Yes, Arkansas-Pine Bluff will return to football action Saturday at Southern.
No, UAPB isn’t harboring bad memories from the schools’ 2011 postgame brawl.
“I don’t think last year’s game will (have) an impact on us,” UAPB coach Monte Coleman said Monday during the SWAC coaches’ teleconference. “It’s behind us. It was a misfortune for both schools.”
The two teams brawled shortly after a blocked extra-point attempt with no time left wrapped up a 22-21 victory for UAPB at Golden Lion Stadium. A celebration for the Golden Lions quickly turned into a black eye for SWAC football, and the conference later handed one- to two-game suspensions to 25 players from UAPB and 15 from Southern.
“We lost a lot of kids to suspensions,” Coleman said. “We’re not going to harp on the things that happened last year and use that as motivation. It was a mishap.”
This year’s meeting, which will kick off at 6 p.m. Saturday in Baton Rouge, La., carries a little more weight than last year’s. The game is for first place in the Western Division, which the Golden Lions control by one game over the Jaguars.
“It’s going to be an exciting football game considering the history of both teams,” Southern interim coach Dawson Odums said, although he didn’t indicate what he meant by the history. “It’ll be an exciting environment. We have great fans here at Southern, and we know what’s at stake.”
The Jaguars find themselves within striking distance of the Lions after a 34-7 home victory over Texas Southern this past Saturday. Quarterback Dray Joseph threw for touchdown passes of 46 and 67 yards.
Coleman said the Lions have maintained a sense of urgency throughout the past bye week in preparation for the clash.
“The focus level was very good,” Coleman said of the past week. “We modified practice this past week. We didn’t go as hard as we would if we had a game.”
Lions move up to No. 6
The off-week didn’t prevent UAPB (4-2) from moving up in the Sheridan Broadcasting Network black college poll.
The Lions are now ranked sixth in the poll that determines the national champion in black college football. Tennessee State and Winston-Salem State, both 7-0, are ranked first and second, respectively, followed by Bethune-Cookman (4-2), Alabama A&M (6-1), North Carolina Central (4-2), UAPB, Miles (6-1), Alabama State (4-3), Howard (4-2) and Morgan State (3-3).
UAPB is fifth in the Heritage Sports Radio Network FCS black college poll and in the “From the Press Box to Press Row” radio show rankings (boxtorow.com).
Valley in the thick of things
Karl Morgan was 1-20 as Mississippi Valley State’s coach going into this season, but on Saturday he ensured his winningest season at the helm by leading the Delta Devils (2-4) to a rare victory over sliding Grambling State, 45-21.
Now, the Devils are mathematically still in contention for the Eastern Division championship at 2-2. While the win improved the Devils’ psyche, Morgan said, the team is staying as humble as possible.
“We’re not talking about a championship or anything,” the coach added. “We’re just talking about the next game.”
Valley wide receiver Julian Stafford caught seven passes for 162 yards on his way to SWAC offensive player of the week honors. He also returned a kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown.
Undefeated no more
Alcorn State pulled within 1½ games of leader Alabama A&M in the East after upsetting the previously undefeated Bulldogs 21-20 on Saturday in Huntsville, Ala., for its second straight victory under first-year coach Jay Hopson.
With the loss, A&M slid from second in the SBN poll to fourth and must beat Alabama State on Oct. 27 in the Magic City Classic at Birmingham, Ala., to remain in first place in the East.
“It was an eye-opener for us,” A&M coach Anthony Jones said. “The eye-opener is, you have to be ready each and every week.”
Western Division Conf. Over.
UAPB 3-1 4-2
Southern 2-2 3-3
Prairie View A&M 1-3 1-5
Texas Southern 1-4 1-6
Grambling State 0-5 0-6
Eastern Division Conf. Over.
Alabama A&M 5-1 6-1
Alabama State 4-2 4-3
Alcorn State 3-2 3-4
Jackson State 3-2 3-4
Miss. Valley State 2-2 2-4
Virginia-Lynchburg at Grambling State, 2 p.m.
Alcorn State at Prairie View A&M, 2:30 p.m.
MVSU at Jackson State, 3 p.m. (www.swac.org)
UAPB at Southern, 6 p.m.