A missed opportunity late in the fourth doomed the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff's hopes for a home victory over Grambling State Saturday at Simmons Bank Field. When all was said and done, the Golden Lions lost 39-33.
A missed opportunity late in the fourth doomed the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff’s hopes for a home victory over Grambling State Saturday at Simmons Bank Field. When all was said and done, the Golden Lions lost 39-33.
One play – with just over a minute remaining in the game – was the defining moment in the latest installment of this series between the two SWAC foes.
The Golden Lions faced a fourth-and-5 from the GSU 6 with 1:04 remaining.
Following a timeout, UAPB hoped to at least get a first down, if not a touchdown.
Instead, the fourth down pass from quarterback Shannon Patrick was tipped and intercepted by Tiger defensive lineman by Wesley Green.
“On that play, we tried to cut their lineman,” UAPB coach Cedric Thomas said. “The kid that tipped it has a lot of length. He covers a lot of area. And we tried to throw the slant pass. We can’t turn the ball over. We have to capitalize on our opportunities.”
From the Grambling State (3-4, 1-2) perspective, it was a highlight in what is the Tigers’ third-consecutive victory.
“We’re fortunate to get that interception,” said GSU coach Broderick Fobbs. “We actually got outplayed. But it’s about turnovers. We turned the ball over, too. But Pine Bluff’s turnovers hurt them a lot more than ours hurt us.”
Green did exactly what he was coached to do, Fobbs added.
“We expected Pine Bluff to do what they normally do. We wanted to make sure to stop the run because Taeyler Porter is a good football player,” he said. “And if we can’t get there, we needed to get our hands up and try and get our hands on the ball. We were fortunate to do that.”
With under a minute left, Grambling State had the ball and kneeled down twice to secure the victory.
From the opening kick of the game, UAPB (5-3, 1-2) and Grambling State went back-and-forth exchanging the momentum.
UAPB fell behind midway through the first quarter when Jakarie Nichols ran four yards for a Tiger TD. The kick by Miguel Mendez put GSU up 7-0.
Grambling State needed only three plays to score thanks to linebacker Jeremy Carter picking off Patrick and returning it deep into Golden Lion territory.
However, UAPB bounced back on the ensuing possession when Patrick – who had 300 yards passing – completed a 17-yard pass to Dejuan Miller for a touchdown. The extra point attempt by Zack Piwniczka was blocked as the score was 7-6 with 4:26 left in the first quarter.
With just under three minutes remaining in the opening quarter, GSU increased its lead to 9-6 when Kenan Fontenot and Donald Freeman tackled Porter in the end zone for a safety.
The Golden Lions grabbed their first lead of the game 12-9, late in the first quarter, when Porter found his way into the end zone from 1-yard out. The kick was no good.
UAPB’s go-ahead score came four plays after linebacker Xavier Mitchell recovered a GSU fumble at the Golden Lion 43.
But thanks to the legs of quarterback Geremy Hickbottom, the host team wouldn’t lead for long.
Deep in UAPB territory Hickbottom received a snap and was under immediate pressure from the defense.
But the sophomore got away from the pursuit and ran down the middle of the field for a 14-yard touchdown. A botched snap resulted in a failed kick attempt as the Tiger lead was 15-12 with 11:52 left in the first half.
Grambling State eventually went up 22-12 when Hickbottom completed a 31-yard touchdown pass to receiver Lyndon Rash.
UAPB later put a momentary halt to Grambling’s surge when Miller caught a 24-yard touchdown pass from Patrick near the side of the end zone making the score 22-19 late in the second quarter.
At the half, GSU led by three.
With its first possession of the second half, the Golden Lions went on a 15-play, 6:35 drive that put the host ahead of Grambling State.
Patrick tossed a short pass to Harry Ballard III, who finished with a 153 yards receiving. The junior then eased his way into the end zone to give the Golden Lions a 26-22 lead.
However, Grambling State immediately bounced back when Kevin Dominique caught a short pass from Hickbottom, found a gap in the Golden Lion defense, and broke into the open field for a 40-yard touchdown. The Tigers were now up 29-26 with just over five minutes left in the third.
“We’re battle tested,” Fobbs said. “Our kids have experienced the ups and downs. They know not to panic. When you’ve been through all the stuff we’ve been through, you can’t help but to keep you head.”
Early in the fourth, GSU made its way inside the Golden Lion 20. But the UAPB defense stiffened and held the Tigers to a field goal when Mendez made a kick from 34 yards out. The Golden Lions now trailed 32-26.
With 7:57 remaining in the game, Joseph McWilliams intercepted a pass from Patrick and returned it 55 yards for a touchdown increasing the Tiger lead to 39-26.
“That was just a bad read. He went to the wrong side. He was supposed to go to the other side of the field,” Thomas said. “But in defense of my quarterback, he and Harry had a lot of chemistry going on. Also, with talented players like Shannon and Harry you let them go out and make plays when they feel it. The kid from Grambling just made a great play.”
Ballard, with 4:03 left in the fourth, caught a 24-yard touchdown pass from Patrick as UAPB cut the Tigers’ lead to 39-33 with 4:03 remaining in the game.
UAPB, which amassed 448 yards of offense, later had a great opportunity to score a touchdown and win the game. But an interception by Green, on a fourth-and-2, sealed the deal for the Tigers.
“Pine Bluff is a heck of a football team. I knew it was going to be a dogfight,” Fobbs said. “We were just fortunate to get a few turnovers that turned into points. The last one solidified the victory.”
Despite the loss, Thomas was upbeat and eager to address what went wrong.
“I can’t wait until Monday,” he said. “That’s when you judge the character of these young men. So I can’t wait to get in and get back to work.”