Offensive mistakes are costly for Lions

UAPB senior Johnny Williams scores a touchdown on the Golden Lions' opening drive of Friday's senior night loss to Grambling State at Simmons Bank Field. (Special to the Commercial/William Harvey)

Offensive mistakes negated a solid defensive performance by the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff on senior night.

UAPB lost its final home game of the season 43-14 to Grambling State on Friday.

UAPB (1-9, 0-7 SWAC) threw two interceptions and allowed a safety, gifting the Tigers 16 points in what could have been a closer game.

Grambling (5-5, 4-3) trailed early but rallied to take the lead. The mistakes helped the Tigers pull away.

UAPB coach Alonzo Hampton said the game was closer than the final score suggests, but the mistakes put it out of reach.

"We're not taking care of the ball at the quarterback position," Hampton said. "We're having untimely mistakes from special teams, and then we're giving up big plays on defense. When you play two downs good, and then the third down, someone don't do their job. So, it's the same things that you've seen all year, and we gotta do a better job of making sure the kids understand so it's not a disconnect between the players and the coaches."

UAPB trailed 13-7 in the second quarter and lined up to punt. The snap was high and slipped through punter Jeremy Baker's hands into the end zone. He had to kick it out of the back of the end zone and concede a safety.

UAPB played two quarterbacks in the game, and both threw costly interceptions in their own territory. Mekhi Hagens started the game. Trailing 22-7 in the third quarter, he threw a pass right to GSU linebacker Lewis Matthews, who returned it inside the 10-yard line. Three plays later, GSU quarterback Myles Crawley found Lyndon Rash to make it 29-7.

In the fourth quarter, Chancellor Edwards threw a pass toward Maurice Lloyd on the sideline. He tried to slip it over defensive back Donald Lee's head, but Lee reached up and snagged it out of the air. Crawley took it himself for a 16-yard touchdown run on the next play to put the Tigers ahead 36-14.

Without the two interceptions and the safety, the score could have been 20-14 at this point. Instead, UAPB found itself in a big hole.

Hagens and Edwards combined to throw for 143 yards. Edwards threw a touchdown pass to Maurice Lloyd.

UAPB started the game well. Running back Johnny Williams took the first offensive play of the game 50 yards into Grambling territory. He eventually finished the drive with a 12-yard touchdown run on fourth down to give the Golden Lions an early 7-0 lead. This was UAPB's first opening drive touchdown since the SWAC opener at Alabama A&M on Sept. 21.

Williams said the offense executed well on the opening drive.

"We was just running the ball, and everybody was homed in on what they had to do," Williams said. "I think after the touchdown, people got too excited."

Grambling shut down the run afterward. Williams finished with 99 yards and a touchdown. UAPB as a team rushed for 123 yards.

The Tigers rushed for 213 yards, with three different players scoring. Crawley threw for 198 yards and three touchdowns.