PRAIRIE VIEW, Texas — Two hours after the game ended, the final score still glared on the Blackshear Stadium scoreboard.
The 43-23 victory for Prairie View A&M over Arkansas-Pine Bluff indicated in some ways the season that now was for both programs. Prairie View won with an impressive, fast-paced offense that entered Saturday’s game averaging 509.9 yards per game, and UAPB could not find a way to slow down the opposing running game.
How bad did the Golden Lions’ defense struggle? They allowed their third 200-yard rusher this season Saturday, as freshman Johnta’ Hebert put up 250 yards on 35 carries, not one going for negative yardage. As a team, the Panthers (6-6, 5-4 SWAC) rushed for 463 yards and finished with 597 yards of total offense.
“We knew we were going to have a good day,” Hebert said. “We felt like we were going to get the lift we got. It was up to us to execute.”
Said senior linebacker Jer-ryan Harris, who had 10 tackles: “What you saw is what you got. … We were late to recognize what was really going on (from a defensive standpoint), and once we figured it out, we slowed them down a little bit, but the fact that it took so long did something.”
Asked how to put the game in context, Harris responded: “I couldn’t tell you.”
UAPB (2-9, 2-7) could not overcome a 22-0 deficit and trailed by as much as 36-9 for its biggest hole in SWAC play this year. It all led to a second straight defeat to end the Lions’ worst season since the 1986 team went winless.
“This was probably, overall, the worst game we played all year,” UAPB coach Monte Coleman said. “We had a lot of missed tackles, like we had all season, and the other thing, we had a lot of dropped balls for us, which was uncharacteristic for us.”
The game, played in front of just 1,658 at the 6,000-seat Blackshear Stadium, was expected to be a duel between two of the top quarterbacks in the conference, both of them juniors. UAPB’s Ben Anderson threw for more yards than Prairie View’s Jerry Lovelocke (226-134), but the latter was more accurate, completing 18 of 25 passes despite interceptions to David Watson and Jared Turner. Lovelocke also ran for three touchdowns.
“Just to end the season with a ‘W’ to send our seniors out is a great feeling,” the 6-foot-6 Lovelocke said. “This is my first time really beating (UAPB), and I feel like we just had to do it this time.”
Dropped passes were a common theme in Anderson’s day, which went 17 for 38 with no picks. Down 29-3 in the second quarter and looking for any kind of momentum, Cody Swain dropped a sure touchdown catch with nothing but grass in front him. He later redeemed himself with a 48-yard catch, but that only led to one of Tyler Strickland’s three field goals. “We just came out flat,” senior receiver Dezmond Beverly said after making seven catches for 68 yards and his share of drops. “We weren’t ready to play.”
UAPB did not score on five of its first six drives. It turned the ball over on downs at the Prairie View 30 (on three incompletions, no less), had a punt blocked in the end zone and recovered for a safety and punted on its first three series.
“We played with great energy,” Prairie View head coach Heishma Northern said. “We harassed them. We didn’t hit them a lot, but we harassed them enough to force them into some bad throws.”
The Panthers, however, scored touchdowns on their first four series. But Strickland kicked a pair of field goals to pull the Lions within 29-9 at halftime. Tight end C.J. Branch made his first touchdown reception of the season for UAPB on a 26-yard strike from Anderson in the third quarter to make it 36-16. Teammate Jeremiah Young capped the scoring and his freshman season with a 2-yard scoring run with 7:56 remaining in the game.
Anderson finished the Lions’ leading rusher with 56 yards on 17 carries. He was sacked twice for a loss of 33 yards. Young followed up with 55 yards on 12 carries.
For Prairie View, Courtney Brown tallied 88 yards on 13 rushes.