The 21st ranked West Alabama Tigers invaded Parker Field-McCool Stadium Saturday to prove just how good of a football team they are.
It was Pig Pickin' for the ninth ranked Delta State University Statesmen as well as the school's athletic Hall of Fame Induction weekend, but the Tigers didn't seem to care about the celebrations.
West Alabama took advantage of early miscues and mistakes from Delta State to take an early lead and hold on for a 29-26 win in Gulf South Conference play.
West Alabama improved to 5-1 with a 4-0 mark in the GSC. Delta State dropped to 5-1 and 3-1 in the GSC.
The story of the day early on for Delta State were drops, penalties and turnovers.
Delta State's first two possessions ended disastrously. The opening drive looked especially promising when starting quarterback, Breck Ruddick, broke free for what almost appeared to be a 48-yard touchdown run, but he was tackled by Devante Davis at the one-yard line and fumbled the ball into the end zone where Se'Quan Steele recovered for West Alabama for a touchback.
After forcing a punt, the Statesmen's second possession saw Ruddick complete a 47-yard pass to Chris Robinson for a touchdown, but it was called back due to holding. The Statesmen would eventually punt the ball back to West Alabama.
The offensive output for the Statesmen after those two possessions became dismal for most of the remainder of the first half.
"We gave them a lot,” Delta State head football coach Todd Cooley said. “We didn’t play well early, but West Alabama deserves all the credit. They won the game.”
The Tigers got on the board in the second quarter on a 25-yard field goal from Colin Douglas with 10:08 on the clock for a 3-0 Tigers’ lead.
The lead increased to 10-0 off a seven play, 71-yard drive that culminated when Harry Satterwhite connected with Tra Fletcher on a 42-yard touchdown pass. Douglas added the point after kick.
More points were added when Taderion Myhand picked up what Delta State thought was an incomplete pass, but ruled a backward pass for a touchdown with 2:42 left in the first half. The point after was blocked as the Tigers led 16-0.
Ruddick had a pass intercepted on the Statesmen's next possession and that would be it for him the rest of the night.
Cooley replaced Ruddick with Collin Willis who came into the game with 1:10 left in the second quarter. Willis completed his first three passes including a 54-yard touchdown pass to Willis Chambers with 41 seconds left in the first half. The kick from Vince Sciorrotta was good as DSU cut the deficit to 16-7 heading into halftime.
In the third quarter, Tyler Rodgers pounded his way to paydirt on a 62-yard run. The two-point conversion attempt failed as West Alabama stretched its lead to 22-7.
DSU was able to add some more points as Sciorrotta connected on a 38-yard field goal with 13 minutes left in the third for a 22-10 ball game.
West Alabama increased the lead to 29-10 on a one-yard touchdown run from, Lakendric Thomas with nine seconds left in the third quarter to cap off a 10 play, 88 yard drive. The kick after from Douglas was good.
The Statesmen went to work in the fourth quarter as Willis put together a drive that was aided by two penalties from West Alabama.
The end result was Willis leaping into the end zone for a score with 11:25 left in the game. Willis then connected with Chris Robinson for the two-point conversion and a 29-18 ball game.
As the game progressed, Delta State inched closer off two field goals (43, 32) from Sciorrotta for a 29-24 ball game.
The Statesmen defense forced a punt and on the snap the long snapper sailed the ball over the punter's head, which led to the punter kicking the ball out of the end zone for a safety to close the gap to 29-26 with 3:53 left in the game.
With 2:22 remaining, the Statesmen had the ball with a chance to win or tie the game. Willis made big throws on the drive, but the Tigers’ defense halted the drive and the Statesmen were left to attempt a 27-yard field goal that Sciorrotta missed wide right with 1:05 left in the game.
The Tigers took control of the ball and with no timeouts for the Statesmen were able to kneel on the ball and run out the clock.
"I'm very proud of the team,” Cooley said. “I thought we had a couple of chances late, but we lost to a good football team. Vince Sciorrotta did a heck of a job keeping us in the ball game. To their credit, they stopped us on that last drive and we missed the field goal, but if we didn’t have Vince we wouldn't have been there.”
Willis came off the bench and finished the game completing 20-of-37 passes for 230 yards with a touchdown. Willis also rushed 11 times for 53 yards and a touchdown. Ruddick was 16-of-27 passing with 74 yards and an interception and rushed seven times for 47 yards.
Chambers finished with four catches for 94 yards and a score, Mario Lanier had seven catches for 53 yards and Kam Myers caught nine passes for 78 yards.
Ovenson Cledanord led the Statesmen’s defense with 16 tackles, followed by Landry Tullo with 15 tackles and a forced fumble, Chandler Ector with 12 tackles, Tramond Lofton with 11 tackles and Jamoral Graham with an interception in the loss.The Statesmen will travel to Pensacola, Fla. Saturday for a conference matchup against West Florida. Kickoff is schedule