By I.C. Murrell

By I.C. Murrell


Late Tuesday afternoon, the sun peeked from the clouds at the last moment, and the practice field behind Golden Lion Stadium was bright — with no one working out on it.

It was the second straight day that practice was canceled for the Arkansas-Pine Bluff football team, whose season comes down to a game it won’t play in.

“It was actually raining at 3:30 (Monday), too bad to get out in it, to jeopardize somebody pulling a hamstring or hurting a groin or something like that,” coach Monte Coleman said Tuesday. “Prematurely this morning, I decided when the rain came in to cancel it.”

And some of the Golden Lions may already be on their way home for Thanksgiving. But one can expect all of them to be in the same place at 1 p.m. Saturday — maybe in different towns, though — in front of a television set.

Southern will play Grambling State in the Bayou Classic before tens of thousands in the Louisiana Superdome and plenty more of NBC viewers. If Southern wins, a four-way tie for first place in the SWAC Western Division will occur, but UAPB will qualify for the Dec. 10 conference championship game in Birmingham, Ala., because it has the best record within the division at 3-1.

“I don’t know where everybody’s going to watch it, but I know everybody’s going to feel the same,” senior running back Adrian Moore said. “I feel like the people who are going to be in the same places will watch it together.”

Coleman said he thinks the city of Pine Bluff is ready for the school’s first conference title as a Division I school and first overall in 45 years. The Lions’ only SWAC title game appearance was a loss to Alabama A&M in 2006.

“Everywhere I go, everybody’s saying they’re going to be praying something good will happen for us,” he said. “… It’s time, and it’s taking Saturday too long to get here.”

The Lions held team meetings Monday and Tuesday, watching video on Eastern Division champion Alabama A&M, which wrapped up its berth Saturday by beating Prairie View A&M 17-15. Alabama A&M came from 20 points down to beat UAPB 28-27 on Oct. 1 in Huntsville, Ala.

“Everybody was here today, eager to go out and practice,” Coleman said. “So the attitude is a very positive attitude, although our fate is undecided.”

Despite the missed workouts, Moore said the players feel the same as if were a game week.

“We feel like we’re still in it,” Moore said. “We feel like if we are going to be in Birmingham. We have strong faith. If Grambling wins, we had a winning season. If Southern wins, we feel like that’s our chance to prove everybody wrong.

“I think it helps us more than anything, giving us time to get our bodies right. As a team, as long as we’re together and we focus and stay together, I believe we’re going to be OK.”