The University of North Alabama will host its closest football rival at Braly Stadium this Saturday for the first time since 1996 as the Alabama A&M Bulldogs travel 80 miles from Huntsville to take on the Lions.
Kickoff is set for 6:05 p.m.
The UNA-A&M rivalry was renewed in 2018 with North Alabama’s move to Division I and the Football Championship Subdivision. Prior to that, the two schools had not played since 1997.
The 2018 meeting drew a crowd in excess of 15,000 to A&M’s Louis Crews Stadium and the last four games played between A&M and UNA in Florence rank as the four largest regular season home crowds in school history.
The only other games in that top seven are the three national championship games that UNA hosted in Florence in 1993, 1994 and 1995.
This will be the 24th time all-time meeting between the Lions and Bulldogs in a series that began in 1975. UNA holds a decisive 19-3-1 advantage in the 23 previous meetings and has won the last nine contests between the two schools.
A&M’s last win in the series dates back to a 17-16 victory on a field goal on the last play of the game in 1988 in Bobby Wallace’s first game as head coach at UNA.
UNA is 9-2 against A&M in Florence and has won the last four meetings at Braly Stadium.
North Alabama won last year’s meeting in dramatic fashion as K.J. Smith picked off a Bulldog pass with one second left to protect a 25-20 UNA advantage.
Both North Alabama and Alabama A&M will be looking for redemption in this match-up as both are coming off stinging losses. The Lions led No. 23 ranked Montana 17-16 on the road at the half but gave up 45 unanswered points in the second half in a 61-17 loss.
A&M dropped its home opener to Arkansas-Pine Bluff, 52-34, to fall to 1-1. While the Bulldogs offense has scored 69 points in two games, the A&M defense has allowed 82 points.
“Our team is focused on this Saturday and has put last weekend behind us,” said UNA head football coach Chris Willis. “There aren’t many teams that are going to go undefeated and so we are 1-1 with nine games left to play. That’s a lot of football. Our guys are in great spirits and can’t wait to get back on the field and correct some of the things that we saw on film.”
Having Alabama A&M at home will also be exciting for the UNA team and fans, according to Willis.
“With this being the first time that they have played here since 1996 and it being Band Day and all the tailgating and everything else, it should be an electric atmosphere,” Willis said.
Quarterback Aqeel Glaze leads the offensive attack, throwing for 749 yards and six touchdowns in two games. He has thrown three interceptions.
Running back Jordan Bentley has rushed for 148 yards and three scores and Brian Jenkins leads a solid receiver corp with 13 catches for 164 yards and one TD.
“Alabama A&M can score some points and have some talented skill players on offense,” Willis said. “We’ll have to be prepared for whatever they throw at us.”
On the flip side, the A&M defense is allowing just over 534 yards per game.
In its last outing, North Alabama faced the second largest crowd ever to watch a Lion football game as UNA was challenged by a hostile crowd of 24,033 at Washington-Grizzly Stadium.
The Lions held a 17-16 halftime lead but the Griz defense forced three second half turnovers and UNA couldn’t hold on.
Now back at home at Braly Stadium, where the Lions have a three-game winning streak and where UNA has not lost to Alabama A&M since 1988, North Alabama looks to turn things back in a positive direction.
Quarterback Christian Lopez threw for 320 yards at Montana and had scoring throws of 75 and 64 yards. Receivers Cortez Hall, Jakobi Byrd, Andre Little and Dexter Boykin continue to impress and combined for 12 catches for 270 yards and Terence Humphrey added a 28-yard reception.
Defensively, UNA has some work to do after allowing 530 yards and a school record 61 points by an opponent. The Lions also must shore up special teams play after allowing 162 kick return yards a week ago.