Special to The Commercial/Mike Adam
UAPB’s Justin Billings goes through a hole made by Kenny Eagle (65), Patrick Wray (89) and Lyron McClenney (54) as Alabama A&M defenders Cedric Clayborn (18) and Anthony Lanier watch from the ground Saturday night in Pine Bluff.
It’s traveling season for Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
The Golden Lions usually start long road swings during September, and ahead of them this time is a three-game span of games east of the Mississippi River. They missed a chance to go into the swing with some momentum, dropping their first SWAC game of the year Saturday at home to Alabama A&M, 14-10.
Now, the Lions (1-1, 0-1 SWAC) have to try to beat an Alcorn State team that defeated defending SWAC champion Grambling State to start the season.
“It’s a SWAC game we need desperately,” UAPB coach Monte Coleman said Monday during the SWAC coaches’ teleconference. “It is an early game (2 p.m.). I prefer early games. The idle time being in the hotels, I don’t like.”
It will be Alcorn State’s first home game of the season, and coming off a 42-3 loss at FCS fifth-ranked James Madison, Jack Spinks Stadium will be a welcome sight for the Braves (1-1, 1-0). Alcorn State trailed 28-0 at halftime.
“They’re very well-coached,” Coleman said of Alcorn State. “They’re going to be well-poised.”
But the Braves struggled at James Madison, held to 250 total yards while giving up 416. Quarterback Darius Smith completed 22 of 39 passes for 148 yards and ran for 48 more for the Braves, but could not engineer a touchdown drive.
“I’m just constantly stressing on our growth, getting better fundamentally,” Alcorn State coach Jay Hopson said. “We saw some good things, believe it or not, in the second half.”
Coleman was happy with the 173 yards on 44 carries his team totaled against Alabama A&M. He wasn’t happy that a running back didn’t lead the team in rushing.
Quarterback Ben Anderson’s 65 rushing yards Saturday are the most by any Golden Lions player this season. Justin Billings had the most of all the running backs with a season-high 62 yards and Dennis Jenkins was held to 8 yards on eight carries.
“When your quarterback is leading that campaign, that’s not a good sign,” Coleman said. “We’ll improve in the running game when we get our chemistry better.”
Bulldogs take offensive, defensive honors
Running back Kaderius Lacey and strong safety Jeremy Isabelle, both of Alabama A&M, were named SWAC offensive and defensive players of the week, respectively. Lacey ran for 124 yards and two touchdowns against UAPB, and Isabelle had a game-high 10 tackles (three solo), including one for loss.
A&M coach Anthony Jones said Lacey’s understanding of his abilities make him a good football player.
“When you come to terms with what your strengths are, you can be a better football player,” Jones said.