For the third consecutive week, the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Golden Lions suffered a one-possession loss. UAPB fell to the Grambling State Tigers by a final of 45-38 in overtime Saturday. In the two weeks prior, the Golden Lions lost at Mississippi Valley 48-47 in double OT, and they fell to Jackson State 30-27.
UAPB held a halftime lead in all three of those losses, so as they led this past weekend at Grambling, Golden Lions Head Coach Cedric Thomas only had one message for his team: finish.
"At halftime, it really wasn't much to say," Thomas said. "Like I told them, I don't have a halftime speech for this one, we just have to go out and finish."
The second half turned into a back and forth affair as both offenses matched scores, and the defenses matched turnovers. It came down to a controversial call in overtime, where freshman quarterback Skyler Perry hit junior wide-out Kolby McNeal for what seemed to be a potential game-winning touchdown. The referees reviewed the catch, and after initially ruling it a touchdown, they reversed the call, which ended the game.
"Clearly a catch to me," Thomas said. "They go back and review it and say it was incomplete. To see the kids take the preparation part from practice and go fight a good ball club, I'm proud of mine. We fought our tails off, and we just have to be able to not leave it in the referee's hands. They're understanding what we're asking of them, and it's evident on the way we're playing."
UAPB out-gained GSU offensively 478-450, they recorded 27 first downs to GSU's 16, and they won the time of possession battle as they had the ball for 34:04 compared to GSU having it for 25:43.
"We were ready, I felt it would be a fight," Thomas said. "It hurts, and to see the kids in that locker room, they're not crying for moral victory. It's sad it had to end the way it did. They know the journey with three games being left, they know it's starting to come to an end. We're playing good football, we just have to clean up the little things. We'll continue to get better, and the results will change."
Thomas said he respects what Grambling Head Coach Broderick Fobbs has done with that program. When Fobbs took it over, he had to go through a rebuilding stage similar to what Thomas is dealing with now. According to Thomas, after the game, Fobbs said that the picture looked different in reference to the UAPB football program.
"On this journey, we continue to write these pages, and we continue to get better," Thomas said. "It's through preparation. The kids are retaining the information, and from that standpoint, we're head over hills a whole lot better. We go down into a hostile environment and go toe-to-toe with the two-time, back-to-back SWAC champions. I admire their head coach for rebuilding that program. A lot of people don't know that their ball club was 1-10 before he got there."
The Golden Lions will begin preparation for this week's 2018 Homecoming opponent, the Alabama A&M Bulldogs. Thomas knCedric Thomas feels Golden Lions are close to pushing throughows they haven't pushed through to get that first Southwestern Athletic Conference win just yet, but he also knows how special it'll be if they're able to get it done in front of the Homecoming crowd of Golden Lions faithful.
"Here we are for homecoming," Thomas said. "What's a better scene that you can ask for when everybody comes back home and we're able to go get the win in front of our own? It's not just people physically coming back as far as their presence, for us, it's coming back to the fundamentals and being a great football team. We need to show our product is getting better, keep plugging, and hopefully, we'll come out on the other end of one of these outcomes."