Turnovers fuel Union turnaround

The last time the Union Bulldogs were ranked in the NAIA football poll was the pre-season ranking in 1996.

Thanks to a 35-28 upset victory over Malone last week, the Bulldogs are tied for 18th in the current poll.

"I told the team it's nice to be recognized," Coach Tommy Reid said, "but the end of the season is what counts."

The end of last season put the bite in the Bulldogs this fall. Union closed 2007 with two Mid-South Conference victories, including a 28-21 upset of Georgetown in the finale.

"That carried over through winter conditioning and spring workouts, and we're continuing good things so far," Reid said.

The Bulldogs are at Faulkner (Ala.) for a noon kickoff on Saturday. The Eagles are 0-2 and in their second year of football and first year in the MSC.

Some good things for the Bulldogs, according to Reid, are exploits from the defense.

"The defense came up with four turnovers (in the opener), and we capitalized on three of them," Reid said. "That was the difference in the game (a 27-21 victory at Lambuth). Last week, we scored off a turnover (fumble recovery)."

The Union offense has pleased Reid with its ball control, and the kicking game has backed up the opposition.

"That's the kind of effort it takes," Reid said. "We can't have breakdowns, and the kids have responded.

"The thorn in our side for several years has been too many turnovers. We've been close a lot of times but not won. We're doing a better job taking care of the ball and creating turnovers. If we continue doing things that don't hurt us, we'll continue to be competitive."

Several Bulldogs have stepped into starring roles.

Willie Williams, whose college football stops have included hometown Miami (Fla.) and Louisville, has joined returnee Marekus Smith to give Union a double threat at linebacker.

Williams had 13 and 14 tackles in his first two games after arriving from NCAA Division II Glenville State. The NCAA ruled he would have to sit out a year, and he lost an appeal. Reid was contacted by Glenville State, and Williams, a senior, came to Barbourville in late August.

"Willie's a fast kid who can cover the entire field," Reid said. "He's a tremendous player."

Smith has impressed his coach. "Teams run away from him," Reid said. "He can rush the passer well and do a good job on coverage. He covers a lot of ground."

Ty Harris and Terry Young anchor the Bulldogs secondary. The defensive line rotates six players. "They've done a solid job so far," Reid said.

Terence Pollock is averaging 101 rushing yards a game, and freshman Mike Brinkley is averaging 189 yards through the air. He has thrown six touchdown passes, four to Kyle Callahan.

"The blockers have made holes for him, and he's made some good runs," Reid said. "Mike does a nice job of managing the game for us. Kyle has had some tremendous catches."