Arkansas-Pine Bluff has tied its longest losing streak since 2008 and is a loss away from the longest since 1986. Mississippi Valley State is coming off what its coach called his worst loss at the school.
Among the similarities between the neighboring SWAC programs, the need for a victory is most glaring. Valley (1-6, 1-4 SWAC) earned one Oct. 5 at Alabama A&M, but the Delta Devils have not won at their home Rice-Totten Stadium in three tries this season.
This Saturday, UAPB (0-7, 0-5) will visit Valley. One more loss, and the Golden Lions will have their worst start since Donzell Young’s last team 27 years ago went 0-10 (counting a win it forfeited) to cap a 17-game skid.
Both teams’ struggles alone will make for an intense battle … right?
“I don’t think the record has anything to do with the intensity of the game,” UAPB coach Monte Coleman said during Monday’s SWAC coaches’ teleconference. “It’s Valley’s homecoming, and there’s added incentive for them. We could have not lost a game, and once we get on the field, it’s going to be a fight.”
It has been the past two years, when UAPB clearly had a better record than Valley. UAPB won in Itta Bena 15-3 two years ago, needing that victory and a feat over Texas Southern the next week to finish 6-5. Valley went 1-10 that year.
In 2012 UAPB mustered a 10-0 win on its homecoming, en route to the SWAC championship. Valley had a much better season, but only to the tune of 5-6.
This year, both teams have shown similar struggles in finishing ballgames. The Lions, who were favored to return to the championship game, have lost each of their SWAC games by an average of 7.2 points per game. The Devils lost three conference games by an average of 8.67 points before taking a 51-14 whipping at Prairie View A&M this past Saturday.
Coleman revealed Monday that standout UAPB linebacker Antonio Jenkins was suspended for violating team rules, which he did not specify. Jenkins, who was the second-leading tackler behind teammate Jer-ryan Harris in the Football Championship Subdivision before Saturday’s loss to Southern, fell to 17th with 10.3 stops per game (the last game was counted in his statistics).
“I don’t think it had any impact on our defense,” Coleman said of Jenkins’ suspension. “This is a team game. A big part of that is discipline. One player doesn’t stop us from competing. (Linebackers) Xavier Lofton, Jer-ryan Harris and Willie Duncan III all played pretty well for us.”
Jenkins is expected to return to the lineup at Valley, which had a personnel problem of its own at quarterback Saturday.
Devils coach Karl Morgan said Patrick Ivy was not “100 percent” healthy when he started against Prairie View. Ivy, who’s battled a hamstring injury, completed 4 of 21 passes for 35 yards, giving way to Jeremy Collins at one point. But Collins, who went 5-for-12 for 67 yards, was knocked out with a concussion, and Ivy had to return.
The Devils were outgained 532-178 in total yards. Prairie View also had 29 first downs to Valley’s 12.
“It’s probably the worst loss in four years that I’ve been here,” Morgan said.
Asked how many steps back Morgan thought the Devils took, he said: “It was leaps and bounds backwards. We talked about making a game out of it in the second half, and we didn’t do that. Prairie View gave up 32 points a game before we played them, and they shut us down.
“In all areas of the game, we were soundly beaten.”
The game was tied at 7 early in the second quarter before the Panthers ran off 21 straight to go into halftime with a three-touchdown lead.
Morgan said he hopes Coleman is correct that their records doesn’t influence their upcoming battle.
“After that performance (against Prairie View), we have to come back and do way better, from me on down,” Morgan said.
Kickoff time changed
Kickoff for Saturday’s UAPB at Mississippi Valley State football game has been rescheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday, an hour later than listed on the original UAPB football schedule.
No reason for the time change was given, but Saturday is Mississippi Valley State’s homecoming. The teams played on UAPB’s homecoming last year.
— I.C. Murrell