There was nothing strenuous at all about how the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff spent its open date last week after knocking off Lane College in its season opener.
The Golden Lions did manage to take some time to work on themselves, but it was mostly centered around aspects other than what normally takes place on a football field.
"Last week was about us, getting guys rested," UAPB Coach Doc Gamble said of his team's bye. "We forced them to stay away from the building, forced those guys to try to do something else, moreso academically and a little bit less football. We did practice a few days last week, but it was more about us.
"And then getting back in here, these guys were excited and looking forward to getting back to work to get started on our next opponent."
That next opponent -- the University of Central Arkansas -- is a familiar one for the Golden Lions. However, it's been quite some time since the two have faced one another.
UAPB and UCA were once rivals in the long-defunct Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference when the Golden Lions were members in 1970-72 and 1983-87. UAPB left the league in 1987, yet the teams continued to play for years thereafter, albeit not annually. There hasn't been a meeting between the two since 2008, but that drought will end Saturday at 6 p.m. at Conway's Estes Stadium in what'll be the Bears' first home game of the year.
UCA, ranked No. 25 in the FCS rankings, has dominated the series, winning the past 10 times after losing the first two games in the series. The Bears battled back from an early deficit to beat the Golden Lions 41-17 in that previous matchup at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock 14 years ago. That season, UCA Coach Nathan Brown was the Bears' starting quarterback on a team that finished 10-2. Now the 35-year-old is in his fourth season at the helm, and despite an 0-2 record in 2021, Gamble said understands just how good of a program his Golden Lions will be facing this weekend.
"Although they've lost two, they're still a very good football team," Gamble said of UCA. "When I watched video of those guys as we prepare, you see a good football team. You see tremendous quarterback play, you see real good skill guys outside, you see a defense that's stingy at times, you see special teams units that are solid. They're still a very good football team.
"They've played some close games over the last two. Didn't come away with the 'W,' but other than that, they don't have any glaring weaknesses."
UAPB (1-0) didn't show many flaws either in its 34-16 victory over Lane College on Sept. 4. The Golden Lions ran for 275 yards and controlled the clock in sprinting past the Dragons. Quarterback Skyler Perry accounted for 268 yards of offense, and the UAPB defense held Lane to 3 of 12 on third-down conversions.
Gamble did note that he felt the Golden Lions got too comfortable after building a 21-point lead in the second quarter. Lane rallied to get within eight until UAPB pulled away after halftime. If the Golden Lions find themselves in a similar position against the Bears, putting them away is a must because UCA has shown it's more than capable of battling back.
The Bears trailed No. 17 Missouri State last week by nine late in the third quarter before taking a 34-30 lead with just over two minutes left in the game. Missouri State eventually won 43-34.
"[UCA] is well-coached, you can see it on video," Gamble said. "They're solid in all phases of the game. For us, they've lost two, let's make sure they don't get their first one this week."
AT CENTRAL ARKANSAS
WHEN 6 p.m.
WHERE Estes Stadium, Conway
RADIO KPBA-FM, 99.3, in Pine Bluff; KARN-AM, 920, in Little Rock; KUCA-FM, 91.3, in Conway; KKPT-FM, 94.1, in Little Rock
RECORDS UAPB 1-0; UCA 0-2
LAST MEETING UCA won 41-17 in 2008.