Grambling State’s first victory of the season grabbed Arkansas-Pine Bluff’s attention.
So has Dennis Winston’s work as interim head coach.
In the past two games, the embattled Tigers have been in position to win, coming close in an overtime loss to Texas Southern and finally getting over the hump this past Saturday with a 47-40 home win over Mississippi Valley State. The win snapped a 13-game losing streak, counting a forfeit to Jackson State.
“We’ve got to hit on all cylinders to win this game,” UAPB coach Monte Coleman said Monday, forecasting his upcoming meeting with Grambling State.
More than two weeks removed from a players’ boycott of the Jackson State game, the Tigers (1-9, 1-6 SWAC) have found their footing under Winston, who was named interim coach the week of the incident.
“It was a very emotional game for the young men we put on the field,” Winston said of Saturday’s win. “We had about 12,000 in the stadium, and about 5- or 6,000 more outside the stadium. The community let the team know they were still behind these young men.”
Now, the Tigers, who are under their third head coach this season, will try to build a winning streak when they visit UAPB this Saturday. It will be a homecoming of sorts for Winston, who spent the past three years as defensive line coach at UAPB before leaving this past spring to become Grambling State’s defensive coordinator.
“It’s going to be an emotional football game because a lot of those young men (at UAPB) I recruited,” Winston said. “They’re going to play hard and physical. We’re going to play hard and physical. We’ll be ready to play.”
Grambling State quarterback Johnathan Williams accounted for seven touchdowns, including five passing, and collected 319 total offensive yards against Valley. Williams started in place of injured D.J. Williams, whose injury Winston would not specify.
“He has nicks and bruises,” Winston said. “He’s day-to-day.”
The Golden Lions (1-7, 1-5) are coming off their second bye week of the season after beating Valley 38-18 in Itta Bena, Miss., and are hoping to start a win streak of their own. Coleman, who’s known to express more concern about his team than others, revaled an unusual feeling about his next contest.
“This is a game that scares me because of their (Grambling State’s) potential,” Coleman said. “They’re going on some momentum.”
Coleman then clarified he used the wrong words to express his feelings about the upcoming game, stating he worries more about his own team.
Jones records win No. 100
Coleman’s old teammate with the Washington Redskins, Anthony Jones, earned his 100th career victory as a head coach Saturday.
Jones’ Alabama State Bulldogs came from 15-0 down to defeat the Alcorn State Braves 19-18 on Saturday in Lorman, Miss. Jaymason Lee threw for three touchdowns for the Bulldogs (3-6, 3-4).
“The 100th victory is an accomplishment to be shared by many,” Jones said. “I’m blessed the good Lord allowed me to be in front of this, but I owe this to a lot of coaches, student-athletes, ADs and presidents.”
Jones referred to a newspaper article about his team during halftime, when Alcorn State (7-3, 5-2) still led 18-13.
“We’re in the middle of a rough year,” Jones recalled telling his team. “No one pointed fingers. We worked and stuck together. We wanted to stay together and stay positive.”
Alcorn State coach Jay Hopson admitted he’s anxious for his team to play after the bitter defeat. He won’t have much time to wait; the Braves will host Prairie View A&M on Thursday.
“When you lose a game like that, you can’t wait to play Monday,” Hopson said.
Kentucky on a higher level
It’s not often the Kentucky Wildcats get to say they’re playing on a higher level than their opponents, but that was the case when they beat the Alabama State Hornets 48-14 on Saturday in Lexington, Ky.
But it was an even contest midway through the first quarter, when Isaiah Crowell’s 32-yard run tied the game at 7-7 for the Hornets (6-3, 6-1 SWAC). Kentucky, though, scored the next 41 points to pull away.
“You can see why they’re FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) and we’re FCS (Football Championship Subdivision),” Alabama State coach Reggie Barlow said. “I thought we did win some one-on-one matches, but they were a little too much for us.”
Crowell, a former Georgia running back, had 84 yards on 12 carries.
Coaches vs. stress
The way Coleman and Barlow try to deal with the everyday stresses of their jobs sounds so simple — to relax.
Then again, Coleman said, every coach is different.
“A lot of pressure a head coach can put on himself,” Coleman said, asked about the stresses in light of the recent health episodes that struck NFL head coaches Gary Kubiak and John Fox. “Some coaches, the way they coach is different. I don’t think you have to stay until 12 or 1 at night to put together a game plan.”
Coleman said he tries to eat lunch away from campus and go to the lake “to watch the ducks pass by” to combat stress. Barlow said he and his staff golf and fish on some days.
“I think you have to keep it in perspective,” Barlow said. “You have to relax. You try to put a plan together, and that adds to stress.”