Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) teams typically have higher caliber players than those on Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) teams.
For one, FBS schools are larger and have more recruiting prowess. But every now and then an FCS team really challenges an FBS team. And sometimes, they even win one against the bigger school.
The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Golden Lions weren’t paying attention to the odds when they traveled to play the Akron Zips this past weekend. Regardless, the Zips had little trouble defeating UAPB 52-3.
Although it wasn’t what Golden Lions head coach Monte Coleman wanted to see, he still found positives to grow on.
At his weekly media luncheon on Tuesday, Coleman brought along two of his players, red-shirt freshman Tyrin Ralph and junior kicker Jamie Gillan. “Not what we expected, not what we expected by a long shot,” Coleman said.
“It was a football game where we did some bad things, but we did a lot of good things — things that we can build off of. We knew going into the game Akron was going to be a very good football team. They’re an FBS school, and they were coming off a loss to Penn State. I felt like we were ready to play. We made some plays, and it might not look like it by the score. The two gentlemen that join me today played fast and hard along with others.”
The Zips gashed the Golden Lions on the ground behind a solid game by their running back Warren Ball. Ball is an Ohio State transfer, and he had 23 carries for 140 yards and three touchdowns against the Golden Lions.
“He’s a good running back, and he’s big,” Coleman said of Ball. “A lot of his gains were from our missed tackles, we were trying to knock him down as opposed to tackling him. A lot of those things are what we’re going to work on this week. We have to wrap up. Regardless if he’s a transfer from Ohio State or straight out of high school, we have to tackle well, and that’s what we didn’t do in this ball game.”
UAPB now has a film that they can look at and gauge where they need to make improvements the most. Coleman likes what he saw as far as the energy level his guys played with, and he’s confident they’ll get better from a game like this. “We can definitely benefit from it,” Coleman said.
“It was a good game plan by Akron. They played hard, they’re a big football team, and they deserve to be in the FBS. We had to get away from the run game a lot because we got down in score, forcing us to pass a little more than we wanted to. The offensive line played well, although they did some stunts that mixed us up because we haven’t seen them before. Overall, I was pleased with the effort and that’s what I was looking for.”
UAPB wide receiver Tyrin Ralph recorded three catches for 40 yards against Akron. Ralph is a native of New Orleans, Louisiana, where he attended the nationally-known Enda Karr High School. During his red-shirt season, Ralph spent countless time working to get better with guys like Willie Young. Young left UAPB as the school’s all-time leading receiver, and Ralph has set his goals just as high.
“It was a process,” Ralph said. “When I came in, I was practicing a lot with Willie Young. I knew I had a big role ahead when I was coming in. So I practice day in a day out, play hard, and give a lot of effort. It shows in practice and it’ll show on the field.”
Kicker Jamie Gillan scored the only points of the game for the Golden Lions against Akron, nailing a 25-yard field goal. Gillan entered into the season as an AllSWAC special teams selection, so the expectations for him were there from the start.
This year Gillan is 2/2 on field goal attempts, he’s punting well, and he’s building a valuable relationship with new special teams coach Thomas Sheffield. “We just recently moved Mike Green to long snapper, so that’s been helping me a lot,” Gillan said.
“He’s been whipping it back to me, so that’s given me a lot more time to really concentrate on my technique with my punting and kicking. We also got a new special teams coach that’s been working with me everyday. There’s a lot more that we can work on and get better for A-State.”
The Golden Lions are now set to travel to take on the Arkansas State University Red Wolves for an in-state match up on Saturday. Arkansas State has solidified themselves as a quality mid-major FBS team in the past several years, and Coleman is aware that it’ll be a challenge.
The Red Wolves got an extra week of preparation in, as their game last week against Miami was cancelled due to Hurricane Irma.
“We have another tough game this week,” Coleman said. “We travel to Arkansas State, and they’re a very good football team. They were off last week when they were scheduled to play Miami, but because of the hurricanes on the East coast that game was cancelled. They’ve had two weeks to prepare for us, and we’re going to go into a hostile territory. We have a chip on our shoulder, and we’re going to go in and try to upset Arkansas State.”
Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. at Jonesboro.