UAPB to end season on road against TSU

UAPB running back Johnny Williams carries the ball during a Nov. 10 football game at Simmons Bank Field in Pine Bluff. (Special to the Commercial/William Harvey)

One last game in 2023 awaits the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff football team Saturday afternoon in Houston.

UAPB will finish its season against Texas Southern at Shell Energy Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 2 p.m. on HBCUGO Sports.

UAPB (1-9, 0-7 SWAC) Coach Alonzo Hampton said the team met Sunday and everyone understands what is on the line, especially for the 18 seniors.

“It’s the last opportunity to play for the Golden Lions,” Hampton said. “It’s the last opportunity to go represent UAPB, and then, it’s the last opportunity to go represent your family legacy on the back [of your jersey] for the 18 guys that won’t have a chance to play it again. We’ll be motivated. That hasn’t been an issue all year. It’s just, guys need to lock in and be consistent in their technique.”

Texas Southern (3-7, 2-5) is coming off a big upset victory. The Tigers defeated Alcorn State, which entered the game leading the West Division, 44-10 on Sunday. That result ensures UAPB will finish last in the division regardless of the outcome of Saturday’s game.

Hampton said he hopes the Golden Lions can duplicate what Texas Southern did against the Braves.

“I hope we can put it all together, because if you look at the Texas Southern team I just watched play Alcorn, that team has been really close every game,” Hampton said. “Everybody knows, this league is a hit or miss, you’re talking three or four plays. So hopefully, our guys will put it all together on offense, defense, special teams and we can get the win.”

UAPB and TSU were in similar spots at the end of September. Both teams were 1-4 with two SWAC losses and a win against a non-Division I opponent. Both teams had byes the first weekend of October before traveling to struggling conference foes Nov. 14.

That’s when things started to change. Texas Southern earned its first SWAC win of the year against Bethune-Cookman, 34-31. UAPB fell 42-17 at Mississippi Valley State in what is still MVSU’s only win this season.

Since then, TSU faced a gauntlet of challenging opponents, losing by 10 to Florida A&M and by less than a touchdown to Southern and Jackson State, the former being in overtime, before shocking Alcorn.

Hampton said TSU is better than its record suggests.

“Athletically, the quarterback’s good,” Hampton said. “The running back I think is the all-time leading running back in Texas Southern history. The receivers are really good. They run routes angry. They attack the football angry. They block on the edge. The O-line is good … We all know Alcorn is a really good football team and we just saw what they did to them.”

TSU senior LaDarius Owens, as Hampton referenced, became TSU’s all-time leading rusher against Alcorn. He has rushed for 1,260 yards and eight touchdowns this season and has surpassed 100 yards against every non-FBS opponent the Tigers have played this year.

On the other side, UAPB senior Johnny Williams is returning to his native Houston for the second time this month to finish his collegiate career. He has rushed for a combined 187 yards and two touchdowns in UAPB’s last two games after receiving just 15 carries this season before November.

Williams said finally getting the opportunity to play meaningful snaps this month has meant a lot to him.

“It’s my last year playing football,” Williams said. “So, just trying to go out with a bang, do the best I can.”