Following a solid preseason camp, junior wide receiver Isiah Ferguson looked forward to the start of his second season at Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
But for many like Ferguson, that start had to wait at least a week.
“I wasn’t really frustrated because everything happens for a reason,” Ferguson said after Thursday’s practice. “As far as my eligibility, it wasn’t really my fault. It was out of my hands, something I couldn’t control, because I have a 3.0 (grade-point average). I never failed any classes since I’ve been here.”
Ferguson was among at least 13 UAPB players who were not cleared to play at Arkansas State last Saturday, most of them for unknown specific reasons.
Ferguson, though, shed a little light on his case.
“It was just something with the administration,” Ferguson said. “They never added grades to my degree plan. It was on paper, but it was never in the computer system to show I was eligible to go.”
Coach Monte Coleman said Thursday he didn’t know what caused so many eligibilities at one time and declined to comment further. UAPB athletic director Lonza Hardy Jr. said late Monday no one thing in particular caused so many to not be cleared in time for the first game, adding “it takes a little while” for some to be cleared and there were no hang-ups on the part of UAPB’s compliance office.
“With different kids, there are different situations,” said Hardy, who did not go into specific situations.
But Coleman named Ferguson and three other players who sat out last week as eligible for this Saturday’s game at McNeese State. The other three are freshman running back Walter Ashley, sophomore linebacker Antonio Jenkins and junior linebacker Charles Williams III, another junior-college transfer.
“I’m just excited to be able to play this week because last week I couldn’t play because of some eligibility issues,” Ferguson said. “I’ve been putting in a lot of hard work from the spring to summertime to this past fall camp, so I’m ready to get on the field to show my hard work.”
Running backs Justin Billings and Aaron Lagrone are still hoping to be cleared in time, Coleman said. If they can make the trip to McNeese State, their addition will give the offense a much-needed boost.
Regardless who’s available, everyone on the UAPB offense still has to step up, quarterback Ben Anderson said.
“I blame myself for last week’s loss, so I feel like I have to step up more myself, being a quarterback,” Anderson said. “But it will help having Ferg back and some others, but we can’t be worried about that now. We just have to go to battle with what we’ve got.”
Anderson and the Lions are looking for a better offensive output. In their 62-11 loss at Arkansas State, UAPB was held to 173 total yards, including 12 rushing. Anderson, who was sacked six times, netted minus-26 yards rushing on 16 totes.
“I can’t lie, it was tough,” Anderson said. “A lot of us have not been beaten like that before. Then again, it’s adversity. It’s never going to be easy. We just come back with a short mind, forget about it, and come back with this new team (in McNeese State).”
UAPB (0-1) at McNeese State (1-0)
• When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday (note time change from original schedule)
• Where: Cowboy Stadium, Lake Charles, La.
• TV/Radio: Comcast SportsNet/KUAP-FM 89.7
• Cover-it-Live: Live blog on the game will be available at www.pbcommercial.com and via Twitter @pbcommercial