PINE BLUFF -- Defense carried the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff to a dramatic victory in its home opener Saturday afternoon.
The Golden Lions slipped past upset-minded Miles College 21-20 at Simmons Bank Field for their first win of the season.
Three big defensive plays in the fourth quarter led UAPB (1-2) to its first win under first-year Coach Alonzo Hampton.
Hampton said UAPB needed to experience what it was like to win.
"We didn't play our best football on either side of the ball, offense, defense or special teams," Hampton said. "But what I believe happened tonight, the Golden Lions came together as a football team because everybody at some point had to make a play for the other side to get this victory."
The Golden Lions led 21-14 and forced a punt, but UAPB muffed it near its own goal line. Miles (2-1) jumped on the ball in the end zone for a touchdown.
Antwon Jackson blocked the extra point to keep UAPB ahead by a point.
Miles got the ball back quickly and drove into the red zone. The Golden Bears picked up a first down at the UAPB 13 and handed the ball to Jamari Riley four straight times. The Lions stuffed the last two runs, holding the Bears one yard short on fourth down to win the ball back for the UAPB offense.
Miles could have taken the lead with a field goal, but the Golden Bears had missed one earlier in the game and chose to stick with the offense.
The Golden Bears got the ball back looking for another shot. They got to the UAPB 35-yard line, but Rico Dozier knocked the ball loose, and Grant Ewell Jr. scooped it up and ran it into Miles territory. UAPB was able to run out most of the clock before giving the ball back with 13.8 seconds to play.
UAPB's defense stopped Miles' desperation multi-lateral play to pick up the win.
Hampton said the defense shouldn't have let Miles get into UAPB territory in the first place, but they pulled through in the end.
"I'm proud that our guys stood up, and they didn't break like we always talk about," Hampton said. "I been telling my football team about breaking. A lot of times, things come at us, adversity, all kinds of storms in life. A lot of people will break. They can't take it. But these Golden Lions, that's what I'm trying to get them to understand. We won't break. We won't faint."
Dozier led the UAPB defense with 11 tackles, while Khalil Arnold had five tackles for loss and three sacks. Both forced a fumble, and Arnold recovered one.
Arnold said the defense got back to its strength in the fourth quarter, which is communicating.
"Second half, we kind of got real mute," Arnold said. "Guess we got a little up under ourselves. Only thing we kept saying was, 'Communicate, communicate, communicate.' "
Jalen Macon and Mekhi Hagens alternated time at quarterback for UAPB. Hagens completed 4 of 12 passes for 64 yards and a touchdown, while Macon was 5 of 7 for 54 yards and a score. Kenji Lewis caught 3 passes for 66 yards and a touchdown, with Claude Coleman catching the other touchdown pass for 18 yards.
B.J. Curry, a freshman from Magnolia, led the Golden Lions in rushing with 98 yards and a score on 12 carries.