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Missed opportunities haunt UAPB in 35-15 loss to Alabama State

by I.C. Murrell | October 10, 2021 at 3:51 a.m.

MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff didn't have bad weather to blame against Alabama State this time, but missed opportunities and miscues reared their heads again.

A fumble and interception, along with two blocked field goal attempts, kept UAPB from scoring in the first half, and freshman Myles Crawley threw for four touchdowns in his first start to power Alabama State to a 35-15 homecoming victory Saturday, handing the Golden Lions their fourth straight loss.

"Since the Alcorn [State] game, we've been struggling the last three weeks, I guess," UAPB Coach Doc Gamble said about the Sept. 23 game in which UAPB blew a 32-13 lead in the third quarter and lost 39-38.

Since then, the Golden Lions (1-4, 0-3 Southwestern Athletic Conference) have not scored more than 17 points in a game.

"We had a good week of preparation," Gamble said. "It's just not translating to the field right now."

Crawley took over as the starter for a struggling Ryan Nettles, a preseason third-team All-SWAC selection by Phil Steele's College Football Preview, and burned the Golden Lions for 292 yards and four touchdowns on 20-of-28 passing with an interception.

Jeremiah Hixon caught two touchdown passes from Crawley in the first quarter. Hixon had 112 yards on six receptions.

The Hornets (3-2, 2-1) beat the Golden Lions in the first completed meeting since 2016. Their game in Pine Bluff on March 27 was stopped with Alabama State leading 10-3 in the second quarter due to constant lightning in the area.

Weather played no role in the Golden Lions' being mired with an inability to score touchdowns deep in opponents' territory, a problem that only grew bigger Saturday.

Tyquan Fleming's 60-yard return of the opening kickoff and an Antoine Fuller interception gave UAPB great field position. Fleming got UAPB to the Alabama State 28, but that drive fizzled when the Hornets blocked Zack Piwniczka's 45-yard attempt.

Piwniczka, who was 6 for 6 on field goals before Saturday, was blocked again from 38 yards out in the second quarter. He finally got the Golden Lions on the board from 28 yards out, cutting Alabama State's lead to 14-3.

Trailing 7-0, the Golden Lions' best chance to score in the first half started with Andre Fuller's second interception of the season, which he returned 5 yards to the Hornets' 28. Freshman Kayvon Britten rushed for 20 yards and then for 6 more before Skyler Perry threw incomplete to Rashad Beecham on fourth and goal from the 1.

"We should have been able to punch it in from the 1 there," Gamble said. "That would have been a good tone-setter for us. We weren't able to get a good push. ... I don't think we really overcame that early on."

Perry, a fourth-year starter, completed 7 of 25 passes for 43 yards with an interception. He was sacked twice and pulled in the fourth quarter for redshirt freshman Xzavier Vaughn, who gave the Golden Lions a spark for the second week in a row by capping his first drive with a touchdown, this one going 16 yards to freshman Daemon Dawkins.

Vaughn went 6 of 9 for 156 yards and threw 2 touchdowns.

"Like Coach said, I'm able to watch the game from the sideline and see what the defense is doing," Vaughn said. "Like I said last week, when it's the next man up, there's no dropoff."

Vaughn helped UAPB make a game of it when, on a one-play drive, he made a back-shoulder throw to Dalyn Hill, who made a one-handed catch in man-to-man coverage, turned upfield and raced in for a 70-yard touchdown to draw UAPB within 28-15.

Piwniczka's ensuing onside-kick attempt went wrong when Alabama State's Keenan Isaac caught the ball out of the air and took it back 37 yards for the knockout punch.

Print Headline: Missed opportunities doom UAPB again

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