University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Coach Cedric Thomas said he was generally pleased with his team's effort and "no quit" attitude in last week's 31-7 home loss to Southern. Once the conversation shifted to his team's inability to take care of the football, though, complementing his team was the last thing on his mind.
The Golden Lions threw four interceptions inside Southern territory -- including one in the end zone and another at the Jaguars' 3 -- and turned the ball over on downs on another drive after having a first-and-goal. All five of those failed series crippled any chance UAPB had of knocking off the defending Southwestern Athletic Conference Western Division champions.
"Offensively, we shot ourselves in the foot," said Thomas, whose team lost for the first time since their season opener against TCU. "You can't take nothing from [Southern] Coach [Dawson] Odums and his staff. They did a great job of taking some things away from us and showing some looks we hadn't seen from them.
"Defensively, we started out well, created two turnovers. Yet and still, you can't turn it over. It was championship mode versus championship team, but we turned it over too many times, and you can't do that when you're dealing with championship teams."
Southern was able to score 17 points off those mistakes and beat UAPB for the seventh time in a row. Although Thomas said he was excited about the strides his team has made, he admitted the Golden Lions missed out on a golden opportunity to make another SWAC statement.
"All week, for us, it was, 'To be the man, you've got to beat the man,' " he said. "We weren't able to do it. We had too many costly turnovers, excessive celebration [penalties], just things we don't coach and condone.
"It starts with me, and I'll get that fixed. We'll continue to get better."
Even more disappointing for Thomas was that the miscues were uncommon for his team before that game. The Golden Lions are one of the least penalized team in the SWAC and had just four penalties in the game, but each seemingly occurred at critical moments. Also, the interceptions took away additional scoring opportunities from an offense that came in averaging nearly 38 points per game.
"Those were uncharacteristic of those guys," Thomas said, referring to the interceptions thrown by quarterbacks Shannon Patrick and Skyler Perry. "A couple of those they were just trying to get rid of it and a couple were unforced. [Southern] was able to change up some looks, and we didn't do a good job early of making those adjustments.
"But at the end of the day, we've got to take care of the football. You can't turn it over when you're playing upper echelon talent in coaching staffs and players. That was the deciding factor in all of it."
For Thomas, the challenge now lies in keeping that one loss from turning into a series of setbacks. UAPB (3-2) will play its final nonconference game of the season Saturday when it battles Division II Lane College (2-2) for homecoming. The Golden Lions have won 21 of the 28 meetings with Lane, with a majority of those resulting in blowouts.
UAPB's annual homecoming game has been anything but a cheerful occasion over the past six seasons for the Golden Lions.
The Golden Lions' last homecoming victory occurred in 2012 when they beat Mississippi Valley State 10-0 in front of nearly 15,000 fans. Since then, UAPB has lost six homecoming games in a row by an average score of 42-21, including a 45-14 clubbing by Alabama A&M a year ago.
A huge crowd is again expected, and UAPB Coach Cedric Thomas said he is anticipating an even better atmosphere at Simmons Bank Field than what he saw last week against Southern. Division II Lane College will oppose the Golden Lions this season, but Thomas said he isn't about to let his team lose sight of the task at hand.
"We're not in position to take anybody lightly," he said. "It's the same way as when we played Langston. We haven't made it to that status to where we can just show up and people just bow down to us yet."
UAPB Coach Cedric Thomas insisted that Lane College will be more than formidable Saturday, but that hasn't always been the case when the teams have met.
In years past, the Dragons routinely could be penciled in as an easy victory for the Golden Lions, but those days are long gone.
"Coach [Derrick] Burroughs was at Jackson State for some years and is an NFL guy," Thomas said of Lane's ninth-year coach. "They do a good job. They have a big-time quarterback, two Florida kids and a big-time wideout.
"The kids understand what they're doing, understand the concepts. We'll be ready for a good team to come in here."
Once rivals, UAPB and Lane haven't played in 17 years. The Dragons won the previous meeting 40-37 on Nov. 16, 2002, ending a 15-game losing streak in the series. Before that game, Lane had lost 19 of its past 20 games against UAPB, with the lone difference being an 18-18 tie in 1982.
Lane College hasn't had a problem scoring points this season, but the area that has the attention of UAPB Coach Cedric Thomas is its defense.
The Dragons are giving up 25 points, 140 rushing yards and 200.2 passing yards per game, which aren't eye-popping numbers at first glance. But Lane runs a similar 3-4 defensive scheme that Southern runs and with the way the Jaguars were able to neutralize the Golden Lions' offense last week, there is cause for concern.
"They'll get a chance to look at what Southern did and try to mock it, I'm quite sure," Thomas said. "They do some things in the odd front defensively, so we've got our hands full. We've got to be ready."
Sports on 10/04/2019
Print Headline: No time to sulk for UAPB