By I.C. Murrell
Commercial Sports Editor
Bill Ross said this game was personal because of Alabama A&M’s comeback victory last year. Just one sack might have made his night.
The Arkansas-Pine Bluff linebacker missed one in the early going, and it proved costly.
Early in the second quarter, Alabama A&M quarterback Deaunte Mason did a stutter-step and escaped from Ross’ dive, then found a wide-open Terrance Pride for a 19-yard completion to the UAPB 9. The next play, Kaderius Lacey ran 9 yards for a touchdown that led to a 7-7 tie. A&M went on to win 14-10.
“It hurts,” Ross said. “We had that game under control. We pounded it down their throats, and they didn’t get much on us. What they did get were a couple of big plays (with us) on defense, but other than that, we held them pretty good.”
For Ross, who finished with eight tackles, the missed tackle brought back memories of his miss on a fourth-down play Mason turned into a touchdown on the game-winning drive in last year’s 28-27 victory in Huntsville, Ala.
“It definitely reminds me a lot of last year,” said Ross, a senior from Wetumpka, Ala. “Their guy, the past two years, we stopped him for the most part, but that one of two good plays, unfortunately, it was a missed tackle. I’ve got a lot to work on. It’s all fundamental. I messed up fundamentally.”
A&M gained 146 of its 221 total yards in the second half.
After halftime, we got our butts chewed out, the linebackers did,” Ross said. “.We’ve got a lot of bumps and bruises, but this game, we weren’t quite there. We were quite gimped up a little bit.”
The Lions were missing senior Joe Dalton for the second straight game with a foot injury. Xavier Lofton started in his place again on the weak-side and had five tackles, while strong-side linebacker Jer-ryan Harris led UAPB with 10 tackles.
“We’re hurting,” Ross said. “We’re missing Joe Dalton, but I believe Xavier Lofton is coming in and playing a heck of a ballgame. He’s really stepped up and done what we need him to, but you can’t replace Joe. Hopefully, he’ll be back next week. He brings another aspect to the ballgame.”
UAPB entered the game ranked second in the SWAC in rushing defense with 63 yards against Langston (Okla.), but Alabama A&M more than tripled that Saturday with the help of Lacey. Alabama A&M, which was third with 128 against Tuskegee (Ala.), allowed 173 at UAPB.
UAPB did meet its defensive goal of allowing no more than 14 points, according to Ross.
“This case right here, we only got 10 points offensively, so 14 points was not good enough,” he said. “We definitely let the offense down.”
A bright side for UAPB defensively: Mason, a preseason All-SWAC first-team quarterback, was held to 31 yards on 3-of-9 passing.
Was there a timeout? Should the Lions kick?
Early in the fourth quarter, UAPB spent back-to-back timeouts before deciding to go for a first down on fourth-and-1 from the A&M 12 rather than kick a field goal to pull within 14-13.
UAPB tried to draw A&M offsides before calling the first timeout. Coleman argued being charged the second timeout, which was called after time inadvertently ran off the play clock to avoid a delay-of-game penalty.
“The official signaled to me the timeout was wiped off, that they had to push the clock back up,” Coleman said. “… He also said 13 seconds had run off the play clock, and the 13 seconds needed to be put back on (the game clock), which is fine. So, if 13 seconds needed to be put back on, didn’t 13 seconds need to be put back on the play clock also? Because they started simultaneously.”
Coleman said he considered kicking a field goal each time the Lions were stalled inside the Bulldogs’ 25.
“I try not to second-guess myself,” Coleman said. “I’ve got a coaching staff who I confront in asking what do we feel. I felt we had the ability to pick it up.”
Coleman said UAPB got a bad spot after a third-down run by Justin Billings and thought he earned a first down.
“One side (on the officiating crew) had it one place, and the other side had it a different place,” Coleman said. “I thought Billings for sure had the first down, but it is what it is.”
The game ball goes to …
Lacey, who had 84 of his game-high 124 yards in the second half and ran 43 yards for the go-ahead score with 5:39 left in the third quarter.
Next for the Lions …
UAPB starts a three-game road swing next Saturday at Alcorn State in Lorman, Miss. Game time is set for 2 p.m.
The Lions then will play at Alabama State on a Thursday night (Sept. 20) and at Tennessee State on Sept. 29 before returning home to play Jackson State.