FLORENCE — With a season-high in points and total yards of offense, North Alabama’s offense showed the potential of how good it could be in Saturday's 41-21 win over Presbyterian College.
There are, of course, other factors to consider. The Blue Hose (0-4) struggled coming into this game and made mistakes offensively and in special teams that aided the Lions’ winning efforts.
But it was the big plays that allowed UNA (2-3) to gather 428 yards. It also showed it might have the talent that can succeed in games if the execution is there.
“We know from last (season), our offense can get rolling and we can make big plays,” redshirt sophomore wide receiver Dexter Boykin said. “Now we just got to the stack good days on good days and keep it rolling.”
Boykin was the recipient of two touchdown passes from quarterback Christian Lopez — and they were his only two catches of the game. The first came on a back-shoulder throw to the right sideline. Boykin caught it out of the air, broke a tackle and ran 55 yards for a touchdown. The next, another back-shoulder throw, this time to the left sideline. Boykin grabbed that one, broke another tackle and reached the ball past the pylon for a 18-yard touchdown.
As for the two identical plays, Boykin said that’s not his go-to or anything. Rather, it’s just a testament to the good connection between the quarterback — known as “Panchi” by his teammates — and the receiver.
“Panchi throws it up there and I gotta grab it,” Boykin said. “He does a really good job of putting the ball in a place where only I can catch it. I commend him for that.”
It’s not just the offensive players that realize the team can be good on that side of the ball. Members of the secondary, who combined for UNA’s three turnovers and had a major impact on the game in their own right, see it too.
“Our offense, they’re special,” senior defensive back A.J. Bracey said. “They’re real special.”
Bracey was also a contributor to the final score when he returned an interception 18 yards for a touchdown. His teammate in the secondary, K.J. Smith, had another interception and safety D’Andre Hart rounded it out with a forced fumble.
Smith said the defense “piggy-backs” off of the offense, and vice-versa. In the first quarter, Lopez was sacked in the end zone for a safety and it took a while to get going offensively. The defense kept UNA in the game with stops on third down and didn’t allow a touchdown the rest of the period.
On the other side, when the defense gave up a touchdown in the second quarter with a 16-yard touchdown pass from Blue Hose quarterback Brandon Thompson to running back Aiden Turner, the UNA offense doubled that with two scores of its own.
“It’s a good feeling seeing them boys whoop up on other boys,” Smith said. “It’s nice being able to sit on the bench a little longer.”
The big plays kept coming throughout the game. Senior running back Terence Humphrey reeled off a 88-yard touchdown run. Lopez found Cortez Hall for a 45-yard gain that set up a 5-yard touchdown from the same two players later in the drive.
It was encouraging for the other players to see.
“That’s what we like to see, I think this game is going to get us back on our feet, get us going,” Hart said.
Head coach Chris Willis was pleased with the way his offense played. The target was to score over 40 points. But he also thinks there’s more for his team to accomplish.
“This is a young team that’s got the talent,” Willis said. “Our best football is still ahead.”