UWA routs Delta State 37-7, earns at least share of GSC crown
West Alabama put together a dominating performance on the way to earning a share of the Gulf South Conference football championship with a 37-7 victory over Delta State Saturday at McCool Stadium.
The Tigers rang up 459 yards of total offense while limiting the Statesmen to just 204. The top ranked defense in the GSC held Delta State to 215 yards less than its season average and forced six Statesmen turnovers.
The win ensures West Alabama of at least a portion of its first GSC title since 1971. A win against North Alabama on Nov. 8 or another Valdosta State loss clinches the outright crown for the Tigers.
“I don’t know when running the football, playing great defense and playing well in the kicking game became so uncool, but we are an uncool championship program,” UWA head coach Will Hall said. “I am so proud of our guys. We have been a good football team all year and we have two more big games to close out the season.”
UWA gashed Delta State for 261 yards rushing while holding the Statesmen to 96 yards below their rushing average for the season.
West Alabama drew first blood with 3:34 left in the first quarter. A 4-yard run by Danny Hobbs capped a 14-play, 83-yard drive and gave the Tigers a 7-0 lead. Hobbs accounted for 41 yards running and receiving on the drive.
Delta State tied the game on the first play of the second quarter, when a 1-yard run by Trevor Wooten capped a 39 yard DSU drive for a score that was set up by Lavon Downs 43 yard kickoff return following the touchdown by Hobbs.
UWA’s next drive stalled, but Fred Barnes recovered a muffed punt by Erick Clayton at the Delta State 6 yard line. Following an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty Kyle Caldwell hooked up with Dakota Daniel on a 21-yard scoring pass at the 11:52 mark in second quarter to give the Tigers a 14-7 lead.
“We played as a team after coming in here as underdogs,” Caldwell said. “They expected us to lay down because Matt Willis tore his ACL, but instead of playing one man down we played 22 men together.”
Ridge Turner intercepted Wooten on Delta State’s ensuring drive and returned it 32 yards to midfield, setting up a 26-yard field goal by Ryne Smith, his 23rd consecutive without a miss, to give UWA a 17-7 lead at halftime.
“We had everybody doing what they are coached to do tonight. This was a team win,” Turner said. “Coach (Robert) Henry had a great plan and we put together a great effort.”
The Tiger defense forced a three and out and UWA quickly made it 24-7 when Caldwell hit Chad Toocheck for a 13-yard touchdown pass with 22 seconds left in half. The Statesmen tried for the home run on the first play following the kickoff, but Malcolm Butler grabbed his fifth interception of the season.
Delta State moved to the UWA 1-yard midway through the third period, but fumbled into the waiting arms of Turner in the Tiger endzone to end the threat.
Following a UWA punt, Ryan Jones recovered a Statesman fumble at the Delta 45. Four plays later Hobbs scampered in from 13 yards for the touchdown. Smith’s PAT was no good, ending his consecutive made PAT streak at 79, but the Tigers led 30-7 late in the third.
George Michael Rowe topped off UWA scoring from 3 yards out and Smith’s PAT made it 37-7 UWA with 5:02 left to play.
Johnston ran for 90 yards and Hobbs for 71 to lead the Tigers. Caldwell finished 11-for-18 for 170 yards and two touchdowns. Hobbs led Tiger receivers with 80 yards of four catches. Ridge Wilson recorded 11 tackles for UWA, including a sack and 2.5 tackles for loss.
Wooten had 38 yards to pace Statesmen rushers and completed just 3-of-12 passes for 39 yards. Eric Williams had 11 stops for the Statesmen.