BATON ROUGE, La. — This is not the first time that Arkansas-Pine Bluff has proven itself high-powered on offense. But the Golden Lions haven’t had a better performance all season than Saturday night on Southern’s turf.
“It was an explosion I’ve been waiting for the whole year,” UAPB offensive coordinator Eric Dooley said after his unit came away with 510 total yards in a 50-21 victory, the Golden Lions’ first 50-point game in at least three seasons. “Those guys had the potential to do it, and they finally came and just played. We knew we were facing a hard team that would come out and play for 60 minutes and we just had some things fall our way.”
UAPB outgained Southern in almost equal possession time. Southern had the ball 6 more seconds. Through one quarter, when UAPB had the ball only 4 minutes and 11 seconds, the Lions were already up 21-0 and had barely outgained the Jaguars 133-124 in total yards.
The Lions, who came into the game averaging 340.2 total yards an outing, are more accustomed to taking their offense to the next level in big games. They racked up 466 yards in a 24-21 national-TV win over Alabama State last month and broke the 500-yard mark Saturday in a battle for first place in the West.
“The things that were at stake made both teams fight hard,” Dooley said after Saturday’s game.
Dooley visited Southern for the first time since he ended his 14-year stay as an assistant there to accept his current role at UAPB.
Asked if he thought the return had something to do with his game-planning, he answered: “I hope it’s something I did that the guys were comfortable with and I hope it continues,” he said. “Now you just have to continue to do it.”
Saturday’s game also marked the reunion of UAPB and its secondary coach last season, current Southern special teams coach Marty Biagi.
Thurmond leads sack charge
UAPB defensive end Brandon Thurmond came into Saturday’s game trailing only Montana’s Zack Wagenmann by a half-sack (by NCAA standards) for the most in the Football Championship Subdivision.
He left with two unassisted, marking his ninth and 10th of the season when his lone assisted sack is counted as whole, which the SWAC does. Officially, the NCAA will recognize 9.5 sacks, as it credits players with a half-sack for each assisted. Wagenmann had eight prior to Saturday — seven unassisted and two assisted.
Thurmond is almost halfway through his goal of 21 sacks for the season.
“God gets all the praise and glory for that,” he said. “Without Him, it wouldn’t be possible for me to do all this. Other than that, it’s not just me, it’s the other defensive linemen.”
Thurmond’s play sparked the Lions’ defense, which finished with six full sacks. Three of the four starting defensive linemen — Thurmond, Troy Goss and Damien Lee — each had at least one solo.
“That’s crazy,” said linebacker Bill Ross, who had a 60-yard interception return for a touchdown. “They were all active. They played a great game.”
The game ball goes to …
UAPB quarterback Ben Anderson, who engineered the potent offense and came within four yards of 300 passing in maybe his most accurate performance of the season, completing 15 of 20 with no interceptions and one touchdown.
Next for the Lions …
UAPB will celebrate homecoming and host cross-Delta rival Mississippi Valley State next Saturday in hopes of securing its second straight winning season. Kickoff at Golden Lion Stadium is scheduled for 2:30 p.m.