Arkansas-Pine Bluff had four players finish with 11 or more tackles in Saturday’s 34-24 home victory over Jackson State.
Two of them, linebackers Jer-ryan Harris and Xavier Lofton, led the team with 15 each. Harris also recovered a fumble and hurried a quarterback once.
And it was Harris who was named SWAC Defensive Player of the Week for his big game, the conference announced Monday.
“I’m glad he received those honors,” coach Monte Coleman said during the SWAC coaches’ teleconference. “When he’s going, he’s going. He’s getting back to his natural form as a freshman.”
That was two years ago, when Harris was named SWAC Freshman of the Year following a 129-tackle season. He and Lofton are tied for second on the team with 52 tackles, 13 behind Bill Ross, who had 14 Saturday.
Coleman has been impressed with Lofton’s play as the starting weak-side linebacker. Eight of Lofton’s stops against Jackson State were solo.
“I couldn’t have anticipated he’d play this well,” Coleman said of the junior.
The coach said Monday he couldn’t recall being a part of a game as a player or coach in which three players from the same team each ran for 100 or more yards, but that’s what Jackson State had Saturday in backup quarterback Clayton Moore (100) and running backs Tommy Gooden (104) and Rakeem Sims (102). It was apparent UAPB needed every tackle to keep the Tigers’ ground game from factoring into a win.
Losing four of seven fumbles hurt the Tigers, though.
“We worked on fumbling,” Jackson State coach Rick Comegy said. “We’ve got to put more time in it. We’ve got to squeeze the football.”
Coleman said the Lions will take some time off at the end of this bye week, but didn’t specify when. UAPB will resume play Oct. 20 at Southern.
“We’ll back off some of the drills we do, but we will work on specifics,” Coleman said. “We’ve got to practice as if we have a game. We can’t lose it. The physical part is there; it’s the mental part we got to have.”
Harris’ weekly award is the first awarded by the SWAC to a Golden Lion this year. A few more big games, and he might catch up with Alabama A&M quarterback Deaunte Mason and Alabama State kicker Bobby Wenzig for the most such honors.
Mason won his fourth straight Offensive Player of the Week award after completing 21 of 32 for 235 yards and two touchdowns in a 35-0 win at Mississippi Valley State.
“His level of preparedness is unmatched, and it’s showing,” Alabama A&M coach Anthony Jones said.
Wenzig won his fourth Special Teams POY honor of the year after a career-high six PATs, a field goal and three touchbacks off kickoffs in a 45-0 home win over Texas Southern. Wenzig missed a would-be tying field goal in the final minute of UAPB’s 24-21 win on Sept. 20.
Running back Isaiah Crowell of Alabama State is the Newcomer of the Week.
Six weeks into the season, defending SWAC champion Grambling State doesn’t yet have a victory. It’s not what those who picked coach Doug Williams’ team to win the conference again could have imagined.
“I didn’t buy into the pick to win it all, but I didn’t think I’d be sitting where I am today,” Williams said.
Grambling State lost Saturday to Prairie View A&M 31-14 to fall to 0-5 and 0-4 in the SWAC. Asked what’s behind the Tigers’ freefall, Williams said: “If I go through everything, I’d be making excuses.
“We’ve got to put guys in the right places,” he added. “They’ve got to respond to the changes.”