By John L. Pitts/NEMS Daily Journal
FLORENCE, Ala. – No one will blame you if you turned the TV off Thursday night when top-ranked North Alabama took a 10-point lead over Delta State early in the fourth quarter.
But you missed a stunning turn of events, as the second-ranked Statesmen rallied to win 30-24 in overtime on UNA’s home field.
Human bowling ball Brant Botill stormed into the end zone on the sixth play of OT to win it for the Statesmen (7-1) in their GSC opener.
“Hats off to our players,” Delta State coach Ron Roberts said. “They didn’t panic, stayed strong, as they dealt with a lot of adversity.”
North Alabama (6-1) handed the visiting team a lifeline by continuing to throw with that 24-14 lead.
Lions’ QB Lee Chapple, who’d had a dandy night to that point, threw an interception to Delta State lineman Anthony Daniels well past the halfway point of the fourth quarter.
The 295-pound Daniels rumbled 34 yards to the UNA 31. It took seven plays for Statesmen QB Micah Davis to score on a 6-yard run with 4:24 to play.
North Alabama went four-and-out and punted the ball to the Delta State 1. But the Statesmen drove 89 yards on 13 plays to set up a 27-yard Matt Dean field goal on the final tick of the clock.
UNA went first in overtime and missed a 31-yard field goal. That set the stage for DSU’s improbable victory.
“The toughest kind of loss,” said North Alabama coach Terry Bowden.
When UNA led 24-14, it appeared as if a couple of Delta State gambles had backfired
Twice UNA’s defense was able to stuff Delta State on fourth-and-1 plays. Twice, those big stops set up relatively easy scoring drives for the top-ranked Lions.
“If I had 20-20 hindsight, I might have done something differently,” Roberts said. “But it all worked out.”
Which didn’t surprise senior defensive back Dominique Davenport, a senior from Baldwyn.
“We’ve learned that if we can stick together that we’re never out of a game,” he said as he and his teammates celebrated at midfield. “We’ve played some tough road games and we know what it takes to win.”
Delta State outgained North Alabama 512-345 in total offense and survived 11 penalties for 104 yards. Davis completed 29 of 41 passes for 339 yards and a TD.