JACKSON, Miss. -- An anemic offensive performance Saturday night in neighboring Mississippi helped close the door on the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff's chances of winning a Southwestern Athletic Conference championship.
The Golden Lions generated just 299 yards of total offense, including just 69 in the first half, in dropping a 21-12 decision to Jackson State at Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium.
Backup quarterback Jalon Jones came on in relief early and accounted for more than 200 yards of total offense for Jackson State (4-5, 3-1 SWAC), which didn't put up gaudy numbers but used a stellar defensive showing to win its third game in a row and take down UAPB for the sixth time in the past seven meetings. Running back Keshawn Harper added 82 yards rushing for the Tigers, while wide receiver Terrell Kennedy had 3 catches for 119 yards.
Yet, it was Jackson State's defense that led the charge from the outset. The Tigers tormented UAPB quarterback Shannon Patrick all game long and put the clamps on a Golden Lions offense that was held 153 yards below its season averaged.
"Our defense played solidly all game," Jackson State Coach John Hendricks said. "We're learning how to just grind out wins. The guys grinded one out last week against Prairie View A&M, and they did it again [Saturday] against a very good team.
"We allowed them to come back and complete some passes there in the second half, but we made stops when we needed them. When we had to have a turnover, we got it, and I'm proud of those guys."
The loss ended the Golden Lions' hopes at reaching the conference title game. UAPB (5-4, 2-3) came in a full game behind Southern in the West Division standings, but both teams have two conference games remaining. Southern staged a 35-31 come-from-behind victory over Alabama A&M on Saturday and holds the head-to-head tiebreaker over UAPB.
Still, the Golden Lions picked the wrong time to have one of their worst offensive performances of 2019. The 299 yards were UAPB's lowest output since it finished with 237 in the season-opening loss against TCU. The Golden Lions also were forced to play without leading rusher Taeyler Porter, who sat out after suffering from concussion-like symptoms earlier in the week. The senior, who is the SWAC's third-leading rusher, ran for 167 yards in last year's meeting, but his absence put a wrench in UAPB's offensive plans.
"Any time your leading rusher has to sit out, it hurts," UAPB Coach Cedric Thomas said. "That had a lot to do with the way our offense performed. But we can throw the ball with the best of them.
"We just didn't hit our spots. We came out too slow, too sluggish. ... I just didn't have them prepared to play."
Redshirt freshman Omar Allen started in Porter's place and finished with 98 yards on 30 carries. Patrick ended the night 11-of-25 passing for 227 yards and 1 touchdown, but the junior also tossed 3 costly interceptions, including one on the game's first play and another with 3:47 left in the fourth quarter that ended any thoughts of a comeback.
After both teams exchanged turnovers and blew field goal opportunities in the first quarter, Jackson State struck quickly in the second. Jones closed out a three-play, 94-yard drive with a 72-yard touchdown pass to Kennedy with 12:56 showing to give the Tigers a 7-0 lead.
Jackson State upped its advantage to 14 on the first drive of the second half when Jones finished off a seven-play, 76-yard march with a 4-yard touchdown run on fourth and goal at the 11:47 mark of the third quarter. UAPB, however, began showing signs of life on the next series.
The Golden Lions used five plays to cover 75 yards, with Allen scoring on a 13-yard run. Zach Piwniczka missed the extra point, leaving the Tigers with a 14-6 lead.
After forcing Jackson State to punt on back-to-back possessions, the Golden Lions cut their deficit to 14-12 when Patrick connected with wide receiver Dejuan Miller for a 16-yard touchdown. But Jackson State regained control moments later when freshman Josh Littles returned the ensuing kickoff 94 yards for a score.
UAPB never really threatened from there.
"We just showed signs of an immature ballclub, and that falls on me," Thomas said. "We got off to the slow start, came back and played a little better in the second half, but fell a little short and ran out of time. [Jackson State] is a good ballclub, so our hats off to them.
"We've just got to continue to practice hard and learn from these types of lessons going forward. Doing that will make us a better ballclub."
Sports on 11/03/2019
Print Headline: UAPB falls flat against Jackson State