MEMPHIS — With under a minute to play Saturday night, the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff seemed on the precipice of a tremendous fourth-quarter comeback.
Instead, a blocked field goal returned for a touchdown sunk the Golden Lions as they fell 24-14 to Tennessee State in the Southern Heritage Classic at Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium.
UAPB (0-2) trailed 17-0 entering the fourth quarter but had a chance to tie the game with 54 seconds to go.
TSU (1-1) blocked the field goal attempt, and James Green returned it the length of the field for a late touchdown to seal TSU’s first victory in the Classic since 2017.
UAPB got on the board with 13:44 to play when Johness Davis trucked a defender for a 4-yard touchdown run, cutting the deficit to 17-7. TSU, seeking an answer, got to the UAPB 1 on its next drive, but the Lions knocked the ball loose and fell on it at their own 1-yard line.
The Golden Lions wasted no time, quickly marching down the field. On the drive’s seventh play, Macon collected a botched snap and turned a broken play into a touchdown by finding tight end Kevin English in the end zone for a 3-yard score.
UAPB forced a quick punt and drove the field looking to tie or possibly win. The drive stalled in the red zone, and Dean Sarris trotted out to attempt a game-tying field goal. The snap was bobbled, leading to an imperfect kick. TSU blocked it easily, denying the Golden Lions a dramatic comeback.
Jalen Macon went the distance at quarterback after Mekhi Hagens had started UAPB’s opener at Tulsa. Macon completed 19 of 24 passes for 206 yards and a touchdown. Davis led the UAPB rushing attack with 167 yards and a touchdown.
TSU played two quarterbacks early but ultimately settled on Deveon Bryant. He completed 14 of 19 passes for 174 yards. He rushed for 80 yards, though running back Jalen Rouse led the Tigers’ rushing efforts with 91.
TSU led 14-0 at halftime after a defensive first half which included a combined seven punts. TSU began its second drive from inside its own 1-yard line after a great punt from Jeremy Baker, which was perfectly played by UAPB’s special teams.
Having 99 yards between the Tigers and the end zone didn’t faze them. Running back Jordan Gant capped off a 10-play drive with a 4-yard touchdown run to put TSU ahead in the first quarter.
The Tigers doubled their lead 35 seconds before halftime. Demeatric Crenshaw came in to play quarterback in a jumbo set and pushed his way into the end zone.
TSU outgained UAPB 206-67 in the first half.
Both defenses continued to play well in the third quarter. TSU added a late field goal to take a 17-0 lead into the fourth, though Sam Anthony nearly had a pick-six for the Golden Lions a play before.