Special to The Commercial/Bo Rogers
UAPB defenders Bill Ross (25), Damien Lee (92) and Jer-ryan Harris (51) surround Langston quarterback Jac’Quon Miles on Saturday in Little Rock.
For the first time as Arkansas-Pine Bluff head coach, Monte Coleman doesn’t have to deal with the stress of rebounding from a season-opening loss, and the 17-14 win over Langston (Okla.) came at an important time for his club.
This coming Saturday, UAPB opens SWAC play at home against reigning Eastern Division champion Alabama A&M, which erased a 27-7 deficit last October to defeat UAPB 28-27 in Huntsville, Ala. The game came back to haunt the Golden Lions, who finished a game behind champion Grambling State in the Western Division race.
Coleman said last year’s finish may have some motivating effect on the Lions this time around.
“Knowing coach (Anthony) Jones (of Alabama A&M), he’s more motivated because it’s a conference game,” Coleman said Monday during the SWAC coaches’ teleconference. “Our motivation is that it’s a conference game.”
Jones echoed Coleman’s thoughts.
“This is their SWAC opener as it is ours. I don’t know that last year is any motivation,” Jones said.
Both UAPB and Alabama A&M are coming off wins determined on final plays. Tyler Strickland converted a 27-yard field goal as time expired for UAPB, and Alabama A&M blocked a field goal for the second time against Tuskegee in Birmingham, Ala.
Alabama A&M trailed the Division II Golden Tigers 3-0 into the third quarter, when Deaunte Mason threw a 5-yard pass to Montaurius Smith to cap a 10-play, 94-yard drive. The Bulldogs overcame nine penalties for 129 yards and converted 7 of 13 third downs.
Jones said his team has plenty of improvements to make “internally” before starting to focus on UAPB, but did not go into specifics.
“We don’t have that kind of time,” Jones said.
Coleman: Howard out with ACL tear
Senior returner Mareo Howard suffered a tear in his anterior cruciate ligament on the opening kickoff against Langston on Saturday in Little Rock, Coleman confirmed Monday.
Howard did not return to the game and will be missing in action indefinitely. Coleman said surgery has been scheduled for the injury.
“No one hit him,” Coleman said of the return. “He made a cut and it gave out on him.”
Freshman Andre Mitchell handled return duties the rest of the way for UAPB. The Californian returned four punts for 56 yards, including a 41-yarder on his first attempt, and netted 28 yards on two kickoff returns.
The loss moved sophomore Wesley Hawthorne up to the starting role at one of the wide receiver positions against Langston. Erick Thomas started as the other wideout.
Alcorn State came from 12 points down in the fourth quarter to beat Grambling State 22-21 Saturday in the Port City Classic in Shreveport, La., marking a successful start to coach Jay Hopson’s tenure with the Braves.
Hopson, who is white, is the first non-African American coach in the SWAC. But he said Monday he’s had no time to reflect on the historical nature of his victory.
He won’t have much time as Alcorn State — which did not practice in the spring because Hopson wasn’t hired until late May — takes a long bus ride to Harrisonburg, Va., to face James Madison, ranked fifth in The Sports Network’s FCS Top 25 poll. James Madison beat St. Francis (Pa.) 55-7 on Saturday.
“We have to make a big progression from Week 1 to Week 2, but it’s always easier when you get the W,” Hopson said.
Grambling State fumbled two punts inside its own 15-yard line, and Alcorn State took advantage of both by scoring nine points. Arnold Walker scored the game-winning touchdown with 1:33 left.
Now Grambling is burdened with the task of putting the loss behind to gear for TCU, ranked 17th in the USA Today Coaches’ Poll. It is the first game of the season for TCU, which will break in the renovated version of Amon G. Carter Stadium this Saturday.
Heat, Bethune-Cookman bother Alabama State
Things couldn’t have gone any better for Alabama State early on in Sunday’s nationally-televised MEAC/SWAC Challenge in Orlando, Fla. They just got worse as the game went on.
Bethune-Cookman scored 38 unanswered points, and the hot artificial turf led to plenty of cramps for both teams in a 38-28 Wildcats victory. Alabama State struggled with slowing down the Wildcats’ rushing game, which gained 367 yards on 60 carries.
“I think Bethune had more to do with the guys cramping up,” Alabama State coach Reggie Barlow said. “Bethune has the big offensive linemen I’ve ever seen in college football.”
Isaiah Crowell, the sophomore transfer who was dismissed from Georgia’s team in July, was held to 18 yards on nine carries for Alabama State and was limited by cramps. Hornets coach Reggie Barlow said the heat was nothing his team wasn’t used to.
“We tried to simulate that,” he said. “Sometimes we would practice at 12 and some days at 3 when it’s really hot.”