Bill Ross earned more than a touchdown when he returned a first-quarter interception at Southern on Saturday.
The 60-yard scoring return, along with nine tackles and a forced fumble, earned Ross the SWAC Defensive Player of the Week award. The honor was announced during Monday’s SWAC coaches’ teleconference.
“I’m very proud of Bill,” UAPB coach Monte Coleman said. “He’s the leader of our defense. I’m happy he put up the numbers he did to earn those honors.”
Coleman said Ross’ pick-six couldn’t have come in a more timely manner. It came after UAPB scored on its first drive of the game, which started a string of five straight scoring series.
Ross is the second Golden Lion to earn a SWAC Player of the Week award, following fellow linebacker Jer-ryan Harris after the Oct. 6 home win over Jackson State.
UAPB (5-2, 4-1 SWAC), which leads the conference’s Western Division, can wrap up its second straight winning season this coming Saturday when it hosts Mississippi Valley State for homecoming. It would be the earliest since 2006 that the Golden Lions won their sixth game.
“Every coach comes in every season being optimistic, hoping to win early to get to a winning season,” said Coleman, who’s hoping to earn a contract extension after this season, the fifth and final of his original deal. “We didn’t anticipate getting to six wins this early, but we’ll be happy if we can get that sixth win Saturday.”
Getting there likely won’t be a cakewalk despite Valley’s record (2-5, 2-3 SWAC). In fact, this Saturday’s game could turn into a defensive battle.
The Delta Devils are third among Football Championship Subdivision teams in total defense with 282.57 yards per game allowed. But they’ll go against a Golden Lions defense that, despite allowing only 329.14, was once ranked among the top six in the nation.
For the Devils to be successful, they’ll have to slow down a UAPB offense that raked in 510 total yards against Southern.
“They run to the football,” Coleman said of the Devils. “When they play defense, it’s going to be a big task. But we don’t worry about the defense, just worry about what we do.”
Another slice, please?
Grambling State coach Doug Williams knows what it’s like to win football games. He’s also had a piece of cake before.
This past Saturday, Grambling (1-6, 0-5) treated itself to victory for the first time this season, beating Virginia University of Lynchburg 22-7. Up to that point, nothing about the campaign had been all that sweet for the Tigers.
“It’s like if you taste a piece of cake and someone asks you how it tastes, you say it just tastes like a piece of cake,” Williams said. “We hope this win tastes like another win when the season is over.”
Next for the Tigers is a game at Texas Southern (1-6, 1-4) in which the loser will remain in the cellar of the West.
“TSU is hungry,” Williams said. “They’re looking for the same win we’re looking for, which is the next one.”
Pressure? No, not on Bama State
A lot is riding on this Saturday’s Magic City Classic in Birmingham, Ala.
Alabama A&M (6-1, 5-1 SWAC) and Alabama State (4-3, 4-2) will square off for first place in the Eastern Division, just as they did last year, when A&M won to end Bama State’s undefeated start in the conference and eventually made it to the SWAC championship game.
A lot of pressure on Bama State, right?
“Rather than look at it as a pressurized situation, we just look at it as a chance to stay alive,” Bama State coach Reggie Barlow said.
ESPNU will broadcast the game on a tape-delay basis later Saturday night.