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Backups lead UAPB to 21-20 win

by Tanner Spearman | September 18, 2023 at 2:47 a.m.
Khalil Arnold (53) of UAPB congratulates Marc Flemming (41) on a sack in the first quarter of Saturday's 21-20 win over Miles College at Simmons Bank Field. (Pine Bluff Commercial/I.C. Murrell)

Backups stepped up to lead the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff to victory in a tight game Saturday.

UAPB was missing some starters in its 21-20 win against Miles College at Simmons Bank Field, but that didn't prevent new head Coach Alonzo Hampton from earning his first win.

Hampton said UAPB is setting a standard, and that requires players to step up when called upon.

"It's called the gold standard here," Hampton said. "The standard is the standard. We don't care who gets hurt. The next guy comes in, he's expected to do the exact same thing that the starter does."

UAPB (1-2) was without both starting defensive ends. In their place, redshirt sophomore linebacker Khalil Arnold sacked Miles College quarterback Edwin Kleinpeter Jr. three times to go with five tackles for loss, both team highs.

Arnold was also second on the team in total tackles with eight, just behind junior Rico Dozier's 11. He gave Hampton credit for believing in him.

"All week, my defensive coordinator [David Calloway] and my head coach was just telling us, gotta have a high motor," Arnold said. "Just have a high motor on that edge, going to get home eventually. That's what I did."

In the second quarter, Arnold got to the quarterback, knocked the ball loose and fell on it, setting up the UAPB offense at the Miles (2-1) 20-yard line. Later in the quarter, he pressured Kleinpeter enough to draw a holding penalty, which negated a Miles first down. He came up with several big tackles in the second half to end drives.

UAPB led 14-0 at halftime, but Miles College made it 14-7 on the Golden Bears' first drive of the second half.

A couple of drives later, UAPB freshman B.J. Curry made one of the biggest plays of the game when he broke free for a 79-yard touchdown run. It would ultimately stand as the game-winning score.

Curry said he felt good, especially on that long touchdown run.

"Defense is flowing, so the back cut was there," Curry said.

"Just had to see it. Once I seen it, I just hit it. I knew when I was in the open field nobody was going to catch me."

Johness Davis led the UAPB offense in rushing in the Golden Lions' first two games. He played some Saturday, but Hampton said he came into the game banged up. That opened the door for Curry to rush 12 times for 102 yards.

Hampton said he recruited Curry, a Magnolia native, when he was coaching at the University of Louisiana Monroe.

"I wanted him on my team," Hampton said.

"I love his personality. I love everything about him. He's a competitor, and that's what we gotta get. We gotta get more dogs from southeast Arkansas and the state of Arkansas to stay home and help the Golden Lions turn the program around. So, I'm happy for B.J., and definitely happy for my man Khalil."

This was also a big win for Hampton, his first as a college head coach. He said in the week leading up to the game he had dreamed of leading the Golden Lions out of J. Thomas May Field House onto the field. After Saturday's game, he said it was everything he thought it would be.

He said he has a vision for the future of UAPB football.

"This program is going somewhere big," Hampton said.

"I don't care who don't believe it. All I want is the players to believe it. I know the administration believe it. I looked up in the stands; we had a nice crowd. We just gotta continue to stay together as one, and we can't blink, because at the end of the day, this program is going to be what everybody envisioned. We're going to be a lighthouse for the city of Pine Bluff."

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