A day before Saturday's game against Morehouse, University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Head Coach Cedric Thomas had to make disciplinary decisions that led to their starting safety Nigel Canada being suspended for the game.
With Canada out, the entire secondary shifted as Shawn Steele moved to his safety spot, and Rico Merriweather filled in at Steele's corner back position. Those guys haven't been practicing in those spots and, according to Thomas, that led to some mishaps on the back end in the first half of their 34-30 loss to Morehouse.
"We have to do things right all the way up too game time," Thomas said. "Selfless acts forced others into bad positions. It's not what we're about. The biggest thing was to let them know from a discipline standpoint we're going to do it right 100 percent of the time. We have to be able to plug the next guy up anytime that happens.
"Defensively, we had some moving pieces ... we came out and did the best we could with little preparation," Thomas said.
Although UAPB had their setbacks before the first whistle blew, Thomas didn't take anything away from Morehouse's victory.
Morehouse had two running backs to rush for over 100 yards. Santo Dunn rushed for 159 yards and two touchdowns, while Frank Bailey Jr. rushed for 106 yards. Morehouse didn't do as much as UAPB through the air, but their 567 total yards of offense was enough to pull out the victory.
"Offensively, Morehouse came in and gave us different looks," Thomas said. "We missed too many tackles, and that's one of the practice habits we have to continue to get better at. We have to get them to the turf. We pride ourselves on defense, and we didn't tackle well consistently."
The Morehouse defense held UAPB scoreless in the first quarter before giving up 20 points to the Golden Lions in the second quarter. After giving up those points, Morehouse only allowed 10 points in the second half.
UAPB junior quarterback Shannon Patrick passed for 451 yards and three touchdowns, and freshman receiver Josh Wilkes set a school record with seven catches for 244 yards and two touchdowns. UAPB junior running back Taeyler Porter carried the ball 20 times for 109 yards and a touchdown.
Thomas sensed that his team was settling in on both sides of the ball as the game progressed. UAPB's defense pitched a third-quarter shut-out coming out of halftime. The offensive numbers that were put up by the Golden Lions were acceptable by Thomas, but he wants to see them start off the right way and finish the right way. When looking back over the film, Thomas said he feels like their mistakes are correctable.
"Limiting the big plays on defense will be huge for us going forward," Thomas said. "Basically we settled down and made minor adjustments coming out of the break. Guys who had to move around got accustomed. We fought hard, and we had a general idea of what we wanted to do game plan-wise. Offensively, we played on a high level, but we have to start fast and we have to finish. Defensively, we have to do things right. We had entirely too many penalties. It'll be guys who will take minor suspensions from those personal fouls that they were called for. We have to do things right. We started last night in practice, cleaning up all of it. It was a good step last night, and we have to come out and put our best foot forward next week against Cumberland."
Thomas referenced the personal fouls that a few of his players were called for, and he also spoke on how their 12 penalties hurt them.
"I thought we played hard, but we have to play smarter," Thomas said. "Twelve penalties for 144 yards is not what we're teaching. Solidifying the foundation is what we're doing right now."