Simmons Bank Field will host its first football game of the season today as the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff seeks its first win.
UAPB will face Miles College at 4 p.m. in Alonzo Hampton's first home game as the Golden Lions' head coach.
UAPB (0-2) has made a habit of playing a non-NCAA Division I opponent for its home opener, something the Golden Lions have done every year since 2014, but not counting the shortened spring 2021 season. UAPB has gone 6-2 in these home openers, but Miles College may not be a typical non-D1 opponent.
The Golden Bears (2-0) already have a win over a Southwestern Athletic Conference team. Miles, a Division II school located in Alabama, defeated Alabama State University 21-17 last week. Miles has already doubled its win total from last season, a 1-9 campaign, and will travel to Pine Bluff with confidence it can compete with a SWAC foe.
Since 2017, Miles is 4-2 against SWAC teams. Hampton said it won't be hard to motivate his players to take their Division II foe seriously.
"You have a team that's 2-0 versus a team that's 0-2," Hampton said. "That team, Miles College, just beat a team that's in our conference that beat Southern the week before, so what more motivation do you need? That's a good football team. Once you turn the film on, you watch those receivers, you're like, whoa, wait a minute. They got some really good receivers. I could use some of them."
The Bears' defense carried them to victory against ASU. They intercepted three ASU passes and held the Hornets to 3 of 11 on third-down conversions. Ball security will be vital for UAPB, and the Golden Lions have done well so far with one turnover in their first two games.
Miles didn't put up big offensive numbers against the Hornets, but the Bears did enough. Starting quarterback Edwin Kleinpeter Jr. completed 11 of 20 passes for 164 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
Kleinpeter transferred to Miles after spending the past three years at the University of Arkansas at Monticello. Hampton said Kleinpeter and his receivers are talented.
"They got football players that can play on this level and the next level above," Hampton said. "We're going to have our work cut out for us, but we're excited about the opportunity. We're not going to back down. We're going to give them all due respect, but we're ready for them."
The Golden Lions' defense has been a strength of the team so far. The defense intercepted two passes at Tulsa and forced a fumble against Tennessee State. The defense held the TSU offense to 3 points in the second half.
Hampton said he is excited about the defense's progress so far, but there is still work to do.
"We gotta work on being perfect at our position," Hampton said. "That's it. Don't worry about the next man, you just be perfect at your position. Do your part and then, as a whole, the Golden Lion defense will be pretty good."
Both teams scored 14 points in the fourth quarter last week while playing from behind, while neither defense allowed any points. If the game remains close into the final quarter, both squads have shown they will battle to the end.
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