Langston (Okla.) coach Mickey Joseph is prepared to see a different Ben Anderson.

Langston (Okla.) coach Mickey Joseph is prepared to see a different Ben Anderson.

A year ago, Anderson was a redshirt freshman making his Arkansas-Pine Bluff debut, getting his first taste of the speed of the college game. He threw three interceptions, was sacked four times, and couldn’t lead the Golden Lions into the end zone for three quarters. Langston, meanwhile, held Anderson’s offense to 35 yards rushing and escaped War Memorial Stadium with a 19-12 victory, a resounding win for an NAIA team that offers about 50 fewer full scholarships than UAPB.

“It’s a big surprise when you beat an FCS team,” said Joseph, who made his head coaching debut that game. “We caught them with a young quarterback, but I expect him to be better prepared.”

Anderson, who threw for 278 yards that game, certainly has had better days to follow. Today, he’s much more mature quarterback with the title of 2011 SWAC Freshman of the Year, getting a shot to avenge the stunning defeat this afternoon in the same arena.

“Ben Anderson has matured more than anybody else on the football team,” UAPB coach Monte Coleman said last Saturday during the team’s media day. “Early on, I was concerned — I know that’s a contradiction — hoping he’d mature to the level where he can lead this football team. Watching him in spring, he matured and he matured even more during training camp. He’s the man for the job. He’s throwing the ball with accuracy, but he doesn’t throw it to a crowd.”

Anderson gets another chance to lead UAPB to a season-opening victory, something the Golden Lions haven’t tasted since 2004 — Mo Forte’s first of four seasons as head coach. He remembers being what Coleman called “a typical freshman” in his debut, but it’s not all about paying back Langston that drives him.

“It’s the first game of the season,” Anderson said. “You’re always anxious for that first game. I can’t say we owe them, but it’s just another game. We remember what happened last year, but it’s just the next team up. We’re ready to get the game on and get it started.”

The next team up is coming off a solid season, but faces a challenge of its own. Langston’s Lions finished 7-3 in Joseph’s first season, led by the school’s all-time leading rusher Carlos Ross and all-time leading tackler Cayetano Hingle, a linebacker.

Ross and quarterback Darrien Lewis were largely responsible for 80 percent of the Lions’ offense, Joseph said, but they have graduated along with Hingle. With players trying to fill those shoes, Joseph didn’t have any set expectations of what he’ll see from his team against UAPB.

“I’ll be able to tell you about 9 o’clock Saturday night,” he said.

Coleman, meanwhile, is preaching a common theme from last season to his team — starting fast. He’s in the fifth and final season of his contract, and he said not starting a season with a victory has bugged him.

“Absolutely,” Coleman said. “When you win your first game, it moves you in the right direction for the rest of the year, and that’s what we want to do, start off the year with a positive attitude with a win. And if we can do that, I think everything will be OK for us.”

Lion Notes

• UAPB will begin the season without a full-time offensive line coach in place. Former Southern assistant Damon Nivens has been working with the O-line in the interim after Bruce Johnson stepped down early last month.

• Last year’s Delta Classic drew UAPB’s largest attendance of the season, 24,474.

• UAPB last won in Little Rock in 2009, when it defeated Grambling State 49-42.

• Langston, an NAIA program, offers only nine full scholarships for football.

• Langston hired Mike Garrett, the 1965 Heisman Trophy winner and former Southern California athletic director, to the same position in June. Coach Mickey Joseph said he’s sure the scholarship landscape will improve under Garrett.