For Delta State Head Coach Jamey Chadwell it will be his introduction into the rivalry as well as his first ever "Pig Pickin" weekend.
Chadwell will have to match wits with Bobby Wallace, who is in his second tint as UNA head coach. During his first stint from 1988-97, the Lions went 82-36-1 with three NCAA Division II National Championships (1993, 94 and 95).
"We're excited about opening up the conference against North Alabama,” Chadwell said. “They are our No. 1 rival. We understand the importance of this game given the history with them. Coming off a bye week and having a chance to heal up a bit is a welcomed thing. With Coach Wallace coming back to North Alabama after building such a strong tradition down there we as coaches are really looking forward to going up against him.”
The rivalry between Delta State and North Alabama is a long and heated one. The Lions lead the all-time series 30-24-1. However, the Statesmen have claimed wins in the last three contests, including a 30-24 overtime thriller in Florence, Ala. and a 42-14 victory in the NCAA playoffs last season.
"It has been drilled in to me how important this game is. Even being from the outside, you can see how big this week is with Pig Pickin and North Alabama," Chadwell added.
Chadwell understands just how important it is to get off to a good start in the conference as well as the significance of being prepared for a rival like North Alabama.
"We use the bye week to work on some things we needed to be better in,” Chadwell said. “We were focused on us. Sixty-percent of our team have never played in this game before so we stressed the importance of this game and the history. More importantly for us is that this is our first conference game. You can't win the conference without winning games in the conference. I'm sure our older guys will stress the importance of the game.”
The Statesmen are coming off a 26-7 win over Elizabeth City State on Sept. 8. The Lions defeated Kentucky Christian 39-0 last week.
Offensively, Delta State is finding its way behind the play of
junior quarterback Trevor Wooden. Wooden has averaged 276.5 yards of total offense a game, which puts him 25th nationally in that category in NCAA DII. He racked up 337 yards at Elizabeth City State and 216 yards against Fort Valley State. Wooden, a Missouri State transfer, has completed 28-of-55 passes for 406 yards and four touchdowns. He has also rushed for 147 yards and a touchdown.
"Trevor really stepped up his game from game one to game two,” Chadwell said. “I think he made huge strides in his decision making. I think the thing he has really started to do better is become a leader. When he first got here he was just trying to find his way around and really not saying anything. Last week gave him some confidence in the guys following him. In order for us to be successful he is going to have to play well.”
Wooden's top target is senior Lavon Downs who leads DSU receivers with 12 catches for 110 yards and a touchdown. Downs has also been a great return specialist by averaging 10.3 yards per punt return and 41 yards per kick return. Kevin Jackson has also been a target for Wooden with five grabs for 132 yards. Jackson is averaging 26.4 yards per catch and has hauled in two touchdowns on the year.
Outside of Wooden, the Statesmen’s next best rusher statistically through two games is Richard Freelon with 107 yards on 19 carries.
The Statesmen’s defense has been solid this season. Junior linebacker Ixavier Triplett, senior defensive back Eric Williams and sophomore linebacker Diego Lubin have been consistent for DSU. Williams currently ranks second in the NCAA in interceptions per game.
The North Alabama offense is one that Chadwell finds particularly interesting.
"Offensively, they will be similar to some things we do,” Chadwell said. “They are an option-type team where the quarterback runs the ball quite a bit. They are averaging nearly 300 yards a game and almost 400 yards in total offense. The quarterback is a really good player, and they have some good skill players.”
Chris Alexander has been the triggerman for the Lions offense this season. The Lake Butler, Fla. native has rushed for 222 yards on 48 carries with two touchdowns and completed 20-of-51 passes for 257 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
Lamonte Thompson is the team's leading rusher with 258 yards on 44 carries with two touchdowns.
On the defensive side of the ball, Chadwell feels the Lions have a strong mix of experience and youth.
"Defensively, they have some guys left over from last year that transferred in there on their defensive line and secondary. They are playing hard for the coach and buying into their system," Chadwell explained.
"They will be the best team we've played so far as for as all three phases. They are athletic, physical and they have size. I didn't see the team last year to compare them to, but I know this year they are a good team and that makes it a challenge for us," Chadwell added.
Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. and the game will be broadcast on the Statesmen Sports Network (107.5 FM) and GoStatesmen.com TV starting at 5 p.m. with the DSU Alumni Association Statesmen Game Day Report. Matt Jones, Rodney Martin and J.T. Webb have the call.