By I.C. Murrell
By I.C. Murrell
COMMERCIAL SPORTS EDITOR
With all the championship talk still surrounding the Arkansas-Pine Bluff football team, another goal sometimes gets lost in the discussion.
If UAPB wins at home over Texas Southern on Saturday, the Golden Lions will post their first winning season since 2006 — the only season they played in the SWAC championship game. They also will avenge a season-ending loss at Texas Southern last year that cost them a 6-5 record.
But coach Monte Coleman said Thursday there’s no revenge factor in this regular-season finale.
“The thing we’re focusing more on is us, not what happened last year,” Coleman said. “Even though they beat us to get to the championship game, more power to them. That was last year. This year, we’re just trying to make it. The thing we’ve got to do is take care of business in this particular ballgame.”
Texas Southern beat UAPB 20-13 in Houston last Nov. 20 and went on to defeat Alabama State 11-6 for the SWAC championship three weeks later. But tough times were ahead for the Tigers, who had finished 9-3.
Their head coach, Johnnie Cole, was fired in April in advance of NCAA sanctions for poor academic performance, including reductions in practice time and scholarships. And the Tigers, now 4-6, struggled through this season, losing four games by a touchdown or less.
“We kept tight (in unity),” Cole’s replacement, Kevin Ramsey said. “Our record isn’t indicative of what we’ve done. We can only control what we can control.”
The Tigers’ stats aren’t indicative of a 4-6 team. They rank first in the SWAC in total defense at 230.5 yards allowed per game, their rushing game is second-best at 172.1, and they’ve earned the second-most first downs with 224.
“They’re the defending champs, so there are a whole lot of positive things about Texas Southern,” Coleman said.
Coleman has stressed to the Lions not leaving points on the board this time. UAPB is ninth in the SWAC with 19 points per game and has struggled to capitalize on turnovers and long drives in recent games.
With the championship implications on the game, practice this week has been better for the Lions, Coleman said, although he didn’t note any other changes within his players in preparation.
“It’s the last game of the season. Texas Southern really hasn’t had a stable season, they’re going to try and come here and upset us,” senior running back Stephen Jones said. “We just have to come in with a clear mind, focused, and ready to play ball.”