In 2016, the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Golden Lions were embarrassed by the Grambling State University Tigers in a 70-3 rout. This past Saturday, the improvements that the Golden Lions have made throughout the entire program in just over a year were on display as the Golden Lions pushed the Tigers to the limit, falling short at the end by a final of 31-26.
Each week, UAPB Head Coach Monte Coleman holds a weekly media luncheon. At last weeks luncheon it was noted how good of a team Grambling was, and that nobody was giving UAPB a chance to even come close.
However, the opposite occurred and the Lions gave the Tigers all they could handle. The Golden Lions have now loss their last three Southwestern Conference Games, by seven points to Mississippi Valley, by seven points to Southern, and by five to Grambling.
At his luncheon Tuesday, Coleman summarized the feeling in the locker room after another tough loss. What he said he was pleased with is the fact that losing actually means something to the team as opposed to the past when some players could care less.
When questioned about the fight that the Golden Lions have showed through all of their adversity, Coleman gave a heartfelt response.
“It just shows the attitude and DNA of this football team,” Coleman said. “It’s never say die. One play here, and one play there we could have won. In the locker room afterward, everybody was feeling the same, everybody was hurt. It’s good to see the team hurt, not physically hurt, but hurt because they lost. It’s been years in the past where it’s business as usual after a tough loss, but these guys actually hurt. They’re sitting around, they’re consoling each other, and they’re getting ready for next week. The locker room was quiet, people were sincere, and we’re hungry for another win.”
Based on the effort from his team, Coleman said he had no choice but to complement them afterward. By no way, shape, or form was Coleman saying losing was OK as long as you play hard, but what he recognized was his guys went toe-to-toe with the reigning HBCU national champs.
“It was a very exciting football game,” Coleman said. “It was a game that we felt confident going in that we could come out victorious. I praised the guys after the game for their effort. We had a lot effort put forward across the board on offense, defense, and special teams. Those three facets contributed to what was almost an upset over the number one team, the HBCU national champs from last year. The guys played hard, they played extremely hard.”
Preseason First Team All-SWAC quarterback Devante Kincade played as advertised for Grambling. When Grambling had to have a play, Kincade was part of it, whether it was through the air or on the ground. In the end, Kincade was the difference as he passed for 254 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception.
“He’s a special quarterback,” Coleman said. “He can throw it, he can run it, and he’s a true dual threat. He made some plays, but in the third and fourth quarter we we’re able to prevent him from making some plays. Our guys rose to the occasion as they knew his background, his athletic ability, and his smarts for football.”
The Golden Lions on the other hand were dealing with a rash of quarterback injuries. Two weeks ago, UAPB lost Le’Earl Patterson for the season with a shoulder injury, and against Grambling, Brandon Duncan went down with a concussion. That meant that redshirt senior quarterback Marcus Terrell had to be thrown into action, and for the most part Coleman feels like he kept things in place.
It’s kind of unheard of that you lose your starting quarterback two weeks ago, and then the next week you lose your starting quarterback again, and now you’re down to your third team quarterback,” Coleman said. “We feel confident in Marcus. He threw the interception when he first got in, I’m sure he was a little jittery. Once he got warm, he ran the football extremely well, and made some good passes. It’s bad to lose your starting quarterback, but it’s next man up. Marcus does get reps in practice so we’re confident going into this next game. The game plan won’t change a whole lot, but we will tailor some things to that he does best. We’re going down to upset Prairie View.”
Along with Coleman at the luncheon was senior running back Dante McDonald and freshman defensive back Nijul Canada. Canada came up with a game changing interception, which was only Kincade’s third of the year. Being a freshman, Canada has a lot of playing days in front of him and Coleman said he sees promise.
“Mr. Canada, he’s a freshman that started for us this week,” Coleman said. “He made a huge play with an interception and a nice return. He’s starting to lead the secondary right now with his tackling ability. He’s coming downhill and doing some of the things we’re asking him to do as far as being aggressive.”
Canada gave a little insight from the defensive backs group as a whole, and how they used their preparation to their advantage.
“All week, our coaches stayed on us about staying deep,” Canada said. “They’re very fast and they score points. We had to stay deep and play our keys. One thing about this team we always play up to the team that we’re playing. We came out fast and played ball and it showed in the stats.”
McDonald reiterated what Canada said about the game plan prepared by the coaching staff.
“We came in extremely prepared,” McDonald said. “Coach White did a good job of getting the game plan to where everything was slow for us as we were playing. They didn’t throw nothing at us that we didn’t see, and our scout team is harder than some of the defenses we’ve played so they gave us a real good look. We knew where certain holes were going to hit and I just went out there and executed what we practiced all week.”
The Golden Lions have two games remaining this season and currently sits in fifth place in the SWAC Western Division Standings, but that could change over the final two weeks. On Saturday, UAPB travels to Houston to take on the third team in the division, the Prairie View A&M Tigers.