Ben Anderson is on pace to set a career single-season high in passing yards.
In his previous five games — all SWAC contests — Anderson has averaged 276.4 passing yards per game, slightly higher than the conference’s leading average for the entire season. He hasn’t thrown for fewer than 233 yards the past five games.
A big reason for his surge is a pair of his Louisiana connections.
Senior Dezmond Beverly of Alexandria has regained his status as the Golden Lions’ main go-to receiver. The H-back has 367 yards on 30 receptions (52.4 ypg), ranking ninth in the SWAC in average receiving yards.
He’s pulled down seven passes each in two of the past three games, going for a game-high 69 yards in last Saturday’s 29-21 loss to Southern.
“It’s just the offense is getting me the ball more,” Beverly said. “I try to work hard to get open to give my team the best chance.”
The expectation was that Beverly and classmate Ladarius Eckwood would remain a solid receiving tandem for the Lions after an outstanding run to the SWAC championship last year. But while Eckwood has struggled, another Pelican State product has emerged as a viable option for Anderson out of the slot.
True sophomore Cody Swain of Baton Rouge led UAPB in receiving yards in two of the past three games. He followed a three-catch, 77-yard performance at Jackson State with six catches for 94 yards at home against Texas Southern.
Swain, who has one touchdown this year, is second on the team with 254 yards, not bad considering that he had only four receptions for 46 yards in his first four games of the season. His freshman season, he had six catches for 28 yards and no scores.
“I really thought I was going to redshirt, but I ended up playing,” Swain said. “I just looked at it as a learning year.”
UAPB wide receivers coach Craig Raye has seen a change in Swain from the start of the season.
“Probably the biggest change was in preparation when he found out Thomas Winters was questionable,” Raye said. “It fell right down on (Swain), and he kind of prepared for that with a little extra work in weight room and worked on route running. … He just stepped up and took the role.”
Swain became a big-play threat at Jackson State. Struggling to come up with key catches in past games, he had a 45-yard haul on the first scoring drive of the game.
“Coming into Jackson, we knew they were going to play a lot of man (man-to-man defense),” Swain said. “They would come up in our face and I had to open up my receivers, help them get the ball and open up plays for myself.”
Raye said the 5-foot-11, 170-pound Swain improved in his physicality and has become a better blocker, which opens up opportunities for the 6-2, 210-pound Beverly.
But when the game’s on the line, Raye said the Lions plan to call on Beverly’s number. The senior is still looking for his first score of the season after pulling down six as a junior.
“In my opinion, Dezmond’s still our leader, our big-play guy,” Raye said. “He’s just a big and powerful receiver that he’s able to overpower these guys and make these catches. I expect him to have a big week against Mississippi Valley State.”