It’s time for your weekly scouting report brought to you by BWahlberg on the eGriz forums!
North Alabama Lions (7-3 in 2018)
The UNA Lions are headed to Missoula, fresh off a MVFC win of their own. This is their 2nd year in the FCS and it appears their first year as a recognized member of the Big South Conference. Last year, interestingly enough, the Lions had an 11th game booked that was cancelled. It was against Incarnate Word – who wound up going to the playoffs and losing to Montana State. Being year 2 of moving up I believe UNA is still ineligible for the playoffs. They’re returning 11 players on offense with starting experience, but just 3 on defense.
North Alabama Lions (1-0 / 7-3 last year)
Here’s their week 1 win plus a few notable games from last year:
26-17 win @ Western Illinois – The Lions never trailed in the game, they forced 2 turnovers, and held WIU to just over 300 yards total with 120 rushing and 183 passing. Meanwhile UNA had about the same amount of rushing yards (122), but they passed for 290 yards in the game. WIU in the 2nd half also missed a fieldgoal and had two turnovers on downs. Ouch.
• Side note, we’ve had a handful of cross-overs with MVFC teams. Here’s how they’re predicted to finish. South Dakota was picked 6th while Western Illinois was picked 8th. Additionally Missouri State who NAU beat was picked dead last, 10th.
From last year
34-30 win @ Southern Utah – UNA went on the road and in one hell of a back and forth game scored a game winning TD with just 12 seconds left. SUU had taken the lead with 2:02 left in the game, but couldn’t hold on and UNA walked out the winners. In this game UNA passed for 350 and ran for a little over 200. SUU threw for over 300 as well – the teams combined had almost 1100 total yards, not a lot of good defense was played.
7-38 loss @ NDSU – An expected loss for the Lions on the road, NDSU didn’t allow them to score until they were up 38-0. While NDSU isn’t really a juggernaut of production on offense UNA held them to about 366 yards, and they actually had a longer TOP than NDSU. They also forced a fumble, but on offense they were pretty much shut out, 102 rushing / 108 passing.
General Stats (keep in mind this is reflecting just 1 game each)
Passing yards per game Montana (290 for UNA vs 427 for UM)
Rushing yards per game UNA (122 for UNA vs 82 for UM)
Total offense Montana (412 for UNA vs 510 for UM)
Passing yards allowed per game UNA (183 for UNA vs 246 for UM)
Rushing yards allowed per game Montana (119 for UNA vs 106 for UM)
Total defense UNA (302 for UNA vs 350 for UM)
3-3 tie, totals on offense tip to Montana, on defense to UNA
Offense points scored Montana (26 for UNA vs 31 for UM)
Defense points allowed Push (17 for UNA vs 17 for UM)
Turnover margin UNA – (+2 for UNA / -1 for Montana)
Fieldgoal % UNA (100% for UNA vs 50% for UM)
Punt Returns Montana (0 yards for UNA vs 6 yards for UM)
Kick Returns Montana (24 yards for UNA vs 29 yards for UM)
T.O.P. Montana (30:17 for UNA vs 35:27 for UM)
Red Zone defense (touchdowns) Push (50% UNA / 50% UM)
Red Zone offense (touchdowns) UNA (100% UNA / 50% UM)
3rd down offense Montana – (25% for UNA / 65% for UM)
3rd down defense UNA – (15% allowed for UNA vs 20% allowed for UM)
Montana picks up 5, UNA adds 4 and there’s 2 push.
Total comes to Montana 8 – UNA 7 – Push 2.
Tough to totally stack up stats this early though. For example, UNA has no punt returns yet, so hard to knock them if the Griz are “better” by the simple fact that they had 1 punt return over them. Additionally UNA only was in the red zone once in their first game, and scored a TD. Montana was in the RZ 6 times in their first game and one was docked because they kneeled out the game at the end.
Players to Watch:
#6 Christian Lopez, QB – Lopez is 5’11” and just under 200 pounds, last season he averaged about 200 passing and 25 rushing per game. He’s a guy that’s a pass-first player but certainly a threat to run as well. He appears to play it pretty safe too, 14 passing TDs / 5 rushing TDs / just 2 INTs last year.
#21 Terrence Humphrey, RB – A bigger/bruiser back at 6-0, 229, he was apparently a backup last year, just 290 yards and 2 TDs. In his first game this year he had 102 yards and 1 TD on just 12 carries.
#8 Cortez Hall, WR – Hall had some interesting stats last season, while not having the most receptions on the team he had the most yards (591) and 4 TDs. In week 1 he had just two catches, one of which was a 75 yard long TD and he totaled out for 113 yards. He’s 6-1 and 214 pounds.
#9 Jakobi Byrd, WR – Last year’s leader in receptions, and tied for the lead in receiving TDs with 5. He had a quiet first game, just 25 yards. I’d expect him to be more of a threat in this game, he’s a shorter guy at 5-8, 190.
#15 Dexter Boykin, WR – The third thread of their dangerous WR group, a taller 6-3 receiver he had just about 500 yards last year and 5 TDs as well. His first game he had 83 yards on a team-leading 6 catches.
#10 Wallace Cowins, DE – A CCU transfer that provided an early spark on a team replacing their entire D-line. He had 2 TFLs, 1 sack, and 2 QB hits in the WIU game. He’s 6-4, 240 pounds and could be the primary threat rushing Sneed.
#12 KJ Smith, DB – Smith is guy to watch all over the field, the 5-11, 187 pound DB was 3rd on the team in tackles with 49 and had a team-best 3 interceptions and 5 pass breakups. But that’s not all he did last season. He was also a dangerous returner. He averaged almost 9 yards per punt return and had a whopping 30 yards per return average on kickoffs. While he didn’t field a punt against WIU he did return one kickoff 24 yards. He also had 7 tackles in that game
#44 Will Evans, LB – One of the few returning starters. Evans is a 6-2, 234 pound linebacker, last season he had 39 tackles, 5 TFLs, 2.5 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles. In week 1 he had 1 sack / 1 TFL and 6 tackles.
#5 DeAndre Hart, S – Hart is a senior, at 6-1 and 205 pounds he lead the team in tackles against WIU with 11 tackles.
#16 Jalen Dread, LB – Dread had 28 tackles last year, in week 1 he had 8 tackles, 1 sack/TFL, and broke up a pass.
Keys to a Grizzly victory
1. Keep somewhat of a lid on the passing game. The Grizzly pass defense in the 2nd half wasn’t as sharp as it was in the first half of last week – however it did have it’s biggest moments in the 2nd half. UNA has it’s 4 top targets back and will be looking at film on how to attach the Grizzly pass defense. I think a lot of this starts with pressure on the QB, the Grizzly d-line needs to bring pressure and keep it up most of the game, that’ll go a long ways.
2. Add balance to the offense. I love 400+ passing and will gladly welcome that all of the time, however the Grizzly running game needs to find some traction to balance out the offense a bit. USD really stacked their defense to stop the run, now UNA will probably work to stop the pass a bit. There could/should be some better opportunities to get the ground game going.
3. Continue success on 3rd down. While USD couldn’t really make much of a stop on 3rd down, UNA’s defense stats suggest they’re far better. While it’s kind of a no-brainer to say, for the Griz being able to keep that success on 3rd down while making stops themselves will be a big factor in this win.
4. Be your best on kick/punt returns. This game could have some ST fireworks. UNA gave up some long returns last week – maybe a sign that they’ve got some really young and inexperienced guys on their kick/punt units – meanwhile they’ve got a pretty dangerous returner themselves.
5. Keep the UNA offense outside of our 30. Their kicker didn’t miss from within 40 yards if I recall correctly from their stats.
6. Keep the emotions level and execute through the whole game. Last week the Griz played in front of a half crowd that really didn’t seem too amped up. This week they come home with a lot of excitement and a night game that promises to be a lot of fun. Ensuring that they don’t cool off and let UNA creep in late will be another big test to show that this group has matured.
7. I’d say win the turnover margin, but the Griz were -1 last week and won the game by 2 scores and could’ve made it more without at least 1 costly turnover. Obviously I want the Griz to be positive on turnovers but UNA’s QB doesn’t (historically) make a lot of errors. I’d say this though, no costly turnovers that give short field or wipe out a red zone visit.
This will be a test, this team is better than maybe many of us thought they would be and they’re fresh off a MVFC win of their own. For the returning players they’ve got some experience in a hostile setting (@ NDSU last year) and so the crowd factor might not be as big of an effect. This is a long ways to travel for UNA and the Griz are presumably a much better team than WIU.
I think if the Griz can ride the wave of emotions that a home opener sometimes is associated with, they’ll win this game. However I also wouldn’t be too surprised if we get a test. Many fans will probably figure that some “directional” state school from the east should be a cake-walk, and could be in for a surprise with the skill these guys have.
I’m taking the Griz, but my guess is that this one isn’t feeling like a comfy win until late. I’ll go 38-24 Griz.