Arkansas-Pine Bluff football coach Monte Coleman said during Monday’s SWAC coaches’ teleconference that he hopes to know by Wednesday the statuses of all his players who were not cleared to play in Saturday’s loss at Arkansas State.
Both Coleman and UAPB athletic director Lonza Hardy Jr. say the Golden Lions should get some of the players back in time for this Saturday’s game at McNeese State. At least 13 players, including six listed on the first string, were ruled ineligible just days before the Arkansas State game.
Hardy said late Monday it wasn’t any one thing in particular that caused so many to not be cleared in time by the NCAA for the first game.
“I don’t think it’s anything unusual among Division I schools that some athletes aren’t cleared before the first game,” Hardy said. “It definitely isn’t unique to UAPB. With some kids, it takes a little while to get some kids ineligible. With different kids, there are different situations.”
NCAA student-athletes register with the NCAA Eligibility Center to be cleared. Hardy said there were no hang-ups on the part of UAPB’s compliance office that caused the players to not be cleared.
UAPB (0-1) was clearly undermanned in its 62-11 loss to A-State. Even if the Golden Lions can get everyone cleared this week, they will have another monumental challenge on their hands when they take on McNeese State (1-0) in Lake Charles, La.
The Cowboys, a perennial powerhouse in the Southland Conference, are one of seven Football Championship Subdivision teams to come away with victories over a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent this past weekend. But their 53-21 rout of South Florida was never in doubt from the second quarter, when they posted 31 points to erase a 7-2 deficit.
The win margin is the largest for an FCS team against an FBS team, topping Furman’s 25-point feat over North Carolina in 1999.
“I didn’t see this coming because they (South Florida) have good players,” McNeese State coach Matt Viator said in the school’s postgame release. “We got a couple of breaks in the first half and made the most of them. But I was proud with the way our kids played in the second half. We actually gained points in the second half from the first half. And that’s a testament to our kids coming out with good focus in the second half and good conditioning.”
The win also earned the Cowboys a vault into The Sports Network’s FCS Top 25 poll at No. 18. UAPB received 14 voting points for a tie for 43rd.
Coleman said he didn’t know much about McNeese State, adding he would start breaking down film after Monday’s morning practice.
“My biggest concern is not McNeese, it’s us,” Coleman said Monday. “The good thing about it is, out of everyone that played Saturday, I didn’t lose anybody. Everybody’s ready to go and is healthy.”
The loss of several Lions gave Coleman a chance to play a number of newcomers, including freshmen Jamie Smith and Jeremiah Young at running back.
“Some of the younger guys, they now see the speed of the game that we were trying to tell them, and plus they have the first-game jitters behind them,” Coleman said.
Lions in the rankings
UAPB took a big tumble in the Heritage Sports Radio Network poll, which crowned the Golden Lions as its historically black FCS national champion last season.
The Lions fell from first to 10th in the poll as a result of Saturday’s big loss to FBS Arkansas State. UAPB also slipped from second to fourth in the Boxtorow FCS HBCU Coaches’ Poll.
The Sheridan Broadcasting Network poll, which determines the black college national champion for all divisions, was not updated as of Monday. The first Boxtorow HBCU Media Poll of the season will be released next Monday.
ESPN analyst Jay Walker had UAPB ranked second in his HBCU Power Rankings, which were released during Sunday’s live broadcast of the MEAC/SWAC Challenge between Florida A&M and Mississippi Valley State.
Rare back-to-back opening victories
With a 63-12 win over the NAIA’s Edward Waters College, Alcorn State earned back-to-back season opening victories for the first time since 2003 and 2004.
That means coach Jay Hopson is now 2-0 in season openers with the Braves. But going against Mississippi State this Saturday, the Braves aren’t resting on such laurels.
“We’ll take a win any way we can get it,” Hopson said. “We’ve got a quality opponent in Mississippi State, so it’s all in the past.
“We’ve got to do a good job Saturday not seeing the big stage or the big lights. I want to see us come out and see us execute.”
Mississippi State is coming off a 21-3 loss to No. 13 Oklahoma State.
Grambling State (0-1) will do something Arkansas did during last season — play Louisiana-Monroe for Week 2.
The battle for northeast Louisiana bragging rights will take place at 6 p.m. this Saturday in Monroe. ULM (0-1) is coming off a 34-0 shutout defeat at Oklahoma.
“They have a very, very heady smart quarterback,” Grambling State coach Doug Williams said of senior Kolton Browning, who was the hero in the upset of Arkansas last year. “Their job is probably, ‘We’ve got to get something rolling, and we’ve got Grambling this week.’ They’ll be mad, and we’re mad.”
Why be mad? Grambling lost to Alabama A&M 23-9 this past Saturday.
Mississippi Valley State coach Karl Morgan is trying to lean toward a one-quarterback system. But starter Patrick Ivy, a junior transfer, was injured during Sunday’s 27-10 loss to Florida A&M and gave way to another junior transfer, Jeremy Collins.
The two combined to go 9 for 26 for 88 yards with three interceptions. Ivy threw two picks and threw for only 25 yards, but did lead the Delta Devils in rushing with 74 yards — 64 of which came on a first-half scamper.
Morgan didn’t sound negative about the QB situation during Monday’s teleconference. But he’s trying to right the ship at that position after using two signal-callers for much of last season, none of which completed better than 50.9 percent of passes.
“I think we’re better at quarterback,” Morgan said. “I thought there were a couple of chances and opportunities where we overthrew.”