HAMPTON, Va. — Whether it was the 2 p.m. kickoff, the cooler weather in Northern Virginia or the effects of travel, North Alabama struggled mightily to get going early against Hampton.
But in the second half, the Lions woke up, with a 55-yard touchdown pass from Christian Lopez to Dexter Boykin being the catalyst.
But despite the second half push that resulted in two of UNA’s interceptions and 32 second half points, Hampton found a way to hold on thanks to big plays from receiver Jadakis Bonds and running back Will Robinson, with quarterback Deondre Francois more often than not being the one to deliver them the ball.
“It’s tough man,” senior safety D’Andre Hart said. “We didn’t start off good as a team. We gotta put a complete game together.”
Screen game fuels Pirate offense
Any time it looked like the UNA defense was getting pressure on Francois, he dumped it off to his running back Will Robinson.
Robinson, most of the time, did the rest, gathering 92 receiving and gashing the Lions defense for big play after big play. He also added 93 yards on the ground. Hampton finished with a whopping 543 total yards of offense.
Anytime the Pirates needed a big play or a third-down conversion, they dumped it off to Robinson, Shai McKenzie or WIll Eason and UNA couldn’t figure out a way to stop it.
Turnovers change the game
UNA finished the game with three turnovers, all interceptions. The important part about these plays is that they came at crucial times for the Lions’ defense.
Jeffery Battle’s interception killed a Hampton drive as the Pirates were threatening in UNA territory. Hart’s did the same, and Jalen Dread’s was a pick six — but it was negated by a holding penalty.
Those turnovers, with two of the three resulting in touchdowns for the offense, helped turn a 20-2 game by halftime into UNA’s first lead of the game with 11:26 left in the fourth quarter.
In the end, however, Francois and Robinson were too much for the Lions to stop.
Wacky day for special teams
It was a rather unusual day for both UNA and Hampton in regard to the special teams.
Each team earned two points by scoring a touchdown off the opposition’s point-after tries. For Hampton, it was a bad snap on an extra-point attempt. For UNA, it was a pick six on a two-point try.
Joe Gurley, on the other hand, had an up-and-down day. He went 1-for-2 on extra points.
The game ended on another odd sequence that involved the kicking game. Gurley’s onside kick was recovered by UNA, but a player on the opposite side of the play was called offsides. The Lions kicked again, but the ball was illegally touched.
“I was confused on that, I don’t know,” Willis said of the penalty on the onside kick. “The guy wasn’t involved in the play. That just didn’t make a lot of sense to me.”