Special to the Commercial/Bo Rogers
UAPB’s Kempys Robinson (#4) goes after a Jackson State fumble Saturday night at Golden Lion Stadium.
When Arkansas-Pine Bluff’s passing game continued to struggle, Dennis Jenkins came through with his best game as a Golden Lion.
Jenkins ran for 154 yards and two first-half touchdowns on 24 carries, helping UAPB overcome its passing woes and beat Jackson State 34-24 Saturday night at Golden Lion Stadium. The Lions (4-2, 3-1 SWAC) beat the Tigers (2-4, 2-2) for the first time since 2009 and increased their lead in the SWAC Western Division to 1 1/2 games.
Jenkins’ total was 52 yards away from a career high he set while at Florida A&M.
“We came out and wanted to establish the run,” Jenkins said. “The O-line (offensive line) did what they did, and they told me before we even started the game to believe in them. That’s what we did. We went out and did what we were supposed to.”
Jenkins’ game was big for an offense that lost starting running back Justin Billings with a bloody nose in the first half and could not get much of anything going through the air. Medical personnel could not get Billings’ nose to stop bleeding, coach Monte Coleman said, and he was held out the rest of the game with one carry for 7 yards.
“When Justin went down, it kind of put a load (on me),” Jenkins said. “But at the same time, (Aaron) Lagrone had come in, so we were at the same pace because he had some pretty good runs himself.”
Lagrone finished with 50 yards on 11 carries.
Ben Anderson started the game 0-for-8 passing for UAPB, whose air attack has sputtered for the past two games. But his next pass was golden, a 15-yard completion to Dezmond Beverly early in the second quarter.
Anderson still finished 5 of 17 for 30 yards and an interception, but also had 52 yards on seven carries. He said the passing woes are not an issue.
“There’s still a lot of time to regroup or rebuild,” Anderson said. “It’s just now halfway (through the season). … We’re going to take this bye week and time off, get a break and come back and be ready.”
He added the weather didn’t factor in much into the performance.
The poor passing wasn’t all the Lions had to weather. The game was stopped just before 8 p.m. with UAPB up 24-14 and 7:47 left in the third because of thunder and lightning in the area. The 40-minute pause was the first in a UAPB game since the season opener against Langston (Okla.).
Then, there was the ground game of Jackson State. The Tigers ran for 319 yards and finished with 420 total yards, while the Lions gained 263 of its 293 yards rushing. Tommy Gooden (104 yards), Rakeem Sims (101) and Clayton Moore (100) each reached the century mark rushing for Jackson State.
“They came in with a really good game plan,” Coleman said. “They ran the power effectively. It wasn’t so much the power as us. We had several missed tackles tonight. Give them their credit; they moved the ball on us. But we’ve got to play better.”
But lack of ball security hurt the Tigers as well. They lost four of seven fumbles on the night, while UAPB did not cough up the ball.
Moore completed 8 of 18 passes for 76 yards for Jackson State. Starter Dedric McDonald went 3 for 8 for 25 yards.
UAPB gained only two first downs on its first five drives. Jackson State, however, couldn’t put any points on the board despite strong running from Gooden (12 carries for 66 yards in first half) and Moore (five for 45). The Tigers’ Ryan Deising missed a 39-yard field goal to start the second quarter.
Safety Jarvis Webb recovered a Jabari Payton fumble to give the Lions possession at the Tigers 23. The next play, Jenkins went around the left end for the first touchdown.
Anderson’s pass to Beverly came on the next drive, which went 55 yards in seven plays.
The Tigers switched from McDonald to Moore at quarterback, and Moore gained 33 yards on his first four carries. A holding penalty against the Lions set up a 7-yard gain by Tommy Gooden for the touchdown to pull the Tigers within 14-7.
Jenkins quickly struck on UAPB’s next play from scrimmage, bouncing off a tackle and turning up the speed on a 50-yard scoring run.
The Tigers drew within 21-14 with the opening second-half drive, going 61 yards in a little more than 2 minutes. Rakeem Sims sprinted 45 yards to the UAPB 5, and after a penalty moved the ball to the 3, Sims punched the ball in the end zone.
UAPB went back up by double digits on a 27-yard field goal by Tyler Strickland. That was the last play before the weather delay.
Jackson State came out of the delay and drove 63 yards before settling for a Raphael Dent 26-yard field goal. The Tigers appeared to gain some momentum when Qua Cox picked off an Anderson pass near the goal line and returned it to the 8, but Jer-ryan Harris recovered a Gooden fumble the very next play to set up the next scoring drive, which ended in a Strickland field goal at the 10:28 mark of the final quarter.
Moore started the next series with a 39-yard run to the 5. After Gooden fumbled the ball out of bounds at the 1, Moore snuck into the end zone to draw the Tigers within 27-24.
Jackson State forced UAPB to punt and drove to the Lions’ 49, where on fourth-and-goal, Bill Ross stopped McDonald at the line of scrimmage. Two plays later, Anderson ran 44 yards on a bootleg down to the Jackson State 6, and on third down connected with Aaron Lagrone on a play-action pass from 5 yards out for the final score.
Moore committed the Tigers’ seventh fumble, recovered by Demarcus Berry with 30 seconds left to wrap up the Lions’ victory.