On Senior Day, a redshirt junior owned the show.
Ben Anderson rushed 21 times for a career-high 192 yards and the insurance touchdown and added 280 yards and four TDs passing. It was all needed as Arkansas-Pine Bluff avoided a winless home slate with a 45-42 win against Grambling State on Saturday.
“It really was just for my seniors,” said Anderson, a redshirt junior. “Most of them I came with and have been with for four years. We never thought this day would come, the last day. I just happened to redshirt.
“I just had to make sure their last (home) game was a win. I did this for the seniors.”
An 0-5 home record for UAPB would have been devastating, senior wideout Dezmond Beverly said.
“The win came at the perfect time,” said Beverly, who had five receptions for 85 yards. “Better late than never. It was our Senior Night, and the seniors got sent out their last game at Golden Lion Stadium.”
Anderson completed 19 of 29 passes and won a shootout over the Tigers’ Johnathan Williams, who went 14-for-18 for 275 yards and rushed 13 times for 84 yards himself. Williams made his second straight start since regular starter D.J. Williams was sidelined with what Grambling officials called concussion-like symptoms.
Anderson broke his career rushing mark by 59 yards. That was how long one of his carries in the third quarter was, but it came on a drive that ended up giving Grambling State (1-10, 1-7 SWAC) more momentum.
Dwight Amphy blocked a 26-yard field goal attempt by Tyler Strickland and returned it 85 yards for a touchdown at the 4:28 mark of the period. But Johnathan Wallace had his second point-after attempt blocked, and the score remained 31-24 in the Tigers’ favor.
Then, Anderson went right back to work.
“We were still in the game,” Anderson said. “They just made a good play. I felt we didn’t execute. We should have put it in on that long run.”
Eleven plays into the next drive, Anderson spun out of the pocket and had plenty of running room in front of him. But he threaded a pass through Grambling’s defense and found Cody Swain in the back of the end zone for a 14-yard scoring pass to tie it at the 14:05 mark of the final period. Grambling quickly went back down the field with the aid of a 52-yard Williams-to-Chester Rogers pass to the UAPB 9. The Tigers settled for a 19-yard Juan Vazquez field goal to regain the lead, 34-31.
Not to be outdone, Anderson completed his next three passes and snuck in a yard to the Tigers’ 2 on fourth-and-1 to continue what would be a 14-play, 91-yard series. Two plays later, he was flushed to his right and connected with Erick Thomas from 4 yards out for the go-ahead score with 6:16 remaining.
With that, the Lions (2-7, 2-5) had come back from a fourth-quarter deficit for the first time this season. They just needed a late defensive stop, which had been hard for them to come by in a frustrating year.
Not so hard Saturday. The Lions forced the Tigers to go three-and-out and got the ball back with 5:07 left.
“The defense did what we had to do,” UAPB coach Monte Coleman said. “Every time we were faced with adversity, somebody on the defense and somebody on the offense (did something). … Whenever we needed a stop, (defensive lineman) Troy Goss came to me several times and said, ‘Coach, we got this. We’re going to stop them.’ And sure enough, they went out there and jelled as a defense and stopped them.”
Almost 3 minutes later, Anderson faked a handoff and went up the middle 15 yards for the insurance score.
Williams wasn’t finished. He completed his next four passes, including a 26-yard strike to Verlan Hunter at the UAPB 1, and scored on a keeper with 1:22 left. D.J. Williams was forced to come in after Johnathan Williams lost his helmet and fired a two-point conversion pass to Chad Williams to make it 45-42.
UAPB recovered the onside kick and earned the game-sealing first down when Anderson rushed for 20 yards on second-and-8. Just a nice finishing touch for the Little Rock product.
“This isn’t the first time I’ve seen him ball like that,” Beverly said. “It’s really no surprise to me. He’s going to do what he do.”
Grambling overcame a mountain of penalties — eight of their 11 flags for 84 yards came in the first half — to lead 25-21 at halftime. The Tigers scored on four of their first five drives.
Each team scored on its first two drives, but UAPB surged to a 21-13 lead on its third drive, when fullback Michael Wilson made carries of 1 and 13 yards for his first TD of the season.
Jeremy Runner ran 14 yards up the middle to put the Tigers within 21-19 with 8:53 left before halftime. On UAPB’s next drive, Tyree Hollins picked off a halfback pass by Jeremiah Young intended for Anderson and returned it 33 yards to the UAPB 25.
The Tigers capitalized in five plays, despite a pair of penalties that pushed the ball back to the 27 and made it second-and-long. Chad Williams then brought down a 27-yard pass in the end zone in a 1-on-1 jump ball battle with defensive back Gyovanni Harvey with 4:46 left, putting the Tigers in front.
Jamie Smith rushed 16 times for 72 yards for UAPB. Chad Williams (57 yards), Anthony McGhee (56) and Hunter (48) each made three catches for Grambling.