UAPB falls short in SWAC opener

Shahid Evans of UAPB catches a pass from Jalen Macon (14) against Alabama A&M on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023, at Louis Crews Stadium in Huntsville, Ala. (Special to The Commercial/University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – A late flurry of offense Thursday night saw the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff come up just short in its first SWAC game of the year.

Alabama A&M defeated UAPB 31-24 at Louis Crews Stadium in Huntsville, Ala.

A&M (2-2, 1-1 SWAC) quarterback Quincy Casey scored the game-winning touchdown with 7:53 to play. On third down and goal from the UAPB 5-yard line, he found tight end Barry White open in the back of the end zone.

UAPB (1-3, 0-1) drove down the field seeking to tie the game as it had on its previous possession. The A&M pass rush caused the Golden Lions problems throughout the game, and they got home in the red zone and stripped the ball from UAPB quarterback Jalen Macon.

The Golden Lions got the ball back with 14.2 seconds to play, but a pair of desperation plays didn’t work as time expired.

UAPB coach Alonzo Hampton said he was disappointed to fall short.

“We didn’t finish the deal, didn’t finish strong,” Hampton said. “We had every opportunity to win the football game. I thought our defense, we made too many mistakes tonight, and in the end, it let us down. We’ve got to fix that. We’ve been playing pretty good, but when you give up busted plays, you don’t deserve to win.” Casey’s touchdown drive was part of an eventful last 16 minutes. After the teams combined for five-straight punts to open the half, four of the next five drives resulted in touchdowns.

A&M scored back-to-back touchdowns to take a 24-17 lead before Macon tied the game with an 80-yard touchdown pass to Michael Jamerson.

Casey’s game-winning touchdown pass came on the resulting drive.

Macon said the offensive players knew they needed to get going, and that big play to Jamerson was a spark that nearly led to a comeback.

“Coming into the fourth quarter, we knew like, hey, it’s now or never,” Macon said. “So now, we really gotta get going. I felt like that touchdown kinda was like, hey, now we see what we got going, now we gotta keep on pushing forward. We just gotta put everything together now.” Mekhi Hagens started the game at quarterback for UAPB, but Macon played most of the game. He completed 17 of 29 passes for two touchdowns and one interception.

Macon was sacked three times by the A&M pass rush, and the bulldogs also made four tackles for loss.

Casey started his second game for A&M for injured starter Xavier Lankford. Casey completed 27 of 33 passes for three touchdowns. The Bulldogs rushed for 177 yards, led by Donovan Eaglin.

UAPB led 17-10 at halftime after the Bulldogs gambled in the second quarter with the game tied at 10. They faked a punt on fourth down and 3 at their own 28, but UAPB stopped Harold Jemison a yard short and took over at the 30.

Four plays later, Macon found tight end Tristan Ballard on the left side of the end zone for a 12-yard score, putting the Golden Lions in front.

A& M attempted a 54-yard field goal as time expired but came inches short.