Second ranked North Alabama (7-0) blocked three punts and had three interceptions and Jusmon Rivers scored three touchdowns in the final six minutes of the first half to lead the Lions to a 52-7 win over North Greenville (1-6) at Younts Stadium.
North Alabama’s D’Arcy Coleman intercepted a Richard Harb pass at the 30 yard line and lateraled to Montrell Craft who lumbered in the final 12 yards for a touchdown to open the scoring for UNA.
Mike McLendon scored on a one yard run on the third play of the second quarter to put UNA up 14-0. The Lions’ special teams then devastated the North Greenville kicking game in the second quarter as they blocked two punts which were both recovered by Rivers who ran them in for touchdowns inside the last six minutes of the first half. Rivers then caught a touchdown pass from A.J. Milwee to put UNA up 35-0 at the half.
UNA blocked its third punt which led to a David McCants nine yard touchdown run with 12:06 left in the game. Tom Schneider, a senior transfer from the University of California, then kicked a 40 yard field goal to complete the scoring for the Lions.
NGU avoided the shutout on the final series of the game as Blue Ridge High School product C.T. Morton came off the bench and led the Crusaders on a 19 play, 69 yard drive that consumed 9:39 of the fourth quarter. He threw his first career touchdown pass to senior Brandon Dobbins with 13 seconds left to give some life to the Crusaders on a long night.
“You are not going to beat anyone when you get three punts blocked,” NGU Head Coach Mike Taylor said. “North Alabama is as good as anybody on our schedule and I told them, they had better win the national championship so we can say they played on our field. I thought our defense played great tonight. You are not going to build a quality program unless you play great programs like North Alabama. “
North Alabama, which led NCAA Division II in total yardage with 546 yards a game, was held to only 199 total yards by NGU. UNA Head Coach Mark Hudspeth praised the North Greenville defense, stating he felt the Crusaders did not allow the Lions to get in synch. “That was one of the best defenses we’ve faced this year,” Hudspeth said. “They played real hard and for the first time, we did not protect very well up front. Our special teams made some really big plays, but their defense simply did not allow us to get much going.”
NGU actually outgained the Lions in total offense with 235 to 199. The Crusaders’ game plan was to hang on to the ball, and they did just that by maintaining a 40:38 to 19:09 time of possession margin. Senior running back Rashad Cummings paced the Crusader offense with 86 yards rushing, and Richard Harb was 14-28 with three interceptions.
On defense, senior Andre Bernardi dominated the game for NGU. The senior from Marietta, GA had six total tackles, tied a school record with four sacks, and made five tackles for loss.