The best season in UNC Pembroke football history came to an end in Florence, Ala., on Saturday with a 41-17 loss to North Alabama in the second round of the NCAA Division II playoffs. Coach Shane Richardson’s Braves, who scored their first ever postseason victory a week ago, finish the year at 10-2. It was their fourth loss in as many meetings with the top-seeded Lions. Despite the lopsided final score, UNCP played even with North Alabama for most of the first half. They actually led 17-10 on the strength of a 44-yard pass from Patrick O’Brien to B.J. Bunn, a short field goal by Matt Davis and a fumble recovery in the end zone by Christopher Ploch. It was one of four turnovers forced by the Braves defense. But North Alabama (10-1) recovered to score two touchdowns in the final 3½ minutes of the half, creating a momentum shift UNCP was never able to reverse. The Lions went on to score 17 unanswered points in the second half to pull away for the victory and advance into next week’s quarterfinals against North Greenville. Other than the score, everything else on the stat sheet was close. North Alabama only outgained UNCP 420-372. O’Brien accounted for 272 of the Braves yards, but was intercepted three times, two of which came in the second half to help short circuit any hopes for a late comeback.
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