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Golden Lions look to end mini losing streak in Texas

by Erick Taylor | September 30, 2021 at 2:25 a.m.

In his two seasons as head coach, Doc Gamble had never lost two consecutive games since he took over at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff until last week when Alcorn State rallied to win 39-38 in Southwestern Athletic Conference play at Simmons Bank Field.

He’s not interested in that streak reaching three.

However, Gamble was on the UAPB staff the last time the team lost three games in a row. That skid occurred in 2019, and the program that handed the Golden Lions that third setback is the same one they’ll encounter today.

UAPB (1-2, 0-1 SWAC) will try to snap out of a rare funk when it travels to take on Prairie View A&M (3-1, 2-0) at Blackshear Field in Prairie View, Texas. The game will be televised on ESPNU, with kickoff set for 6:30 p.m.

According to Gamble, the Golden Lions are eager to return to the field after enduring two weeks’ worth of losses that unfolded in very different manners.

In a defeat to the University of Central Arkansas on Sept. 18, UAPB fell into a 21-point hole in the second quarter and battled back to within eight points by the third quarter before allowing the Bears to score two touchdowns in the final eight minutes of the fourth quarter to win 45-23.

Five days later, the Golden Lions watched Alcorn State erase a 19-point, third-quarter deficit to escape.

“The guys know we gave one away,” Gamble said of his team’s loss to Alcorn State. “They know that. Our history in SWAC play right now is that we get out to a big lead and let teams work their way back into it. That dates back to last spring, too, because if you look back, it was just about every game we played in.

“We let Southern back in it and we let Grambling State back in it. It even happened in the championship game against Alabama A&M where we had a pretty good lead and blew a chance to make it a wider margin. Right when we’re about to put the nail in the coffin on people early, that fumbleitis enters the picture.” The loss to UCA was a bitter pill to swallow for the Golden Lions, but the setback to the Braves may have been even tougher. UAPB seemingly had the game in control when it jumped out to a 26-7 lead at halftime. That margin might have been much larger had the Golden Lions not fumbled twice inside Alcorn State territory in the second quarter.

Those missed opportunities came back to haunt UAPB, which lost four of five fumbles. It also overshadowed stellar nights from quarterback Skyler Perry, who went 24-of-39 passing for 316 yards with a touchdown, and running back Kierre Crossley, who scored a pair of touchdowns on the ground.

“The thing is that when we fumbled those four times, we were moving the ball at a good clip,” Gamble said. “That’s the toughest part about it. And then our kicker Zach [Piwniczka] being knocked out of the game. When he went out, that forced us to have to do some things that we may not have ordinarily done.” Piwniczka is the lone placekicker on the Golden Lions’ roster, and when he went out in the third after a hard hit from Braves’ special teamers, UAPB was put in a tough spot. The Golden Lions were forced to go for two-point conversions twice, failing on both, and didn’t score when they went for it on fourth and goal from the 6 because they couldn’t kick a field goal.

Luckily for Gamble, Piwniczka is expected to be ready for today’s game against a Prairie View A&M team that’s gotten off to a hot start.

The Panthers have won three of their first four games and are a coming off a 24-10 victory over rival Grambling State. Quarterback Jawon Pass has thrown for 1,099 yards and eight touchdowns while four players have run for at least 126 yards, led by Kristian Mosley’s 166.

Defensively, Prairie View A&M ranks fifth in the FCS in total defense (235.5 yards per game), including seventh in the FCS in tackles for loss with 35.

“They’re just a really good all-around football team,” Gamble said. “Their quarterback play has been really good, and they’re going to play well on defense. They’re Prairie View. They’re going to fly around to the ball and make things tough.

“But we’ve got to take care of us. And that means take care of the football and put people away. The environment down there is a nice, but it can lull you to sleep. If you get caught sleepwalking, you’re going to find yourself in a tough ballgame.”

Today’s game

ARKANSAS-PINE BLUFF AT PRAIRIE VIEW A&M

WHEN 6:30 p.m. Central WHERE Blackshear Field, Prairie View, Texas RECORDS Prairie View A&M 3-1, 2-0 SWAC; UAPB 1-2, 0-1 TELEVISION ESPNU RADIO KPBA-FM, 99.3, in Pine Bluff INTERNET uapblionsroar.com/live COACHES Prairie View A&M: Eric Dooley (16-13 in his fourth season at Prairie View A&M and overall); UAPB: Doc Gamble (5-3 in his second season at UAPB and overall) SERIES Prairie View A&M leads 44-25-2 LAST MEETING UAPB picked up a 36-31 victory on April 17 at Simmons Bank Field in Pine Bluff.

NOTEWORTHY UAPB snapped a seven-game losing streak to Prairie View A&M this past spring with its five-point victory. Quarterback Skyler Perry completed 16 of 33 passes for 201 yards and 4 touchdowns in the game. That victory also clinched the SWAC West division title for UAPB. … Prairie A&M Coach Eric Dooley spent three seasons at UAPB (2011-13) as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks’ coach. … Antonio Mullins, who leads the Panthers with 21 catches for 256 yards and 2 touchdowns, hauled in 10 passes for 114 yards in the team’s previous game against UAPB. … The Golden Lions are fifth in the FCS in sacks with 12 and third in sacks allowed with one. Monroe Beard ranks ninth in the country with four sacks. … UAPB’s De-Juan Miller and Tyrin Ralph both have 10 catches on the year, tied for a team high. Josh Wilkes leads the Golden Lions with 154 receiving yards.

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