Taeyler Porter has generally been a man of few words since he stepped on the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff campus last year, but talking has never been the Florida native's forte. Running the football is where Porter excels, and he's done it better than anyone in the Southwestern Athletic Conference over the past season and a half.
Since the start of the 2018 season, Porter has run for 1,797 yards, 34 yards more than Prairie View A&M's Dawonya Tucker. He also had a league-high seven games of at least 100 yards rushing a year ago, and his 86-yard gallop in a 15-10 victory over Texas Southern on Nov. 17 was the longest run by any returning running back in the SWAC.
Through six games this year, Porter has 577 yards on the ground, currently good enough for third place in the SWAC, but his clutch outing last week against Lane College may have been his finest moment, and it couldn't have come at a better time for the Golden Lions.
Porter carried for a season-high 182 yards, and his school-record 98-yard touchdown burst late in the fourth quarter provided the winning score for UAPB (4-2), which avoided a crushing upset before getting into the thick of its league schedule.
"He showed why he's one of the best backs in the country," UAPB Coach Cedric Thomas said of Porter, who was named a STATS FCS National Player of the Week honorable mention for his performance. "To be in that situation ... we're on the 2, and to see your running back and quarterback 5 yards in the end zone means you've got to go 7 yards just to get back to the line of scrimmage. But we got a hat on a hat, everybody was accounted for, and they had nobody for [Porter].
"He missed those reads earlier, but his maturity showed. For him to know in that instance that, 'hey, I've got to be patient because I've seen this picture before'... he was able to capitalize."
Porter, whose game-changing run is the second longest in conference history behind a 99-yarder from Mississippi Valley State's Huburt Owens that coincidentally came in a victory over UAPB, had been sharing the backfield load with senior KeShawn Williams who's been sidelined the past two games because of injury. With Williams out, Porter has reverted to being the focal point of the Golden Lions' ground game, but according to him, it's all about doing the little things no matter who's in the lineup.
Lane did a good job of slowing him down for three quarters. However, Porter began to finding holes up front in the fourth.
"From a running back standpoint, it's on us," said Porter, who had 74 yards through three quarters before busting out. "Making the wrong reads. ... we've got to clean that up in practice. We go through that all the time during the week.
"I feel like we just have to clean up on the reads, and then we'll be able to get things going."
Williams may not play Saturday when UAPB hosts Mississippi Valley State at 1 p.m., so Porter will again assume the bulk of the carries. Delta Devils Coach Vincent Dancy said his team will make stopping the run one of their primary objectives.
"We pride ourselves on stopping the run," he said. "[UAPB] has two dynamic running backs. [Porter] is No. 3 in the conference in rushing and [Williams] is No. 4, and Keshawn has only played in four games. This kid is already at almost 400 yards rushing but averaging almost 7 yards a carry.
"Those two that they have are probably two of the best I've seen in this conference when you're talking about a dynamic duo of running backs. So we've got to make sure we control the run game."
Mississippi Valley State Coach Vincent Dancy is putting a great deal of attention on UAPB's running backs, but he's not limiting that focus to the Golden Lions' ballcarriers.
"We really want to stop the run game and make them pass it," he said. "But when they've got three receivers, with two in the top 10 in receiving categories ... we've got our hands full.
The Delta Devils survived to win a closer-than-expected game a week ago, but that didn't necessarily soothe Dancy's spirit. Mississippi Valley State squeaked by for a 31-23 victory over a Virginia Lynchburg team that had been outscored 219-42 in the previous four games prior. The Delta Devils were outgained 342-185 in total yardage and were at a 35:09-24:51 disadvantage in time of possession. Dancy noted that those types of numbers are not acceptable if his team is going to make any noise within the conference.
"It was just a big drop off in focus from what I've been seeing in the last few weeks," he said. "I thought we took a step backwards. I thought [Virginia Lynchburg] played harder, played tougher than we did. I don't know why, but we just didn't play well."
The whiff (s)
Poor tackling plagued UAPB for much of last season, but the Golden Lions had done a much better job in that area -- until last week.
"I think we might've had 16 missed tackles in the second half," UAPB Coach Cedric Thomas said. "Just not focused. Big-time athletes on [Lane] allowed us to miss those tackles.
"They had a running back from Michigan that transferred and a big-time wideout that did a good job in space."
The Golden Lions did manage to win the game, but they made it extra tough on themselves.
Lane was 4 of 13 on third-down conversions, but all four conversions were results of missed tackles. Also, UAPB missed at least three tackles on each of the Dragons' seven scoring drives. Thomas said the Golden Lions must be better if they're going to beat Mississippi Valley State on Saturday.
"They've got a big-time quarterback that makes a lot of plays in space," he said of the Delta Devils. "They got one up on us last year. ... I think maybe the last 4 or 5 years so they've kind of owned us. We've got to be sound and play our brand of football.
"We've got to tackle in space and be mentally prepared."
Sports on 10/11/2019
Print Headline: RB Porter saves day for UAPB