Regardless of today’s weather conditions in Prairie View, Texas, or the final score between Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Prairie View A&M, the storm that has covered the Golden Lions’ football season will finally pass.
There won’t be a championship game to look forward to. There won’t be another game to look forward to. For 15 seniors and one graduate student, this likely will be the end of their football careers.
But the Lions (2-8, 2-6 SWAC) can still win today. If they don’t, they’ll have their worst record since Donzell Young’s 1986 team went 0-10.
“Trying to be a Godly man, I do understand the concept of the Bible where it says, ‘He allows the rain on the just and the unjust,’ UAPB coach Monte Coleman said. “Unfortunately, this season has been a rainy season for us as far as production. I just thank God we’ve been able to improve every week.”
Improvement is what Coleman often takes away from a season loaded with high expectations after UAPB won its first outright SWAC championship. The Lions who went into the season inexperienced had to learn to wade through the storm that started brewing just two days before the season opener against Arkansas State, when a number of key players were declared ineligible.
Now the Lions try to add a little sunshine in Prairie View to end the storm with a victory.
It’s the same goal today for the host Panthers (5-6, 4-4), who were a serious contender for the SWAC Western Division championship after starting 4-2. But they hit a rough stretch, dropping four of their next five (including the past three) and like the Lions struggling to find an answer for their defensive problems.
In each of those four losses, the Panthers have allowed 48 or more points. Last Saturday, NCAA Division I newcomer Abilene Christian (Texas) outdid Prairie View 65-45.
“When you see 65 points, you’re looking like, ‘What in the hell are they doing on defense?’” Prairie View coach Heishma Northern said, “and then you go back and look at the film. There’s 10 guys doing exactly what they’re supposed to do and one guy who’s not doing his job.”
It’s been that way often for UAPB’s defense, which has given up 50 or more points three times, including last week’s 50-42 defeat at Alabama A&M.
But today, it’s not a matchup of stellar defenses, but of strong offenses.
Two of the SWAC’s top three offenses will clash today at Blackshear Stadium; Prairie View owns a 509.9-428.2 edge over UAPB in total yards per game.
A common denominator for both teams’ success moving the ball is the quarterback position. UAPB’s Ben Anderson (256.1 per game) and PV’s Jerry Lovelocke (245.8) rank second and third, respectively, in passing yards, and both have completed better than 60 percent of their passes. Anderson also is an outstanding rusher, his 76.8 rushing yards ranking sixth in the conference and first among all SWAC quarterbacks.
Both quarterbacks are serious candidates for SWAC Player of the Year honors and will make their final cases today. But Northern’s mind has been more on defense.
“We got to find a way to get better up front,” he said. “We have to find a way to get bigger. Our philosophy may have caught up with us in that we’ve always been a speed-based defense. We take guys and try to get them bigger instead of getting guys who are bigger and get them to cut 30 pounds. Our players are very disappointed they feel like they keep letting the offense down.”
For the Lions, Coleman predicts there won’t be any letdown today in a game where nothing more is at stake.
“Nobody has complained” about the season, he said. “We know the situation, and guys got opportunities (to play). The thing the young guys did is that they’ve made improvements each week.”
Golden Lion Notes • I.C. Murrell
• Today marks the 73rd meeting between UAPB and Prairie View. UAPB, which trails the all-time series 44-24-4, has played more games against Prairie View than any other opponent, according to cfbdatawarehouse.com.
• The last two meetings have been decided by a total of eight points, with UAPB winning both (36-29 in Prairie View in 2011 and 42-41 in Pine Bluff last year). Prairie View had won the previous three times by an average of almost 21 points.
• Today is also the season finale for Prairie View. The Panthers are 2-1 at Blackshear Stadium this season.
• UAPB has won its past two season finales, defeating Texas Southern in 2011 and Jackson State in the 2012 SWAC championship game.