Know the Foe: North Alabama Lions

North Alabama has been the one constant on BYU’s schedule this season — the Lions have been the only team that never faltered in their commitment to play the Cougars this season. UNA is a Division I FCS program out of Florence, Alabama. They have played as a football-only member of the Big South since 2019.

UNA was a Division II powerhouse in the mid-90’s, they won three consecutive national titles from 1993-95. The Lions have played only three games prior to facing BYU — they lost to Liberty, Jacksonville State and Southern Mississippi.

Chris Willis is in his third season as head coach of the Lions, although he has been with the program for 15 years, including as defensive coordinator for five years prior to being named head coach. Willis is 16-15 as a head coach.

The Lions don’t have any player with 100 rushing or receiving yards all season and have been held to 232 yards and 12.3 points per game in 2020. UNA did see success from their receiving core last season, though, and have three players on this year’s roster with 1,000 career receiving yards.

Juniors Dexter Boykin and Cortez Hall lead all Lions receivers. Boykin has 1,293 yards and 11 touchdowns in his career and Hall has 1,227 yards and seven touchdowns. Junior Jacobi Byrd has more targets than both Boykin and Hall, with 1,136 yards and eight touchdowns. Byrd and Andre Little are the only Lions with receiving touchdowns this year.

Senior Blake Dever is expected to get the start at quarterback this week for UNA. Dever has 812 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions in his college career, completing 68.1 percent of his passes.

UNA’s strength is thought to be their defensive line, where they returned three starters from last season. The Lions have eight returning starters on the defense, the majority of whom are upperclassmen.

The Lions have recorded only two sacks all season, although they have forced five turnovers in just three games. Gerrell Green, Kyree Fields and K.J. Smith each have an interception for UNA’s secondary. Senior defensive end Wallace Cowins Jr. leads the Lions in tackles with 16.

BYU will be the first ranked FBS team UNA will have ever faced, and the Lions will have extra motivation as this marks the team’s final game of the season. Still, UNA is astronomically outmatched and doesn’t really have anything but pride on the line come Saturday.

Game Information

BYU (8) vs. North Alabama
Date: Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020
Time: 1:00 p.m. MT
Location: LaVell Edwards Stadium, Provo, Utah
Weather: Sunny, 44 degrees
Where to Watch: BYUtv, WatchESPN
Where to Listen: KSL 1160 AM/102.7 FM
Spread: BYU -47.5
Over/Under: 59.5

Written by Bridger Beal-Cvetko

Bridger is a student at Utah Valley University where he studies journalism and mass communication. He is the sports editor of the on-campus newspaper, The Review. Bridger is a life-long Cougar fan and college football enthusiast.

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