Arkansas-Pine Bluff back to business after SWAC upset
(STATS) - Arkansas-Pine Bluff deservedly celebrated a victory over the two-time defending champs of the Southwestern Athletic Conference's East Division. Once the party ended, its attention turned to making sure the wins keep coming.
Last Thursday's thrilling 45-43 triple-overtime victory at Alcorn State kept the Golden Lions from their second 0-3 start in four years. It might also go a long way in reviving a program that went 8-25 the past three seasons.
"We definitely feel very, very blessed here in Pine Bluff to have come out with that victory," coach Monte Coleman said. "For us to go into hostile territory and come out with a win in three overtimes, we feel blessed.
"The thing that helped us the most is that the guys just kept fighting."
The victory is one of the biggest in recent years for Pine Bluff (1-2, 1-0), which will try to win back to back contests for the first time since Oct. 25-Nov. 1, 2014. That's the only thing Coleman wants on the collective mind of his team as it attempts to snap a three-game losing streak to Jackson State (0-3, 0-1) on Saturday at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.
"The ability to put (the victory) behind us is going to be the biggest task," Coleman said. "We can't rely on that anymore. That one's over. ... Our total focus has to be on Jackson State and our ability to transition from one to the other."
Coleman's young squad is far from a polished product, but sophomore quarterback Brandon Duncan enjoyed a coming-out party of sorts against Alcorn. After throwing for 322 yards without a touchdown in losses to Tennessee State and Panhandle State, Duncan totaled 505 through the air with four TDs to earn STATS FCS Offensive Player of the Week honors.
"I think he grew up a little in this particular ballgame," Coleman said. "Each week so far he has improved a little bit. ... We want to see him progress each game. He's doing some good things for us."
That includes taking care of the ball. Duncan has yet to be intercepted in 124 pass attempts this season, and has managed to remain upright despite being sacked 16 times.
Coleman also continues to be impressed with the play of another Duncan, linebacker Willie Duncan III. The senior recorded 17 tackles, 12 solos, against Alcorn.
However, the Golden Lions have allowed an average of 35.7 points on the young season. After falling 37-3 at Jackson in 2015, Pine Bluff has given up an average of 37.3 over the last three meetings in this series.
Jackson State, though, has yielded at least 35 points in each 2016 contest.
The Tigers have been outscored 138-53, and trailed 28-0 before getting on the board late in the third quarter of Saturday's 35-14 loss to Grambling.
"Our kids have played hard," Jackson State coach Tony Hughes said. "They've giving their heart. We're not into moral victories. We fight as hard as we can and we do the best we can do."