After Saturday’s 40-34 loss to Hampton, North Alabama heads to the bye week searching for a way to get back in the win column.
The week off serves as a break for all college football teams, but for UNA, it’ll serve as a time to “figure things out.” For one, the Lions hope to get healthy — senior defensive back A.J. Bracey left the game with an injury and others are working to get back. On the other side, players and coaches are still seeking a way to put together a complete game, as it fell short of that going into halftime against Hampton down 20-2.
“We gotta figure out a way,” head coach Chris Willis said. “The timing is off, first half it’s one thing, second half it’s another. It’s been that way … we’ve just got to keep working.”
Willis referenced a play late in the third quarter, when UNA needed just about a yard on fourth down to get a first down trailing 23-15. Jaxton Carson was stuffed at the line and the Lions turned it over on downs.
The head coach, emphasized how close his team was, pointed to the wall outside of the locker room, to show the distance — “we can’t from here to that wall over there.” He was talking about the play itself, but he also meant the difference in situations that keeps his team from winning.
“It’s been that way all year and we haven’t found a way to overcome that,” Willis said.
Breaking down the two halves, the first was the worst the offense looked all season. The second, on the other hand, was arguably the best. Quarterback Christian Lopez got it started with a 55-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Dexter Boykin and went on to score three more touchdowns.
Carson, who was called on to take on a bigger role this game, added another touchdown on a 1-yard run. He finished with 44 yards on the ground.
“We’ve just got to learn how to start fast and play as a team,” Carson said. “We’ll get better this week.”
With two weeks before playing another game, the Lions will have no shortage of preparation. The onside kick that was recovered by UNA but negated by an offsides penalty left Willis with plenty of questions. The official’s explanation was that safety D’Andre Hart was called for “obstruction of the view of the official” even though the call on the field was offsides.
Although the Lions were much better in regard to penalties, they still had six for 51 yards.
“We just gotta finish it. Cut out the mistakes, cut out penalties, and it’s a different ball game,” Hart said.
Hart also said he’s looking forward to the bye week to rest his body. He explained it as opportunity for the players to get better mentally. Linebacker Jalen Dread said it’s time to “get back to the drawing board.”
But Carson summed up what everyone on the team, including the coaches are thinking.
“We kind of wanted to go into the bye week with a W,” Carson said. “But we’ve got extra time to get better.”