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UWA looks to go 3-0 against Lambuth

LIVINGSTON — Bobby Wallace’s team has its hands full Saturday night when it hosts a Lambuth squad teeming with confidence after its 23-14 win over FCS upstart Georgia State last weekend.

“We anticipate a good football team. They are very confident right now,” Wallace said. “They just beat a Football Championship Subdivision team. They beat us at home last year. They’ve got a great football team.”

The Jackson, Tenn. based NAIA school lost its first game of the season to Arkansas Tech before rebounding with the win over GSU. In its first season under head coach Rod Dickerson, Lambuth enters Livingston with the knowledge that it left town with a 58-40 victory after its last trip to UWA.

“I don’t think there is any question we felt like we could have won the game had we taken care of the things we needed to do,” Wallace said. “I’d say it serves as a motivator.”

That loss came despite a career-best performance from backup quarterback Gary Johnston, the Gulf Shores native who started in place of an injured Deon Williams that night. Johnston rushed for 135 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries and completed 18 out of 35 passes for 35 yards and another score. But the effort was not enough to overcome a Lambuth assault that racked up 484 yards of total offense and proved adept at capitalizing on Tiger mistakes.

UWA and Lambuth each turned the ball over five times in that game, but the Tigers could not dig themselves out of an early hole and spent much of the contest behind the eight-ball of the Eagles’ passing attack. That aerial game accounted for 344 yards and three scores. The leading receiver was Rod Jefferson, a 6-8 Batesville, Miss. native that makes Wallace just as uneasy as he was a season ago.

“He creates match-up problems primarily because we don’t have any defensive backs that big,” Wallace said of Jefferson, who recorded six catches in the teams’ 2009 clash.

But as much as Jefferson has given Wallace’s defense cause for concern, it is running back Marquis Williams the UWA defense will most need to limit. The 5-7 Williams has proven the Eagles’ workhorse through the season’s first two games and boasts enough talent that Wallace considers him among the top backs his Tigers will face all season.

However, as much as he believes the Eagles will bring with them a more potent rushing attack, Wallace is confident his Tigers are a better football team than they were a season ago.

“I think we can run the football better than we could last year too,” Wallace said of a ground game that has averaged 185 yards per game in 2010 behind the rushing exploits of Selma native T-Ray Mitchell.

The Tiger roster is also the deepest it has been in Wallace’s Livingston tenure, giving the NCAA Division II Hall of Fame coach reason to believe the weather may be to the home team’s advantage.

“I think it will help simply because of the weather,” Wallace said of the Tigers’ depth. “Kickoff is at 6, so we’re starting a little earlier and it is going to be hotter.”

The game is also the first time Wallace will square off with Lambuth coach Ron Dickerson, the man whom he replaced at Temple in 1997.

“I think we both have compassion for each other because when we were at Temple, it was a pretty tough situation being in the Big East with teams that had better ammunition than we did. I don’t want to be negative about Temple though. Temple has improved its situation and started to while I was there. They’ve gotten into a conference where they can repeat,” Wallace said of the common ground he and Dickerson. “I think you could say we have sympathy for each other.”