Special to The Commercial/Bo Rogers
Dennis Jenkins looks to cut upfield, away from the Jackson State defense in Saturday’s UAPB victory.
Dennis Jenkins has gained more yards in one game than he did Saturday against Jackson State, and he hasn’t forgotten how many.
Without any pause to think about it, he said “206”.
It came when Jenkins was playing at Florida A&M. So when he transferred to Arkansas-Pine Bluff as a sophomore last season, he brought plenty of ability to the table.
On Saturday, he had his biggest game as a Golden Lion.
Jenkins finished with 154 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries in a 34-24 victory over Jackson State. The 154 yards is a season high for any UAPB running back and only the second time this year a Golden Lion has run for 100 or more yards.
The 5-foot-9, 205-pounder from Orlando, Fla., had been waiting for a big game like this at UAPB.
“Most definitely so,” he said. “When Justin (Billings) went down, it kind of put a load (on me).”
Jenkins’ yardage was much needed. He played big while Billings missed much of the game with a broken nose and the offense struggled to find rhythm in the passing game.
Jenkins said it wasn’t a matter of taking matters into his own hands.
“The run is going to open up the pass,” Jenkins said. “We just help each other out.”
It was still a performance that Jenkins, whose previous season high was 82 yards at Alabama State, had been waiting to give Golden Lion Nation. He’s only averaging 56.3 yards per game, but that and his three touchdowns lead the team in season stats.
Both are an improvement from last season when he was third on the team with 37.3 yards per game behind Adrian Moore and Stephen Jones. He and Moore each had two TDs then.
During the offseason, Jenkins gained 35 pounds to improve his strength and speed. Saturday’s game was proof that it paid off.
“There are four running backs that we can alternate in and give us the productivity that we need, and we’re just glad that Jenkins had the game he had (Saturday),” UAPB coach Monte Coleman said.
Almost half of Jenkins’ yards Saturday came on his two touchdown runs. The first was from 23 yards out to open the scoring early in the second quarter, and the second went for 50 yards right after a kickoff later in the quarter to give the Lions a 21-7 lead.
“The fullback, Jeremy Edmonds, kept telling me, ‘Run iso, run iso,’” Jenkins said, meaning to run a dive up the middle. “Sure enough, we did. They blew (the gap) right up, and the line took care of their men and it was wide open.
“As far as the other run, the same exact play.”
Jenkins’ ability within a deep backfield is a big reason why UAPB is second in the SWAC in rushing offense at 182.3 yards per game. What Jenkins will do in UAPB’s next game Oct. 20 against Southern remains to be seen, but he should have some help as Billings recovers from his broken nose.
“We always know the running game will never be an issue,” UAPB quarterback Ben Anderson said. “Even when J.B. was down, we knew Jenks and (Aaron) Lagrone could step up, so we were never worried. We always have trust in our running game.”