The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff did something it hadn't done in eight years when it beat Jackson State 34-27 in overtime Saturday night.
The come-from-behind victory was the Golden Lions' first on the Tigers' home field since 2009. It also marked the first time UAPB had beaten Jackson State since 2012, the same year the Golden Lions won their first Southwestern Athletic Conference title, but Coach Monte Coleman admitted he didn't spend much time dwelling on those feats.
"We put it behind us the next day," Coleman said. "Don't get me wrong, it was a great overall team victory. It's always good to get that first one in conference play, especially when it's in hostile territory.
"But we came in Sunday, watched film, lifted weights and went through our normal routine because we've got another tough one coming up."
UAPB has another daunting task Saturday when it plays at Alabama A&M. The Golden Lions, who will be playing their fourth consecutive road game, haven't won in Huntsville, Ala., since beating the Bulldogs 23-17 in 1999 and have dropped five of the past six meetings overall between the teams.
To make things even more difficult, UAPB will serve as Alabama A&M's homecoming foe. The Bulldogs, who won their first game of the year last week against Texas Southern, have beaten the Golden Lions by an average of 21 points over their past eight games in Huntsville, including a 28-9 victory in 2015.
"Huntsville's not just a tough place to win," Coleman said, "but it's tough to beat A&M period. They're always a tough team to beat, and this year will be no different. Their record doesn't show it, but they've got a very good football team.
"They're going to run the football, but their quarterback can throw it well and with accuracy. So we've got to go play sound football. We can't afford to give up the big plays and we can't afford to commit turnovers if we're going to have a chance to come out of there with a win."
UAPB scheduled Alabama A&M for its homecoming opponent last year and lost 40-7, but by all accounts, Alabama A&M Coach James Spady said this is a much different Golden Lions' team.
"[UAPB] is a really good football team that we've seen on film," he said. "I have a tremendous amount of respect for Coach Coleman, and I know that he knows us well. He'll have a very solid defense for us to go up against and an innovative offense.
"So we're going to have to dot our I's and cross our T's and see if we can try to come away with another 1-0 weekend."
No QB controversy
Backup quarterback LeEarl Patterson gave UAPB a lift last weekend against Jackson State, but Coach Monte Coleman said senior quarterback Brandon Duncan will remain the team's starter.
"We weren't upset with Brandon," he said. "Our offensive coordinator [Ted White] decided he was going to make a change to see if it'd give us a little spark. He put LeEarl in, and he did spark the team.
"But that's the type of team we have. Every person is responsible for doing their 1-11. LeEarl had an opportunity, came in and contributed just like we knew he could."
Patterson, a 6-1, 180-pound junior, came on in the third quarter after Jackson State intercepted a Duncan pass and returned it 40 yards for a touchdown to take a 27-16 lead. His 2-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter pulled the Golden Lions to within 27-24 and his 1-yard score in overtime put UAPB up for good.
Both quarterbacks had a hand in getting the Golden Lions in scoring range on their final drive of regulation, which resulted in a game-tying 33-yard field goal from kicker Jamie Gillan. Duncan, who had a 1-yard touchdown pass, finished 8 of 11 for 37 yards while Patterson ended 9 of 22 for 66 yards. Patterson also added 34 yards rushing.
UAPB Coach Monte Coleman has stressed to his team all season that winning the turnover battle would greatly increase their chances of winning games. The Golden Lions turned the ball over 12 times while forcing only 2 in their first 3 games, but they flipped the script against Jackson State.
UAPB committed just one turnover and forced two to knock off the Tigers. The game is the only one this season in which UAPB has finished with a positive turnover margin.
"Ball security is always a big point of emphasis with us," Coleman said. "We hadn't done a good job of that this year, and we still had one Saturday, but we kept them down and were able to get two takeaways ourselves.
"So anytime you can do that, you're going to give yourself a chance to be in games and possibly win them at the end, and fortunately, that's what we were able to do."
UAPB scored 14 points off Jackson State's two fumbles. The first one was recovered by sophomore defensive tackle Joshua Wallace and led to a 14-yard touchdown run from junior running back KeShawn Williams in the first quarter. Junior defensive lineman Eric Reid recovered the second fumble, leading to a short touchdown run by junior quarterback LeEarl Patterson early in the fourth quarter.
The job that junior kicker Jamie Gillan has done for UAPB this season might go unnoticed to the casual fan, but not the Golden Lions.
"Jamie brings a swagger and toughness to this team," UAPB Coach Monte Coleman said. "He's an ex-rugby player who doesn't really look like a punter or a kicker. He spends a lot of time in the weight room, and he's gotten off to a really good start this year.
"He's worked hard and done an outstanding job for us because we need all the help we can when it comes to special teams.
Gillan has been vital to the UAPB, where it be as a placekicker or punter, and the SWAC is taking notice as well after he was named the league's specialist of the week Monday for his efforts during the Golden Lions' overtime victory over Jackson State.
The Leonardtown, Md., native had four of his punts downed inside the Jackson State 20-yard line, with a long of 46 yards, but it was his game-tying 33-yard field goal with 15 seconds left in regulation that gave UAPB the chance it needed to beat the Tigers in overtime.
Gillan is 5 of 6 on extra points and has connected on 4 of his 7 field-goal attempts this season. He's also averaging 41.1 yards per punt, which is second in the conference.
Sports on 09/29/2017
Print Headline: Tough test lies ahead for UAPB