In a game that was decided in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter Saturday, the Jackson State Tigers prevailed over the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Golden Lions 30-27.
A defensive struggle in the first half saw just one touchdown scored by the Golden Lions on their second drive of the game.
After the Tigers forced a three and out on UAPB’s opening drive, their kick returner muffed a punt by Jamie Gillan to give the Golden Lions the ball deep in JSU territory. UAPB freshman quarterback Skyler Perry got the third start of his career and led the offense in an attempt to take advantage of the Jackson State turnover.
Perry hit junior receiver Kolby McNeal for 22 yards on first down. UAPB junior running back Taeyler Porter then scampered in from 11 yards out for the only touchdown of the first half with 12:50 to play in quarter one.
The Golden Lions defense almost lived up to UAPB Head Coach Cedric Thomas’ prediction of a break out performance by not letting the Tigers get in the end zone in the first half. The Tigers used three running backs early to keep fresh legs on the field. Tigers running back Quitten Brown served as their bruiser back, and his hard nose running helped them get inside UAPB territory for the first time later in the quarter.
After a pass breakup on 3rd down by UAPB sophomore corner back Cory Bell, JSU would get on the board with a 44-yard field goal by Christian Jacquemin with 5:12 to play in the first quarter. UAPB’s Porter gained 91 rushing yards on 16 carries in the first half.
Porter used a big run and a catch out of the backfield on 3rd and long to set UAPB up in scoring position; however, a 47-yard field goal attempt was blocked with 1:02 to play in the first quarter. Jackson State didn’t waste the little time left in the quarter as quarterback Jarred Hayes connected with Kobe Gates for 50 yards to put JSU inside the UAPB redzone. The Golden Lions held the Tigers to a 31-yard field goal by Jacquemin to pull JSU within one point.
Perry came out on the ensuing drive connecting for back to back first down conversions through the air. The drive would stall, and just as the Golden Lions looked to add to their lead, a 50-yard field goal attempt by Gillan was blocked, the second of the half. After the Golden Lions' defense got a big stop on third down, UAPB would commit their first turnover of the game. Perry threw an interception as he tested a receiver in one-on-one coverage with 5:33 to play in the first half to give JSU the ball on their own 21 yard line.
Minutes later, UAPB sophomore cornerback Shawn Steele recorded an interception as he picked off Hayes to give UAPB the ball on the JSU 30. However, the ensuing drive for UAPB would result in the third missed field goal of the first half as Gillan was off from 31 yards out and UAPB held a 706 advantage. The Golden Lions defense forced a three and out by the JSU offense on their first drive of the second quarter as UAPB senior linebacker Je’Kevin Carter got in the backfield for a sack.
Porter continued to rip the Tigers defense with his ability to get to the edge and Perry found Jeremy Brown for a 22-yard touchdown reception for the second touchdown of the game.
Jackson State Head Coach Tony Hughes decided to go with a quarterback change as he pulled Hayes for Derrick Ponder with 11:15 to play in the third quarter. UAPB’s defense didn’t allow Ponder to find a rhythm and Hughes reinserted Hayes into the game. On offense, penalties and a costly turnover slowed the Golden Lions down.
The Tigers defense recovered a fumble on a reverse toss, giving them the ball on the UAPB 21 yard line. The Golden Lions defense kept JSU out of the end zone by forcing another Jacquemin field goal that was good from 35 yards out to make it 14-9 with 5:01 to play in the third.
After a stop by the Tigers defense, Jackson State would answer with a quick 60-yard touchdown run by K. Martin to give them their first lead of the ball game at 16-14. The Tigers experienced a 10 point swing in less than two minutes. When it looked like the momentum was shifting into JSU’s favor, UAPB linebacker Carter picked off Hayes and took it all the way for six.
That pick-six gave UAPB a 20-14 lead heading into the fourth quarter. A third field goal attempt that would have given the Lions a nine-point advantage was blocked early in the fourth quarter and JSU used the blocked field goal to put together a scoring drive to retake the lead as Hayes hit Keene Young for a 25-yard touchdown in the left corner of the end zone. Trailing 23-20 with 8:16 to play, the Golden Lions responded with a quick drive to go back on top. It took UAPB 1:55 to go 65 yards in seven plays as Perry capped the drive off with a 33-yard touchdown pass to Tyrin Ralph. JSU wasn’t done though.
On 3rd and seven, Hayes found Warren Newman over the top of the Golden Lions defense for a 72-yard touchdown pass with 4:49 to play in the game to give the Tigers a 30-27 advantage. The Golden Lions would put together a drive to march down to the JSU 30 yard line where they were forced into a 4th and nine situation.
Instead of attempting a 45-yard field goal to tie the contest, UAPB elected to go with a fake that was stuffed by the JSU defense. UAPB missed four field goal attempts as three were blocked, and they botched the fake attempt in the waning minutes of the game.
UAPB junior running back Porter carried the ball 31 times for 167 yards and one touchdown. UAPB freshman quarterback Skyler Perry completed 27/41 passes for 300 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception.