Monte Coleman has admitted it: Last year’s fourth-quarter surge by Alabama A&M stands out in his mind.
So do a few other things about the Bulldogs.
“From an offensive standpoint, they’ve got a big, strong running back,” the Arkansas-Pine Bluff coach said. “He’s definitely a concern. They have a mobile quarterback, and he’s definitely a concern. They’re the (SWAC) Eastern Division champs, that’s a concern. They’re coming off a victory, so they’ve got some mometum, some confidence.
“I guess the last one is they beat us last year, and that’s a concern.”
It’s how Alabama A&M won that Coleman hasn’t forgotten about. The Bulldogs came from 20 points down in the final 12 minutes to win 28-27.
Today, the Golden Lions get to put memories of last year to rest, as they host the Bulldogs (1-0) to begin SWAC play. But for UAPB offensive coordinator Eric Dooley, it’s not a game he has circled on the schedule well in advance.
“It’s going to sound more like a cliché, but no, because we’re taking (the approach that) it’s a big game because it’s the next game,” Dooley said. “We take each game as it comes and we’re not trying to look ahead or back at last year because last year was last year.”
But like many of the Golden Lions, quarterback Ben Anderson remembers the events of last Oct. 1 all too well.
“We were up 20, so we really do want to get them back,” Anderson said. “We thought we were going to get a chance at them in the (SWAC) championship, but it didn’t work out. So we really look forward to playing them.”
The big, strong running back of A&M’s that Coleman mentioned is Kaderius Lacey, a 6-foot, 218-pound senior who led the SWAC last season with 1,143 yards rushing. But against Tuskegee, he was held to 47 yards on 12 carries as A&M ran the football by committee.
Bulldogs coach Anthony Jones said during Monday’s SWAC teleconference he would continue to run by committee until he found someone who has “the hot hand.”
The quarterback, senior Deaunte Mason, was 4 yards shy of 2,000 passing for the season in 2011 and will try to improve on last Saturday’s 171-yard showing on 19-of-28 passing. He engineered last year’s comeback against UAPB, connecting with G’Alonzo Milton for the Bulldogs’ last three touchdowns in the final period.
“Our biggest thing was we didn’t finish,” Dooley said. “It’s never over until it’s over. We knew what they were giving us, and we just didn’t execute.”
But UAPB did win in the clutch last Saturday, beating Langston (Okla.) 17-14 on Tyler Strickland’s 27-yard field goal as time expired. A fumble return by defensive end Brandon Thurmond set up the winning drive with 61 seconds left.
And the Lions are taking something from that experience.
“It gives us confidence that we’re always in it,” Dooley said. “Just don’t quit.”
Dooley will be looking for a little better performance from his unit, which had a string of dropped passes and no one rush for 50 or more yards. Dennis Jenkins led the Lions with 49 yards on 10 carries.
“I expected us to explode a little bit more,” Dooley said. “I thought we did some things uncharacteristic of us from what I had seen in fall camp and in the spring.”
Ball control will be key against the Bulldogs, but that’s the case for any game the Lions play, Dooley said. And Coleman wouldn’t mind UAPB jumping on A&M on the scoreboard like it did a year ago.
“If we’re blessed enough to get them down this year, then we’ve got to remember last year and play for 60 minutes,” Coleman said.