A goal-line stand at the two yard line propelled the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Golden Lions (2-9, 1-6) to a 15-10 win over Texas Southern University Saturday. UAPB first-year Head Coach Cedric Thomas gained the first Southwestern Athletic Conference win of his career, and in his coaches luncheon Monday afternoon, he was greeted by a room full of Golden Lions faithful to congratulate him.
After a season that included multiple one-possession losses, UAPB fans at the luncheon said they could barely watch as Texas Southern had four chances from the Golden Lions’ two yard line to score a game-winning touchdown in the waning seconds of the fourth quarter. After three incompletions, Texas Southern was called for an illegal formation on fourth down that Thomas emphatically elected to decline, and the Golden Lions earned a conference road win.
UAPB All-SWAC senior kicker Jamie Gillan accounted for all 15 points by nailing five field goals, with his longest coming from 46 yards. The Golden Lions’ defense bounced back and when asked what was led to a winning outcome in the close game, Thomas said they didn’t give up the big play.
Texas Southern quarterback Glen Cuiellette completed 20-41 passes for 307 yards, but the Golden Lions’ defense didn’t surrender a touchdown through the air. UAPB freshman quarterback Skyler Perry completed 21-31 passes for 248 yards. UAPB junior running back Taeyler Porter carried the ball 10 times for 143 yards, and freshman wide-out De’Juan Miller hauled in nine catches for 100 yards.
Throughout the season as the losses began to pile up, Thomas said each week there would be more guys in tears. Looking around the winning locker room on Saturday night, Thomas said he saw tears, but this time they were happy cries from the players to the coaches.
“They were crying tears of joy,” Thomas said.
“I think the coaches cut up worse than the kids. It says a lot, and it’s a testament to our coaches. I don’t think these coaches knew what they were getting into, but they trusted me. I have a lot of great friends, and I do mean friends that stepped out on the limb. Those guys had jobs, I don’t have a staff of guys who were just employed. I told them to trust the process, it’s not just the kids, it’s the coaches and administration also.”
While laying his foundation, Thomas let players go who didn’t want to buy in to the culture. The attrition left the Golden Lions inexperienced on the defensive side of the ball. With Thomas being a former defensive coordinator at his last job, he said previously it was tough to see his defense get shredded from week-to-week.
“Without a doubt,” Thomas said.
“I told the kids and they understand I only want it the right way. I know deep in my core we could have won a lot more games, but I’m not going to put my own personal gain in front of these kids. It’s about doing it right on and off the field, and I thought that was a testament to this game. We lost a lot of players during this journey.
"At the end of the day, we’re going to do it the right way. It’s a culture and a foundation that’s being laid, and if you’re not going to be a part of it then you’ll have to find another place to go to school.”
The win was special for the 19 seniors Thomas will send off who stayed and believed in him. One of the seniors, Kaleb McDonald, left a message to Thomas on a sticky note as he went to be with his family, and he wanted to tell coach that he loves him.
“That speaks volumes,” Thomas said. “That word wasn’t tossed around before I got here. It’s a man’s love.”