FLORENCE, Ala. -- Coming off a 49-17 home win over Virginia-Wise last Saturday, the University of North Alabama football team will face a huge obstacle this weekend in the form of nationally ranked and undefeated Chattanooga on the road at Finley Stadium.
North Alabama will carry a 1-1 record into the contest, while the Mocs are ranked as high as ninth nationally in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) after opening the season with a pair of wins over Wofford (31-0) and Eastern Illinois (38-20).
Kickoff is set for 5:00 p.m. Central for UNA’s first trip to Chattanooga since 1963.
Last year’s meeting between the two schools in Florence did not go well for the Lions. In a 20-0 loss to Chattanooga, UNA was shutout for the first time since 2010, and the Lions were held under 100 yards of total offense for the first time since 1985. The Mocs picked off a UNA pass in their own end zone early in the game to stop a UNA threat, and then returned a second interception for a touchdown.
UNA Head Football Coach Chris Willis said the 2022 version of the Mocs appears to be as good, or better, than the one the Lions faced a year ago.
“They were the best defensive football team that we saw last year,” said Willis. “And from what I have seen on film, they have a lot of those guys back and look like they have improved from last year.
“They are the favorite to with the Southern Conference (SoCon) Championship and are ranked in the Top 10 in FCS. This is going to be a challange,” Willis added.
Willis also said the Lions’ keys to sucess will be to not turn the ball over and limit penalties and other mistakes.
In its win last weekend, UNA rushed for 369 yards, behind an individual school record 251 yards from sophomore ShunDerrick Powell of Hoxie, Ark. On the flip side, the Lions were just 7-of-21 passing 96 yards in the first collegiate start for true freshman Noah Walters of Lincoln, Neb., but did not turn the ball over.
“We are not throwing the ball well right now, and that is something we will have to be better at this weekend,” Willis said. “We were just 4-of-12 on third down and that’s an area we will have to improve.”
Willis also said the Lions’ defense will have to be ready to go from the opening whistle, after coming out of the gate slow last weekend as UNA fell behind 14-0.
The UNA defense has been active, forcing six turnovers in two games with four interceptions and two recovered fumbles.
This game with Chattanooga will be North Alabama’s first game this season against a nationally ranked team, but the tenth by the Lions against a ranked Division I team since their move to Division I in 2018. All-time UNA is 0-11 against ranked FCS opponents, with the eight of those 11 games coming on the road. This will be the 15th game against a nationally ranked opponent that UNA has played under Willis in his 49th game as head coach of the Lions.