The football players and coaches for Arkansas-Pine Bluff are often asked about the distractions that come with homecoming games. But simply trying to win on the road is a challenge in itself, and the Golden Lions aren’t easily distracted by the activities surrounding such a game.

The football players and coaches for Arkansas-Pine Bluff are often asked about the distractions that come with homecoming games. But simply trying to win on the road is a challenge in itself, and the Golden Lions aren’t easily distracted by the activities surrounding such a game.


So the morning parade and honors breakfasts that get the home campus jumping at every homecoming is of little distraction, and they cannot be used to any degree as excuses for the Lions’ staring at another losing record. Otherwise, mark down the Nov. 8 game against Prairie View A&M as a loss, but strike up the band as planned, OK?


UAPB happens to not quite play on the same level as Southern or Grambling State. Those two teams have made 180-degree turnarounds from 2012, when UAPB was a step ahead of the rest of the SWAC. Much credit goes to Dawson Odums in Baton Rouge and Broderick Fobbs in Grambling for effectively selling their programs.


Monte Coleman continues to effectively sell UAPB as a championship contender, but UAPB hasn’t played at that level this year. Academic concerns was the excuse last year. Youth is this year’s.


But what is it about youth that continually allows a big play by an opposing offense or a breakdown in special teams? At what point does youth no longer matter?


The good news for the Lions is that Coleman has built a team that is often equal in talent with the other nine SWAC programs. The bad news is, so have up-and-coming head coaches like Texas Southern’s Darrell Asberry.


Last year’s 41-28 win in Pine Bluff was no fluke for the Tigers. They are enjoying their best season since winning the 2010 conference championship (and becoming undone by NCAA sanctions afterward).


Texas Southern ranks third in the SWAC in total defense (332.3 yards per game), but none of its players rank high in most individual categories. In every game it’s won, Texas Southern has just finished a step ahead of the opponent.


The intrigue this season rests within the Tigers’ record. It had been a while since they started a season 4-0. All of the wins this year were quality, even their most recent against Mississippi Valley State (20-16) three Saturdays ago.


The rise of the Tigers couldn’t come at a better time. On Saturday, they will celebrate their homecoming in a shiny, fairly new stadium in the heart of Houston. Ooh, the Lions should be afraid.


Yeah, well, UAPB already survived two homecomings this month (not on the scoreboard, though).


There’s nothing about an extra wave of alumni and fans that’s going to give Texas Southern a trick play or much better athletes Asberry can call upon. He didn’t need them when he started to finally right the ship. After all, crowds haven’t even surpassed 2,000 for a TSU game at 22,039-seat BBVA Compass Stadium this year.


So, the Lions aren’t – and shouldn’t be – fazed, whether 1,000 or 22,000 partygoers show up Saturday. The parity of the SWAC is so big, how much better Texas Southern is on record doesn’t matter.


It’s just another road game for the Lions. Their backs are against the wall, no doubt. The championship is no longer in sight.


They’re just playing to win a game, frills or no frills.


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I.C. Murrell is the sports editor of The Commercial. Email him at imurrell@pbcommercial.com.