LORMAN, Miss. — Consider Ladarius Eckwood another jewel in Arkansas-Pine Bluff’s wide arsenal of receivers.
Saturday was a day for the jewel to shine, as he wound up with his best performance of the season in a 24-6 victory over Alcorn State. The junior from Springdale had already set season highs with 46 yards on seven first-half receptions and finished with 74 yards on eight plays.
“They were looking for me all practice,” Eckwood said. “They told me they would be getting me the ball. I just tried to get in my routes, do the right thing and catch the football.”
This was Eckwood’s best game statistically in at least two seasons. He missed all of last season with a hamstring injury and dealt with a bad groin as recently as preseason camp.
But it didn’t appear at first Eckwood would get to contribute early on this season. Coach Monte Coleman said during camp that he was indefinitely suspended for a violation of team policy, but Eckwood worked his way back into Coleman’s good graces and the coach lifted the ban just before UAPB’s opening game against Langston (Okla.) in Little Rock.
Eckwood had four catches for 35 yards against Langston and two for 18 yards against Alabama A&M, rotating with other receivers.
“I didn’t have to rotate at all this game,” Eckwood said after the Alcorn State game. “I was able to get in a groove and make some plays.”
Eckwood’s longest play of the game went for 28 yards on a screen to the Alcorn State 23 late in the third quarter. That led to Tyler Strickland’s field goal that made the score 17-6 in UAPB’s favor.
“I told coaches all week I felt I could make plays and I’ve got to stay on the field more and help the team out,” Eckwood said. “They kept me on the field for the majority of the plays. Coach (Craig) Raye (who works with the receivers) and everyone else did a good job.”
Deep in opposing territory
A week after struggling on fourth-down conversions against Alabama A&M, UAPB didn’t attempt to convert a single fourth down at Alcorn State. The Golden Lions scored three touchdowns and had only a blocked field goal end another drive inside Alcorn State’s 25.
UAPB went 5 for 14 on third-down conversions and had possession for 29 minutes and 34 seconds with an average starting position of its own 30.
The game ball goes to …
Defensive end Brandon Thurmond, who collected both of UAPB’s sacks for a total loss of 15 yards. His second sack forced Alcorn State to punt in the fourth quarter, setting up the Lions’ final scoring drive.
Next for the Lions …
UAPB hits the national airwaves Thursday night when it plays Alabama State at the Cramton Bowl in Montgomery, Ala. Game time is set for 6:30*** p.m., and ESPNU will televise the game.
Elsewhere in the SWAC …
Southern reassigned head coach Stump Mitchell to other duties within the athletic department after Thursday’s 6-0 loss at home to Mississippi Valley State.
The Advocate of Baton Rouge, La., reported Mitchell was in his third and final year of his contract, which paid him $200,000 annually. He was 6-18 at Southern.
***This article has been updated from its original version to correct a game time.