PRAIRIE VIEW, Texas — In Monte Coleman’s view, things aren’t as bad as the final record for Arkansas-Pine Bluff indicates.
“We’re still a good football team,” he said Saturday after he concluded his sixth season as UAPB’s head coach with a 43-23 loss to Prairie View A&M. “I’m totally convinced of that. This one game doesn’t destroy us as a team. We’re still a good football team. Now we just have to add to what we already have.”
What UAPB has is a few needs on both sides of the ball to be addressed during the offseason. Defensively, the Golden Lions will lose one starter on the four-man front, but two at linebacker and two cornerbacks to graduation. The defensive line played all season with one returning starter from 2012 in Troy Goss.
Offensively, UAPB will need to increase depth up front and at the receiver spots, although it has playmakers in Cody Swain and Isiah Ferguson returning. Ben Anderson will be expected to go into his senior season with a crop of four quarterbacks who did not take a single snap as freshmen, and the running back foursome of Jamie Smith, Jeremiah Young, Draylon Willis and Walter Ashley will be more seasoned as sophomores.
Coleman will have to handle criticism of a season in which the Lions fell way short of expectations as defending SWAC champions from now until the 2014 campaign kicks off. Then again, much of that criticism likely could not be avoided, as UAPB had to play with a big loss of returning players due to academic and other eligibility issues.
And playing hard through such adversity, especially with a number of close games and a young personnel, is what keeps Coleman optimistic about the team.
“We’re a team that we don’t make a bunch of excuses,” Coleman said. “There are a lot of excuses that can be made for the way our season has been. What we have to do, we have to rebound, go back and see where we are as a football team, evaluate our players we have returning and put closure to it. “Every now and then, you have a rough year. We never had one in my tenure as bad as this.”
Before this season, the worst Coleman endured was a 3-9 record in 2008. UAPB went 5-5, 5-6, 6-5 and 10-2 in the following seasons.
This year’s 2-9 mark is the worst for UAPB since the 1986 team posted a 0-10 mark (forfeiting its only victory in the process).
“Everything happens for a reason,” senior receiver Dezmond Beverly said. “I ain’t trying to look at the bad that comes out of this. I’m trying to stay positive, look at the good that comes from it.”
Part of UAPB’s struggles against Prairie View — and the season, for that matter — resulted from a lack of focus and discipline, Beverly said, but he believes that problem will be fixed.
“I trust in the seniors coming back and players coming back to use this season as an eye-opener and let them know discipline and focus is the main part of our success,” he said. “I’m just looking at this year as a growing year for the younger guys to know how to do it.”
Harris breaks 100-tackle mark again
UAPB senior Jer-ryan Harris can say he recorded 100 tackles twice in his career.
Harris had 10 tackles, including five solo, against Prairie View to finish with 107 for the season. He had 129 tackles in 2010, when he won the SWAC Freshman of the Year honor, and totaled 98 last season.
Sophomore Antonio Jenkins, who was third in the SWAC in tackles going into Saturday’s game, also had 10 tackles and finished with 94. He and Harris led the Football Championship Subdivision in the category earlier in the season, but Jenkins missed a game due to a team suspension and injury slowed Harris down the stretch in the year.
Freshman Willie Duncan III led the Lions with 17 tackles, including seven solo.
Harris managed 10 tackles despite leaving the game early due to a persistent shin injury.
Two other UAPB seniors tried to play through injury Saturday. Knee and ankle problems slowed down left guard Kenny Eagle and senior receiver Dexter Bryant was bothered by a knee injury and did not catch any passes. All three started the game.
Freshman Jamie Smith saw limited action and carried the ball once for 10 yards. Coleman said Smith was pulled out of the game early “for reasons” he did not specify, but did not indicate injury as a reason.
The game ball goes to …
Prairie View freshman Johnta’ Hebert for becoming the third running back to rush for 200 or more yards against UAPB this season and the second consecutive to do so. He gained 250 yards on 35 carries.