University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Head Coach Monte Coleman held his weekly media luncheon on campus Tuesday afternoon.
The Golden Lions were on the short side of a 47-40 final against the Southern University Jaguars in Little Rock at War Memorial Stadium this past Saturday. It marked the third consecutive game that the Golden Lions fell short, even after putting up at least 30 points on offense.
The last three losses have been by seven to Mississippi Valley, by four to Central State, and by seven to Southern. Coleman has challenged his defense to step up, and with three games left, they have an opportunity to respond.
“The defense, I challenged them this week, we’re just giving up to many points,” Coleman said.
“In my opinion, when we score 40 points, in most cases you have the ability to win a football game. So I challenge the defensive coaches that they have to come up with a game plan to hold down the points we’re allowing teams to get against us. I also encouraged the offense that they have to continue to put up the number of points that we’re putting up. The bottom line is we have three games left, anything can happen, and we’re going to play each game like it’s our last game.”
At halftime, the Jaguars had built a sizable lead over the Golden Lions, but a strong third quarter allowed UAPB to get back in the game. The fight that UAPB showed left Coleman feeling optimistic for the future.
Heading into this past weekend’s game, Southern was the No. 1 defense in the SWAC statically, and the fact that UAPB’s offense had a productive day was promising.
“Each week now with the games being as close as they are, I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but I leave each of these games with a lot of optimism for our football team,” Coleman said.
“This team has an attitude of not quitting, and I think it was obvious in the Southern game. There’s not many people around the league who gave us a chance to put that number of points on them.”
Both teams traded a pair of touchdowns before Southern forced the first turnover of the game. Southern capitalized and eventually found themselves up 34-14 at halftime. At the luncheon, Coleman was questioned on how big it could have been for the defense to have another stop or two in the first half.
“It would’ve been huge,” Coleman said. “We were exchanging scores with them. We had a mishap when KeShawn Williams, one of hardest working players fumbled the ball. Without that fumble, we go down and score again, and it very easily could’ve been 21-21 at that point. We’ve got to find a way to minimize the number of points that they’re putting up against us. And also, we have to do a better job tackling.”
The opposing quarterback, Southern’s all-SWAC senior Austin Howard, was limited due to a partially torn PCL, but he shredded the UAPB defense through the air.
Coleman eluded to the fact that when the inexperience of the secondary showed, Howard was able to take advantage. “He’s a very talented quarterback,” Coleman said of Howard.
“I’m glad his knee was messed up because it made him one-dimensional. If we made a mistake in the secondary or with the linebackers, he took advantage of it. He’s smart, and he sees the whole field. We were able to get pressure on him to get a few sacks, but when we broke down because of the youth we have in the secondary, he was able to capitalize on that.”
A big game changing moment was when UAPB starting quarterback Le’Earl Patterson went down late in the second quarter with an apparent shoulder injury.
Brandon Duncan, the starter at the beginning of the season came in and according to Coleman, did a decent job of keeping UAPB in the game. As far as Patterson’s injury and his status for going forward, Coleman elected not to go into detail.
“For right now, I’ll just say that Mr. Duncan came in and played a good football game,” Coleman said.
“It took him a little time to get warmed up. The injury to Le’Earl just happened all of a sudden, so Duncan hadn’t passed the ball and he wasn’t ready mentally to go in and play. He threw two touchdown passes, and he was able to run a two point conversion in. He came in and played well enough to keep us in the football game. Mr. Patterson was taken to the hospital after the game. He was released and he came back with our trainer Robert Long, and right now we’re just kind of waiting to see.”
Each week Coleman brings two of his players along with him to the luncheon, and this week it was senior linebacker Danarius Dooley and sophomore wide receiver Kolby McNeal.
Dooley recovered a fumble against Southern and returned it 48 yards to set the Golden Lions up in scoring position. Dooley also two tackles, and a sack. When asked to talk about the state of the defense at this time, Dooley spoke for his entire unit.
“We have to buckle down, Dooley said.
“We can’t give up too many points, and too many big plays.” McNeal is a member of a receiving core led by coach Robert Bailey. McNeal spoke to the success that the offense has had, and the well executed game plan they had for Southern.
“We have been putting up enough points, but that’s our goal as an offense,” McNeal said. “I feel like if the other team scores 60, we have to score 61. We just have to stay consistent, and just keep working, stay in the film room, and get ready for Grambling.”
Former UAPB basketball coach Harold Blevins posed a question about instant replay in the SWAC a few weeks ago in one of the luncheons, and in this past weekend’s game, Southern’s first touchdown was clearly one that needed to be reviewed. After the instance in the Southern game, Blevins made a comment aimed toward the fact that instant replay isn’t a requirement in the SWAC.
“It is extremely unfair to your football team, the presidents of this conference, the athletic directors, and the commissioner to not have instant replay,” Blevins said. “As an ex-coach in the SWAC, it’s shameful to not have it.”
Coleman agreed and followed Blevins up with his feelings on the situation.
“Just to comment on it, I agree,” Coleman said.
“There are some teams in the SWAC that are utilizing instant replay, but I believe next year, every team in the SWAC will have to have it. They’re bringing instant replay to the SWAC and it’s been a long time coming. If you looked at it on the jumbo-tron it was as obvious as the nose on my face that he was bobbling the football as he went out of the end zone, so he didn’t have full possession.”
The Golden Lions are quickly back on the grind as they have the No. 1 team in the SWAC coming into Pine Bluff on Saturday, the Grambling State Tigers. “They are leading the SWAC, and they’re undefeated in conference at this time,” Coleman said of Grambling.