In what has been a reversal of fortune for the Arkansas-Pine Bluff football team from 2012, the Golden Lions’ confidence has not been reserved.
Not even after a 0-7 start and their hopes of repeating as SWAC champions practically vanished.
“We haven’t had a bad attitude out of anybody this season,” UAPB coach Monte Coleman said. “They’ve come to work. There are days where it hasn’t gone the way we planned it as coaches. That’s anywhere and everywhere, but we’ve had more good days of practices than we’ve had bad days of practices.”
Coleman only wishes he could say that about games.
Although four games remain on UAPB’s schedule, including today’s visit to Mississippi Valley State, the Lions have already seen the best and worst of what the SWAC has to offer — judging from records, of course. Every time, UAPB has come so close.
And one only wonders what are the chances of once-victorious Valley making more noise with a win today? Or can UAPB continue to rule what’s been a close rivalry?
UAPB has won five straight against Valley and, according to the College Football Data Warehouse, owns a 22-21-1 all-time record in the rivalry of SWAC neighbors dating back to 1963. (UAPB records indicate a 24-18-1 record going back to 1964.) The last two meetings against Valley haven’t quite been runaways for UAPB, however. The Lions pulled out a 15-3 win in Itta Bena two years ago and mustered a 10-0 feat in Pine Bluff last year, facing the difficult task of breaking down Valley’s highly-ranked defense.
The Delta Devils’ defense isn’t as prolific as it was in recent years, but they still rank fourth in the SWAC allowing 363 total yards per game. The unit is looking to bounce back from giving up 51 points at Prairie View A&M.
Valley’s offense, on the other hand, has struggled, totaling 247 ypg and averaging just shy of 17 points per game. Quarterback Patrick Ivy is the Devils’ leading rusher with 38.6 ypg, but has completed only 42 of 100 passes for 480 yards and four touchdowns with four interceptions.
Ivy, nursing a hamstring injury, wasn’t completely healthy last week at Prairie View, when he had to go back in the game after Jeremy Collins sustained a concussion. But Ivy is expected to start again today.
Coleman was planning for Valley’s offense rather than focusing on each quarterback.
“You look at the play itself, regardless who’s at the helm,” Coleman said. “Certain quarterbacks run the ball a little more often, but as far as game-planning, you plan against the whole system as opposed to the quarterback.”
Coleman is looking for more consistency from UAPB on both sides of the ball. UAPB outgained Western Division leader Southern in rushing and passing last week, but giving up big plays and losing a crucial fumble with 2:25 left cost the Lions.
“We’ve got to be a little more consistent than we’ve been in the last seven football games,” Coleman said. “Last week, it started to jell a little bit better. We outrushed them, we outpassed them, the statistics were in our favor. Now, it’s just 60 minutes of consistent football.”
Four games behind Southern in the division with four games remaining, UAPB is no longer looking at the possibilities of staying in the race to return to the SWAC final. But seeing the goals escape the Lions this season hasn’t changed their attitude, knowing they can continue a streak against the Devils and start a new one to close out the year.
“The attitude’s the same. We’re trying to get that win,” Coleman said.
Golden Lion Notes • I.C. Murrell
• Today is Mississippi Valley State’s homecoming. It’s the third time in the past four years UAPB and Valley have met in a homecoming game.
• Valley last defeated UAPB 16-9 in Itta Bena to start the 2007 season. UAPB has won the last eight meetings against Valley in Pine Bluff, dating back to 1995.
• UAPB senior linebacker Jer-ryan Harris, who still leads the FCS in tackles per game (13.1), needs eight to reach 100 for the second time in his career. He had 129 as a freshman and 98 as a junior.
• The longest winning streak in the UAPB-Valley rivalry, according to the College Football Data Warehouse, is 10 by UAPB (1995-2004). Valley went 13-0-1 against UAPB between 1972 and 1988, including nine straight wins snapped by a tie in 1981.