Tigers look to build on last season's success
By By Tony Krausz / assistant sports editor
Aug. 6, 2003
LIVINGSTON, Ala. The University of West Alabama football team is determined to prove last season was not a fluke.
After posting a 1-10 record in 2001, the Tigers changed their stripes with a 5-6 record in 2002.
The Tigers, who are predicted to finish ninth in the Gulf South Conference, will start their season with a tough contest on the road.
UWA takes on Division I-AA Samford University in Birmingham, Ala., at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 4.
The Tigers' game against the Bulldogs, who went 4-7 last season, will be on a different day for the Alabama team than all of its other contests.
UWA will play Samford, for the first time since the 1989 season, in a Thursday night contest, instead of the regular Saturday game day.
The change of playing days doesn't bother Pippin.
Defensive end Aaron Nettles said he is looking forward to the challenge of playing the bigger program, no matter what day the game is played on.
If Nettles' prediction seems a little over zealous, the comments stem from a big boost the Tigers got from their last game of the 2002 season.
After dropping three straight games, UWA rebounded to notch a 31-24 victory over in-state foe North Alabama.
The Tigers also developed a little bit of a football swagger after their contest against the Valdosta State University Blazers.
UWA pounded the back-to-back Gulf South Conference champions in the first half to go up 24-7 at the break.
The Blazers came charging back with a 29-point third quarter en route to a 43-31 win, but the Tigers realized they could play with the best in the conference.
UWA returns 43 players from last season's squad, including 14 starters.
Gales, a Preseason All-GSC Team selection, highlights the returning players on the offensive side of the ball.
The senior led the conference and team with a 96-catch, 994-yard performance last season, and he said the offense, which tallied 280 points, will be strong this season.
On the defensive side of the ball, Nettles, who is also an ALL-GSC Team selection, will lead a well-seasoned group.
UWA will have to deal with two big subtractions from last season's team.
The Tigers will be without three starters from its offensive line from last year, and they will miss the play of punter/place kicker Ben Thomas, who converted 10-of-17 field goals, hit 34-of-34 extra-point attempts and holds school records for longest punt (74 yards) and field goal (54 yards).
The team reports to campus on Thursday, and the first scrimmage of the season will be held at 6 p.m. on Aug. 16.