Another week, same scenario.
Arkansas-Pine Bluff came up empty on its last possession, and Alcorn State managed to run out the clock to escape Golden Lion Stadium with a 21-16 victory Saturday night.
The finish is similar to Alabama State’s 40-39 win last week, when UAPB was stopped cold on two drives in the clutch and blew a 10-point lead. Alabama State ran down all but 3 seconds of remaining clock time.
This time, Alcorn State (3-1, 2-0 SWAC) took a chance deep in its own territory with less than 2 minutes remaining, and it paid off. Running back Arnold Walker rushed for 3 yards on fourth-and-1 to seal the deal.
“I had a soul-searching deal with our offensive line right there, and they said, ‘Coach, we can get it,’” Alcorn State coach Jay Hopson said. “We said, ‘Hey, we’re going to let you prove it,’ and they did a good job.”
Hopson said he had some misgivings about taking the risk, but went for it because the team believed it could earn the first down.
Walker had 82 yards on 14 carries to lead the Braves.
Now, a pair of back-to-back home loss in similar fashion have led to the Golden Lions’ worst start since going 0-7 to start Monte Coleman’s first season as head coach in 2008. Their chances of defending the SWAC championship, however, aren’t over just yet.
“It doesn’t feel very good,” Coleman said. “In hindsight, I say we had a chance to win, and I feel like we did in both of these games.”
But it could be a long two-week break coming up for UAPB, which returns to action Oct. 5 at Jackson State, with the skid.
“We’ve got to continue to concentrate on us, and not worry about other teams,” Coleman said. “We’ve got to get a win so we can get this monkey off our backs and know what it’s like to win, and we’ve got to get hungry.”
Freshman Jeremiah Young started at running back for injured classmate Jamie Smith (shoulder stinger) and enjoyed a career night — 139 yards on 21 carries. He ran 46 yards for a touchdown to pull UAPB within 14-9 in the third quarter.
But the Lions went empty on three of their last four possessions, and Alcorn State all but knocked out UAPB early in the fourth quarter with a 5-yard touchdown run by Walker for a 21-9 edge. UAPB responded, however, as Isiah Ferguson made a defender miss on a 14-yard scoring reception almost 3 minutes later.
Anderson had 233 yards on 18-of-30 passing with no interceptions and was sacked once. UAPB outgained Alcorn State 452-385, but the Braves barely outrushed the Golden Lions 227-219 and had the ball 1 minute, 24 seconds longer.
It’s been a struggle all year for the Lions’ defense to slow down running games, as Coleman reiterated.
“The culprit is still the same as it was the first game,” Coleman said. “We have an opportunity to make plays, and we’re not making them.”
Alcorn State set the tempo early on offense, but it only produced seven points.
UAPB dodged two bullets in the first half, picking off a pass in the end zone and recovering a Walker fumble at the 1-yard line to stay within 7-3 at intermission.
The Braves took a 7-0 lead early in the first quarter when John Gibbs Jr. threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to Tollette George. Gibbs has 158 yards on 12-of-21 passing with a pick.
UAPB mustered a 33-yard field goal from Tyler Strickland more than 5 minutes later to cap a 12-play, 69-yard drive.
The Braves drove from their own 23 when free safety T.Q. Mims picked off Gibbs in the end zone, but made the mistake of bringing it out to the 5. Mims was hurt on the following celebration and did not return.
The Lions punted after six plays, and the Braves quickly moved back into the red zone from midfield. But on third-and-inches from the 8, Walker coughed up the ball at the UAPB 1, and the Lions’ Gyovanni Harvey recovered it with 3:53 left before halftime.
Jamison Knox blocked a Strickland field goal attempt from 57 yards out, which would have set a UAPB record, but he was brought down as time expired.
Joe Price broke a 53-yard scoring run early in the third quarter to give Alcorn State a 14-3 lead. Young’s long TD run came on the next series.
Antonio Jenkins and Jer-ryan Harris each had 11 tackles to lead the UAPB defense. Xavier Lofton added 10 tackles including a half-sack, and Joel Green finished with 1.5 sacks for the Lions.