From the time Arkansas-Pine Bluff won the Western Division championship of the SWAC, the Golden Lions have kept another goal in front of them — winning out.
If they do that, they will give the program its first-ever 10-win season. Today, they can match a school record with their ninth win of the year, sharing that mark with the 1990 and 1994 clubs.
For UAPB coach Monte Coleman, winning No. 9 would say a lot about his team has been able to accomplish.
“There are a lot of naysayers out there that said I would never win a championship, wanted me fired after this season because I didn’t win the championship,” he said. “It just goes to show, given the right personnel, given the right coaching staff, we can be successful and we will be successful even more in years to come. We will win more championships.”
Prairie View A&M, which is a distant second place from UAPB in the Western Division, pays the Lions a visit today to close the regular season for both teams. It’s the Lions’ last warm-up before the SWAC championship game Dec. 8 in Birmingham, Ala.
A week ago, UAPB showed how good it can be — and how bad it can perform. The Lions won 24-17 and racked up a season-high 526 yards of offense, getting 130 yards rushing from Justin Billings and 105 from Dennis Jenkins.
But they lost the ball four times and saw a 17-point lead shrink to seven in the final quarter.
“The one thing we always have to take in consideration: Grambling is a good football team,” Coleman said. “They played a little higher the second than they did the first half, and we played lower. Anytime you have four turnovers in a ballgame, you’re giving your opponent opportunities. That’s what we had against Grambling. We gave them opportunities and they were able to move the ball some on us, but it was kind of a bend-but-don’t-break kind of deal on us.”
The key for UAPB today is the same as it was last week.
“Prairie View’s a good football team also,” Coleman said. “You can’t play the record.”
Prairie View is a team that has posted solid numbers but has been outdone by better numbers. The Panthers have gained 408.6 total yards per game in an offense led by two quarterbacks, De’Auntre Smiley and Jerry Lovelocke, both of whom have completed better than 63 percent of their passes. But their defense has struggled, allowing 430.3 yards on average.
While Prairie View has converted 8 of 19 fourth-downs for 42 percent, the Panthers have failed to stop their opponents in that situation 13 of 22 times.
They are deep at the running back and receiver spots, but have no one who averages better than 58 yards a game.
For today, Coleman knows the last thing he wants the Lions to do is keep the Panthers in the game.
“We’ve got to do everything in our power to make sure we don’t make the mistakes like we did against Grambling to give them an opportunity,” he said.
Western Division Conf. Over.
x-UAPB 7-1 8-2
Prairie View A&M 3-5 3-7
Southern 2-6 3-7
Texas Southern 2-6 2-8
Grambling State 0-8 1-9
Eastern Division Conf. Over.
Alabama State 7-2 7-3
Jackson State 6-2 6-4
Alabama A&M 6-3 7-3
Miss. Valley State 4-4 4-6
Alcorn State 4-4 4-6
Jackson State at Alcorn State, 1 p.m.
MVSU at Texas Southern, 1 p.m. (www.swac.org)
Alabama A&M at Auburn, 1 p.m.
Prairie View at UAPB, 2:30 p.m.