The Meridian Star
LIVINGSTON, Ala —
Decked out in his typical sweater-vest, University of Alabama head coach Will Hall was feeling the heat under the West Alabama sun.
Lucky for him, his team did not provide anything to sweat about as the Tigers blew past Clark Atlanta, 42-6, Saturday afternoon.
“There were more comfortable things to wear,” Hall said of his attire. “I wear a tie as a tribute to my dad — he always did that. I kinda added the vest, and the look has kind of taken on a meaning of its own. It’s helped kind of bring more recognition to our program.”
Hall said he felt his team wasn't getting the respect it deserved coming into the season ranked No. 13 despite winning the Gulf South Conference last season. Saturday, the Tigers were hungry to prove pollsters wrong, as they out-gained the Panthers 489-153 on the day.
“We handled our business,” Hall said. “Great teams are supposed to beat teams they're supposed to beat. All in all it was a clean game, and that's what you look for from a functioning standpoint.”
After stopping Clark on its first possession, the Tigers waisted no time getting on the board first. UWA marched 82 yards on eight plays capped off by a seven-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Kyle Caldwell to Seth Roberts.
After a Clark three-and-out, running back MarKeyus (Cheeto) Johnson doubled the lead for the Tigers, racing down the left sidelines for a 36-yard touchdown on UWA's first play of the drive.
Four plays later, DeQuan Shockley recovered a fumble at the Panthers 20-yard line and ran untouched into the end zone to give the Tigers a 21-0 lead with 4:17 left in the first quarter.
“Our goal as a team is to get on the board fast so when our defense comes on the field, they have some momentum to stop them.” UWA running back Javae Swindle said.
The Tigers' offense stalled out on its next two possessions, going three-and-out both times. However, quarterback Gary Johnston found Chad Toocheck on a 15-yard touchdown pass as part of a three-play, 56-yard drive just before the half to give UWA a 28-0 lead.
“That was great,” Hall said. “Gary (Johnston) did a great job of executing that drive. We've been a great two-minute drill team for the last three years for whatever reason. I thought the execution was great, and it was great to get in the end zone.”
Swindle put the Tigers up 35-0 early in the third quarter, as he punched the ball in from three yards out. The 5-4, 145-pound sophomore led UWA in rushing with 108 yards on 13 carries.
“It feels good to have a very explosive team,” Swindle said. “This year we have depth, so whenever anyone gets tired, we have fresh legs coming in.”
Caldwell capped off UWA's scoring late in the third when he found a wide open Roberts for a 41-yard score. The junior quarterback finished the day 12-of-19 passing for 148 yards and two touchdowns while Johnston finished 4-of-5 for 60 yards and a touchdown. Hall said he plans on using both quarterbacks throughout the season.
Roberts led the Tigers in receiving with three catches for 52 yards and two scores. Johnson also had a big day on the stat sheet, rushing for 54 yards and two touchdowns while adding three catches for 42 yards.
Tevin Thomas racked up nine tackles to lead the Tigers and was followed by Brandon Lilly with eight tackles and Martaze Jackson who had seven tackles including a sack.
“I feel like I did OK,” Thomas said. “But, really it was just God — and my defensive lineman did their job. They really helped me make plays.”
UWA will travel to McNeese State next Saturday, as they look to coral a Cowboy team that hung 53 points on Division-I South Florida in Week 1.