalty battles, play smart and execute, we have a chance to play well. Any time you are playing up a level and at their place you can’t give away points. We need to control the things we can control.”

Hall knows the hill is steep, but anyone connected with a Hall-coached team also knows backing down has never been, and never will be, and option.

“Obviously, if we could win the game, it would be huge on the national scene for our program,” he said. “Having gone through this is going to make us better at the end of the year when we have to be better.”

Picked to win the GSC title and to make a deep run into the 2013 NCAA Division II Playoffs, West Alabama has proven it won’t back down from a fight. The Tigers split with last year’s Division II national champions Valdosta State.

A single stone caused a Philistine giant to fall thousands of years ago.

Besides, McNeese State itself proved two weeks ago in Tampa that sometimes you just never know.

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