By I.C. Murrell
Commercial Sports Editor
Arkansas-Pine Bluff’s defense held Langston to 63 rushing yards and sacked Langston’s quarterbacks four times.
The offensive line also protected quarterback Ben Anderson well, only giving up two sacks in the third quarter. It was a victory in the battle of the trenches for the Golden Lions, but according to interim offensive line coach Damon Nivens, the war isn’t over yet because there are 10 more games to go in the season.
“It was pretty good protection,” Nivens said. “We were holding up in the beginning, then later on in the game, as we gave him more time they started blitzing up the middle. I think we picked it up pretty good.”
The UAPB offensive line succeeded against Langston without a full-time coach hired just yet for the unit. Nivens has been working with the line since Bruce Johnson resigned from the coaching staff early last month and is a candidate for the full-time role.
“I’m not worried about the full-time part,” Nivens said. “The victory speaks for itself. It’s just a trend I’m going through right now, but I’m not worried about that.”
Defensively, Brandon Thurmond collected two of the four sacks for UAPB and added to his night a 29-yard fumble return that set up the game-winning drive.
“That was clutch right there because we really needed it,” Thurmond said. “It really came from the soul right there.”
Thurmond added the D-line “got greedy after a while” against Langston’s O-line because he didn’t think there was a reason for the NAIA Lions to stick around with the Golden Lions.
“We had to pick our game up because they came ready to fight, but we won the war, though,” Thurmond said.
Eckwood back in action
UAPB wide receiver Ladarius Eckwood worked himself back into the good graces of head coach Monte Coleman and was available for Saturday’s game.
He caught four passes for 35 yards, but lost a fumble after a pickup of 16 yards early in the second quarter.
Coleman said during preseason camp that Eckwood was suspended one game for a violation of team rules.
Eckwood, who missed all of last season with hamstring problems, also was recovering from a groin injury.
“He did some good things in practice,” Coleman said. “He apologized to the team, and I reinstated him, and he made some catches today. He’s a big impact player for us, so it’s kind of hard being the season opener to hold him out, so I did reinstate him.”
Three UAPB players’ jersey numbers were different from what was listed on the game program.
Justin Billings and Dennis Jenkins, UAPB’s top two tailbacks on the depth chart, wore Nos. 1 and 2 respectively.
Billings, who wore No. 21 last season, will regularly don No. 6 for the rest of the season.
Jenkins said he wanted to revert to his old high school number. No. 1 was worn last season by Adrian Moore, then a senior running back.
Wide receiver Johnathan Johnson, originally assigned No. 1 for this season, wore No. 6.
UAPB senior Mareo Howard strained his anterior cruciate ligament on the opening kickoff return, Coleman said, and did not return to the game.
Freshman Andre Mitchell handled return duties for the rest of the game.
“We might lose him for a little while, unfortunately,” Coleman said of Howard. “We’ll get an MRI and see how good he is.”
Starting left tackle Terron Armstead was in the game for one play but left with a shoulder injury he sustained during practice Thursday, Coleman said.
Two of the three regular starting linebackers were in action after being held out of preseason camp scrimmages. Weak-side linebacker Joe Dalton was the absentee with a badly bruised foot, but Coleman expects him to return next week.
Next for Golden Lions … UAPB will play its first home game of the season next Saturday against Alabama A&M to open SWAC play. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. Alabama A&M came from a 27-7 deficit early in the fourth quarter to defeat UAPB 28-27 last season in Huntsville.