Arkansas-Pine Bluff has officially fallen from first to worst in the SWAC.
The “worst” can still be changed, but any hopes of a third straight winning season are out the door, and chances of repeating as conference champions are severely damaged.
And it was another winless team that damaged those chances.
Behind quarterback Homer Causey’s 196 rushing yards and four touchdowns (two passing), Texas Southern stunned UAPB for a 41-28 victory before a season-low crowd of 4,491 Saturday night at Golden Lion Stadium. Despite both teams going in with winless records, UAPB was favored after three much closer showings against tougher SWAC opponents.
UAPB coach Monte Coleman had praised his team for improvements made each week and said the Golden Lions (0-6, 0-4 SWAC) had a good practice week for Texas Southern (1-5, 1-4). Ultimately, any progress the Lions had made was stunted Saturday.
“As a team, we’ve got to search ourselves,” said UAPB quarterback Ben Anderson, who rushed for three touchdowns and threw for one more. “Stop making excuses, stop finding reasons not to and just do. Just be dependable.”
Coleman was asked if his team’s performance seemed uninspiring.
“I don’t know the word to even use (to describe) what it was,” Coleman said. “… I did feel before the game we were a little flat. I addressed the team and told them that it’s very important we pick this thing up.”
The Lions sought to come back from a 24-7 deficit against the Tigers and was within 34-28 with 4:41 left. But as has often been the case, the defense could not come up with a key stop in the clutch to give the offense one final go-ahead opportunity.
Daveonn Porter broke a 56-yard touchdown run with 2:44 left to give the Tigers a 13-point edge, driving an unforeseeable nail in this coffin. Porter finished with 156 yards on 20 carries, and Texas Southern — which averaged 215.4 total yards per game going in — had 493 total yards, including 355 on the ground.
UAPB was hosting a Texas Southern club that hadn’t scored more than 17 points in a game all season. But the Tigers scored on four of their first five drives and led 24-14 at halftime.
“It seems to me it doesn’t matter who we’re playing; the week before, a team could look a certain way, but when we step on the field with them, it seems they’re inspired to beat us,” Coleman said. “Maybe it’s because we’re the SWAC champions from last season. I don’t know; it seems like we seem to bring the best out of teams.”
Causey threw both of his touchdown passes in the first quarter, finding Edward Perkins-Loving on a screen for a 12-yard catch-and-run and hitting Malik Cross for a 49-yard strike. Texas Southern made it 24-7 after Causey’s 12-yard TD run. Anderson brought the Lions within 24-14 with his second touchdown carry from 4 yards out.
Anderson completed 26 of 45 passes for 316 yards and a score. He also threw three interceptions and was sacked twice.
The start of the second half all but ended the Lions’ night. Three plays into the period, Causey busted a 67-yard scramble for a score to pad the lead to 31-14. Desperately needing to get some offense going, Anderson threw interceptions on two consecutive drives. But he scored again early in the fourth on a 1-yard sneak.
Eric Medina, who went 2 for 2 on field goals, connected with 8:21 left to push the lead to 34-21, but UAPB marched back in 10 plays and pulled within six on Anderson’s 22-yard pass to Cody Swain, who had 94 yards on six receptions.
Jamie Smith had 56 yards on nine carries and Jeremiah Young finished with 52 on eight carries for UAPB. The Lions outgained the Tigers 522-493 in total yards to set a season high. UAPB has not totaled fewer than 400 in conference play.
Surprisingly, it has not led to a single victory. And Anderson said he feels the Lions have hit rock bottom, although there are five games remaining.
“As an offense, for some reason, we like to play down to our opponents,” Anderson said. “We get up for the big games, but when it’s somebody we should beat, we leave it there last week.”