Golden Lions earn first outright SWAC football title


The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Golden Lions football team reached new heights in 2012.

In dramatic fashion, UAPB erased a 14-0 deficit to defeat Jackson State 24-21 in overtime in the Dec. 8 Southwestern Athletic Conference championship game in Birmingham, Ala. UAPB, which finished the season 10-2, won an outright conference championship for the first time in its history and the school’s second title overall, following the 1966 SWAC co-championship shared by three other teams.

The game ended with Tyler Strickland converting a 26-yard field goal after the Golden Lions stopped the Tigers on their previous drive. But it was other heroic plays for the Lions that led to the winning play.

With two minutes left in regulation, sophomore quarterback Ben Anderson found freshman Willie Young up the middle and completed a pass that turned into a 95-yard touchdown, closing Jackson State’s lead to 24-23. Strickland converted the extra point to tie the game.

“I felt like we needed that play,” Young said after the game. “I tell Coach, any opportunity I get, just give me a shot, and I’ll make it happen.”

The Lions overcame an unnecessary-roughness penalty on the Tigers’ next drive, forcing Jackson State to punt with 17 seconds left.

In overtime, UAPB defensive end Sean Robison sacked Jackson State quarterback Clayton Moore, batted down a pass and deflected a 43-yard field-goal attempt — all on the same drive — as UAPB held the Tigers without a score and gave itself a chance to win.

UAPB scored its first touchdown early in the second quarter on a 1-yard run by Anderson, cutting Jackson State’s lead to 14-7. It was 21-7 later in the period, when Moore led a Jackson State drive deep into UAPB territory.

Then, a game-changing play occurred. Bill Ross recovered a fumble forced by fellow linebacker Xavier Lofton, who sacked Moore, and returned it 73 yards to bring the Lions within a touchdown.

Neither team scored again until Young’s touchdown.

Anderson, who passed for 225 yards, was named offensive player of the game. Ross, who had 10 tackles, earned the defensive player of the game honor.

The victory also gave the Lions a school-record 10th win of the season and extended their winning streak to seven, tied with the 2006 team for another school record. They also finished second in the Sheridan Broadcasting Network poll, which determines the black college football national champion. It’s UAPB’s highest finish ever in such a poll.