UWA dominant in GSC win over Delta State

Published 10:59 pm Thursday, October 3, 2013

The West Alabama defense held Delta State to minus-seven yards rushing and piled up 569 yards total offense on the way to a 48-14 Gulf South Conference football victory over the Statesmen Thursday at Tiger Stadium.

The 12th ranked Tigers improved to 4-1 overall, 2-0 in the GSC with top-ranked Valdosta State visiting Tiger Stadium next Thursday night. Delta State is 3-2 and 2-1.

“Our defense played amazing and the offense was clicking,” West Alabama quarterback Gary Johnston said. “There is something special happening in Livingston right now and we want everybody to know about it.”

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Delta State came into the game averaging 523.8 yards per game. At the half UWA had limited the Statesmen to just 18 total yards and finished the game by holding DSU to 226 yards below their average while recording 14 tackles behind the line of scrimmage.

“Our defense rose to the challenge,” UWA head coach Will Hall said. “All week long all they have heard and read was how this was going to be our offense versus Delta State’s offense. Our guys answered the bell.

“This is a good Delta State football team that didn’t quit tonight,” Hall said. “They went up to North Alabama and won on the road in this league and have been playing really well.”

UWA quarterback Kyle Caldwell completed 11-for-22 for 186 yards and two touchdowns despite playing just one series in the second half. The junior from Dadeville, Ala., moved into fifth on the all-time West Alabama passing list with 4,114 yards.

Johnston scored the first Tiger points of the night on a 2-yard run, capping a six-play, 29-yard drive that was set up by a Tirelle Cullen fumble recovery. The score was Johnston’s 22nd career rushing touchdown, tying him for first on the UWA career rushing TD list with Matt Willis (2011-12) and Alfred Banks (1987-90).

Caldwell connected with tight end Tyler O’Neal for 21 yards and the second UWA touchdown with 1:06 left in the first quarter.

West Alabama stretched the lead to 24-0 at the half on a 37-yard Mark Grant field goal and a 29-yard touchdown run by Javae Swindle. Swindle’s TD was set up by a Juantez Hartsfield fumble recovery at the DSU 34.

Caldwell and Seth Roberts connected on a 79-yard pass and run to put UWA up 31-0. With 1:24 left in the first half. On the next possession Ryan Jones swatted the football away from DSU quarterback Trevor Champion and Dereck Jordan scooped and scored from 7 yards out to give the Tigers a commanding 38-0 halftime lead.

After giving the ball up on downs on its first possession of the second half at the Delta State 4-yard line, the Tiger defense held and Johnston engineered a six-play, 40-yard drive to put West Alabama up 45-0 late in the third period. Johnston found Malik Lofton on a 4-yard pass for the score.

Delta State managed a pair of late scores against West Alabama reserves, driving 58 yards on seven plays and scoring on a 1-yard run by Justin McArthur with 25 seconds left in the third quarter. Tyler Sullivan connected with Patrick Behtley for a 27-yard TD pass with 2:21 to play.

“We wanted that zero, but we ended up giving up 14. Still, I guess we will take it,” said Jones, who had six tackles, two sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss. The junior from Irondale also forced two fumbles and broke up a pass.

Grant added a career-long 42-yard field goal in the fourth quarter to round out West Alabama scoring. Reggie Hall busted loose for a 57-yard touchdown run with less than a minute to play, only to have it called back by a block in the back. From there the Tigers took a knee twice to run out the clock.

Hall finished as UWA’s leading rusher with 123 yards on 11 carries. Kedrick Rhodes ran for 81 yards on 11 trips. Chad Toocheck and Lofton each four receptions for the Tigers, for 36 and 33 yards, respectively.

Safeties Robert Jones and Brandon Lilly recorded seven tackles apiece, while Malcolm Butler and Frank Richardson each broke up three passes. The Tigers had 11 passes broken up in the game.