By Tyler Wood

Staff Writer

A year ago, this football game would have been a Gulf South Conference matchup that would have meant more than just a win or loss in the overall column. It would have shaped the standings of the GSC at the end of the season.

Now, North Alabama has transitioned from GSC staple to Division-1 FCS independent. While their schedule consists of four Gulf South teams, those games will no longer matter when the conference champions are crowned.

Saturday, a new chapter of the brief rivalry between the West Florida Argonauts (4-1, 3-0 GSC) and the North Alabama Lions (3-2 FCS Independents) will be written in Florence, Ala.

Fresh off a near upset at the hands of a winless Delta State team, the Argos avoided disaster by scoring 24 unanswered points in the second half to overcome a 21-6 halftime deficit and hang on for a 30-21 win.

Coach Pete Shinnick said the Statesmen are a better football team than their 0-5 record indicates, but also didn’t expect his team to get off to such a slow start.

“I really expected to see their best and to have them counter us with different things that we hadn’t seen,” Shinnick said. “I just didn’t expect us to play as poorly as we did, and I think we controlled a lot of what took place.”

Shinnick said that there were plenty of unforced errors on both sides of the ball, whether it was a missed tackled or overthrown receiver or dropped pass.

“I was more frustrated for just how poor we were playing,” Shinnick said. “Delta [State] was playing great but I think we were helping them a lot.”

As the Argos have done a few times this year, they played a completely different game in the second half. The same was true on the first game of the season against Carson-Newman, when the Argos made adjustments on both sides of the ball and the defense shut down the Eagles and led the team to their first win of the season.

The opposite happened on week two against then No. 10 Midwestern State, when the Argos dominated the first half only to blow a 14-3 halftime lead en route to a 38-17 loss.

Thankfully this past week, the problems of the first half didn’t plague the Argos in the second half, and the team again played a different game in each half.

Now faced with their first-ever Division-1 opponent in North Alabama, the Argos will try to put together a complete game for only the second time this season, but this game will be much different than the 53-7 rout of Shorter.

“They’ve played a handful of Division-1 opponents already this year, getting their first FCS victory in week one,” Shinnick said. “I’ve always had a tremendous amount of respect for the [North Alabama] program and what they’ve been able to do.”

The Lions have gotten off to a good start in their new league, with their two losses coming against top-ranked North Dakota State in week three and Campbell University in week five.

“Now that they’re D-1, that’s just a new challenge for us,” Shinnick said. “It’s a great opportunity for us to do something we’ve never done before.”

The opening kickoff is slated for 6 p.m. from Braley Stadium in Florence, Ala.

 

For more information and the full UWF schedule, visit GoArgos.com