TULSA — One quarter into Thursday night’s season opener, the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff football team was leading a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent thanks to its defense.
The promising start wasn’t enough for UAPB as the Golden Lions fell 42-7 to Tulsa on the road.
UAPB coach Alonzo Hampton made his head coaching debut in this game. He said the offense didn’t do enough with the defense’s great start.
“I thought we started the game in the right way on special teams and defense,” Hampton said. “It gave us a short field, and we were able to score. But the other two drives, when we got the turnovers, we didn’t capitalize on them. So, that’s kind of frustrating, but we’ll watch the film and come back.”
On the game’s third play, UAPB (0-1) safety Kyre Williams intercepted Tulsa quarterback Braylon Braxton and returned the ball to the Tulsa 18-yard line. Four plays later, Michael Jamerson gave UAPB a 7-0 lead with a 1-yard run up the middle.
Williams said the Lions felt good after taking the lead, which his interception set up.
“I’m reading off the quarterback’s eyes,” Williams said. “So, I seen the play action, seen the tight end slip ball, and I just jumped it.”
Tulsa (1-0) fumbled the resulting kickoff near midfield, and Sam Anthony recovered it at the 50. On Tulsa’s next possession, Laprel Boyd picked off Braxton, making it three Tulsa turnovers on the Golden Hurricane’s first three possessions.
Tulsa drove into UAPB territory on its fourth drive, but UAPB defensive end Anas Luqman sacked Tulsa quarterback Cardell Williams, who had taken over due to an apparent ankle injury to Braxton, leading to a Tulsa punt.
UAPB’s defense gave the Golden Lions a chance to take control of the game, but the offense didn’t take advantage.
The lead remained 7-0 after the first quarter, but Tulsa’s offense found its rhythm in the second quarter and took over. The Golden Hurricane scored on all four possessions in this quarter to take a commanding 28-7 lead into halftime.
The Lions drove into Tulsa territory in the final seconds of the half but couldn’t score. After a third down sack, Hagens heaved the ball toward Kenji Lewis in the end zone but couldn’t quite connect as time expired.
Tulsa added a touchdown each in the third and fourth quarters to close out the game.
UAPB had trouble in the trenches against FBS linemen on both sides of the ball. Runs up the middle seldom worked for the Golden Lions against Tulsa’s defensive front, while the Golden Hurricane found more success. Tulsa outrushed the Lions 260-102.
Hampton said Tulsa’s offense wore down UAPB’s defense.
“Towards the end of the second quarter, they started trying to impose their will a little bit,” Hampton said. “We were able to catch a break with halftime, and had a chance to come out, had a good drive going. But again, any time you play up in FBS, that’s where you’re going to make the biggest difference, going to be the O-line, D-line play.”
Johness Davis led the Lions with 82 yards, while Jordan Ford had 110 yards and a score for Tulsa.
Cardell Williams taking over at quarterback also energized the Golden Hurricane. After Braxton’s injury, Williams completed 13-of-14 passes for 233 yards and three touchdowns.
Mekhi Hagens started at quarterback for UAPB but exited the game with an injury in the third quarter. He completed 10-of-21 passes for 109 yards and an interception. Jalen Macon took over after the injury, completing 5-of-5 passes for 41 yards.