By Jim O'Hara
Hawks (2-3) vs Point (0-4)
Saturday, Oct. 6 • 1:30 pm ET • Rome, Ga.
ROME -- Do not expect the Shorter Hawks to take their next opponent lightly.
As far as head coach Phil Jones is concerned, this Saturday's game at Barron Stadium against an upstart Point University team is one the Hawks simply can't overlook as they try to bounce back from last week's defeat against GSC power North Alabama in their Gulf South debut.
"We aren't looking past them," Jones said about the first-ever meeting between Shorter and the Skyhawks, who are playing their first season as an NAIA program.
"They play hard, they're definitely an athletic team and they're not afraid of anybody," he added, noting that Point's inaugural schedule has included a showdown against West Georgia, like Shorter an NCAA Division II Gulf South Conference team. "But we're not in a position to overlook anyone."
The Hawks saw their record fall to 2-3 last weeks in Florence, Ala., when host North Alabama welcomed Shorter to the GSC handing the Hawks a 41-0 shutout. Once again, turnovers proved to open the door for a Shorter opponent as UNA broke open what had been a scoreless first quarter by turning two SU mistakes – a fumble at the Lions' 12-yard line and an interception – into second-quarter touchdowns that gave the home team control of the game.
"Turnovers just kill you, especially against a good team," Jones said about the game, the second straight setback for the Hawks. "But our kids played so hard. We've got to keep going, regroup and get better."
Point is hoping to do the same with a wealth of eager young and talented players who are under the direction of head coach Kevin Porter, a former All-Southeastern Conference standout at Auburn who also played in the NFL.
"They are a well-coached team," Jones said, "and they're getting better and better."
The Skyhawks have taken their lumps, suffering lopsided losses to Edward Waters (66-34), West Georgia (55-3), Millsaps (54-28) and last week to Faulkner, which despite the final score was a game in which Point had one of its best offensive outputs.
In that game, the Skyhawks had 386 yards in total offense with a season-high 175 yards coming via the rush and 211 passing yards. For the year, Point averages 325 yards a game with the bulk of that coming through an aerial attack (245 ypg) the team opened the season banking on.
"They have a good plan," Jones said about Point's spread offense, "and are well organized."
In their four games, the Skyhawks have been searching for a quarterback to run with as Point has used three quarterbacks who have combined throw for nearly 1,000 yards and seven touchdowns - Kier Houston, Jordan Miller and Devon Thames. But against Faulkner, Houston was the only one behind center as he rushed for 70 yards and a TD and threw for another 211 yards and a touchdown.
"He's a good athlete," Jones said of Houston, "and I think they've found the guy they want to use."
Naturally, as a team that likes to pass, Point is blessed with a solid corps of receivers as D.J. Williams has 17 catches for 212 yards, William Eichman has 11 receptions for 208 and four TDs, and Anthony Armstrong is a deep threat having hauled in six passes – two of those going for touchdowns – for a team-high 225 yards.
Defensively, the Skyhawks have had their problems stopping foes that have averaged 321 yards on the ground and 254 through the air. Last week, Faulkner had its way against Point rolling up 693 total yards.
Two linebackers have emerged as key stoppers for the Skyhawks as Maurice Fason leads team with 32 tackles, six tackles for losses and a sack, while Jalliane Coverson has 27 total tackles.
"They've been in a 4-3 but went to a 3-4 this past week," Jones pointed out about the changes the Skyhawks made to adjust to Faulkner's passing attack. "But I'm sure they might do something else against us to stop the run."
The Hawks would love to get back to their running groove after being kept in check last week at North Alabama, a game in which Shorter was held to a season-low 252 yards in total offense, 219 of that coming via the rush and just 33 yards through the air.
"We were all hurt after that game," said Jones, "but we still love one another. Right now it's a daily thing for us – we've got to practice hard each day and work to be ready to go on Saturday."