ITTA BENA, Miss. — Just a week earlier in Pine Bluff, Ben Anderson had that look on his face.
A long season has just gotten a little bit longer after Arkansas-Pine Bluff missed an opportunity at a game-tying drive against Southern and lost its seventh straight game to open the season.
“You just get burned out,” Anderson said after that 29-21 defeat.
Anderson and the Golden Lions were anything but burned out Saturday at Mississippi Valley State. They were very much alive.
Anderson accounted for four touchdowns — two rushing, two passing — in UAPB’s first victory of the season Saturday. In the process, he rushed for a career-high 123 yards.
“Ben has been very consistent with his running and passing,” UAPB coach Monte Coleman said. “That’s what got him a spark. Him able to get us out of trouble on third downs, and he was able to get first downs with his feet.”
UAPB converted 6 of 12 third downs compared to 5 of 14 for Valley. Both teams were 0 for 2 on fourth downs.
Anderson’s ability to rush is no secret. As a matter of fact, the Lions rely on his dual-threat movement, Coleman said.
“He scares me when he does that because I want him to get down sooner and not take the punishment,” Coleman said. “Ben is tough. He’s been a tough player for me the last three years and he deserves all the accolades that he gets.
Anderson, a first-team All-SWAC player last season and preseason offensive player of the year in the conference, is a likely candidate for the league’s offensive player of the week honor. He made his case by throwing for 269 yards and two touchdowns to go with his rushing effort.
Cody Swain is another likely candidate. The sophomore from Baton Rouge, La., caught both TD passes and had a career-high 153 yards. With 13:21 left in the game, he took a pass on a slant route and went 86 yards for the game’s last score.
“I just wanted to make some plays,” Swain said. “I was ready go out and win a ballgame, to start off.”
Anderson said Swain, who actually has led the team in receiving yards in three of the last four games, is coming out of a shell.
“He finally started to listen to me,” Anderson said. “I just tell him to catch the ball and run, and don’t be looking to get hit, and that’s what he did on the last one.”
Swain rose to the occasion in the absence of another wide receiver, Ladarius Eckwood. Coleman said Eckwood missed the trip to Itta Bena with a bruised foot, but didn’t say how it was sustained.
UAPB succeeded in stopping the run game for the first time this season.
Valley had only 57 yards on 24 carries, led by Patrick Durr’s 42 on 13 carries. Every other opponent the Lions faced turned in triple-digit yardage on the ground.
“It was very key because the run has been our worst enemy this year,” senior linebacker Xavier Lofton said. “But today, we pulled it together, from the D-line to the safeties to the linebackers, and we put it all together.”
UAPB also held the Devils to 24 minutes, 29 seconds of possession time, picking off Patrick Ivy twice and returning a fumble for a touchdown despite giving up some big passes from the Valley quarterback.
“We had some busted plays, but overall, I think it was a pretty good effort … from everybody, from the safeties, to the corners, to the linebackers, to the D-line,” Lofton said. “We all had a solid game today.”
Sophomore linebacker Antonio Jenkins, who missed last Saturday’s game due to a suspension, picked off Ivy on Valley’s second drive of the game, shortly after UAPB took the early 7-0 lead. Free safety Kevin Rucker Jr. returned an interception 43 yards in the fourth quarter for the Lions.
Free safety Gyovanni Harvey later made a wide-open pick of Valley backup Carl Davis.
Senior linebacker Jer-ryan Harris, the Football Championship Subdivision’s leading tackler going into Saturday, had a season-low five tackles (four solo). He’s three tackles shy of his second career 100-stop season.
Linemen Anthony Smith and Anthony Johnson each had a sack.
The game ball goes to …
Swain for his career-high in receiving yards and career-long touchdown catch.
Next for the Lions …
UAPB will be idle for the second time next weekend. Its next game is Nov. 9 against Grambling State in the Lions’ final home game of the season.