UAPB (2-1, 1-0 SWAC) will face their toughest opponent since the Golden Lions suffered a loss to TCU in week one as they travel to Nashville to take on Tennessee State (1-2) at 2 p.m. Saturday.
Tennessee State is 4-0 against UAPB, and have outscored the Golden Lions 160-33 in those four games.
The Golden Lions are coming off of a dominating 53-15 victory over NAIA Langston, and have already matched their season win total from last year after defeating Alabama A&M two weeks ago. Additionally, the Golden Lions won back-to-back games for the first time since 2014.
Head coach Cedric Thomas said that his team is trying to establish a new culture at UAPB.
“It is just a mindset and a culture we are trying to start establishing,” said Thomas. “We are creating a mindset that we have just got to go to work regardless of who is on the other sidelines. It is a new maturity level, but it starts with practice. We had a great week of practice from Monday all the way through Thursday, and you could just see their eyes light up, and they are starting to realize just who this team is just through preparation.”
Tennessee State is coming off of a 49-44 loss to Jackson State, and have struggled to settle in on a starting quarterback. The Tigers have started two different quarterbacks, and played have played three.
Cameron Rosendahl started the first two games but was injured in the second at Middle Tennessee State. He was replaced by Michael Hughes, who played one quarter before he was injured. Rosendahl finish that game for the Tigers. Octavious Battle, a transfer from South Florida, replaced Rosendahl as the starter last week against Jackson State, but Rosendahl is expected to get the start against the Golden Lions according to TSU head coach Rod Reed.
Thomas said that each quarterback is capable of inflicting damage against opposing teams.
“All of those guys are good. They are scholarship guys and special athletes,” said Thomas. “We have to have a game plan for each one of those guys because each one of them have a special skillset, so we are putting some things together for each one of them. We just have to be prepared for all of them.”
Despite the quarterback issues Tennessee State is averaging 481 yards per game on offense. The Tigers are averaging 326 passing yards per game, while averaging 155 rushing.
“We have got to know where (WR’s Steven Newbold and Chris Rowland) are at,” said Thomas. “Those two guys can go. You just have to keep a body on them. I wish I could play with 12 or 13 to try to stop them. They are dynamic NFL prospects, so we have to do a good job of finding them and we have to be physical. We have to give them some different looks, change some things up and make sure we are sound, but we have to play our brand of football. We have to eliminate big plays, we have to tackle in space, and we have to know schematically what we are doing.”
The Tigers struggle defensively against the run. They have given up an average of 205.7 yards per game on the ground. They have given up an average of 453.3 yards per game. Thomas hopes to utilize the running game to take advantage of the Tigers’ woes on defense.
“With the two running backs we have and our offensive line we want to run the football,” said Thomas. “We have also done a great job of taking what the defense gives us. I think we can beat teams if they give us an eight man box, I think we can throw it 40 times and win, or we can run it 50 times and win. It is like pick you poison, but also take what the defense is giving us.”
Kickoff for UAPB at Tennessee State is scheduled for 2 p.m. CST with the game being aired on ESPN+.