PINE BLUFF, Ark. (UAPB) – The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff didn't get off the fast start it was hoping for against Morehouse College on Saturday night, but the end result more than made up for it.
The Golden Lions scored 23 unanswered points in the second half to knock off the Maroon Tigers 23-10 in front of a spirited crowd at Golden Lion Stadium.
Running back KeShawn Williams ran 17 times for 128 yards and 1 touchdown for UAPB (1-0), which scored 17 points in the third quarter to erase a 10-point deficit and win its season opener for the first time since beating Langston 17-14 in 2012.
"I told the team earlier in the week that you can't get two victories until you get one," UAPB Coach Monte Coleman said. "We had some good plays on special team and had some stops on defense when we needed them. Of course, we've got some things that we need to shore up, but it was a great overall team victory for us, and it feels good to get that first one out the way."
The Golden Lions finished with 344 yards of offense, but they can thank their defense for leading the way in putting an end to an eight-game losing streak. Morehouse (0-1) moved the ball effectively in the opening half but was shut down over the final two quarters. The Maroon Tigers finished with 279 yards of offense but had just 74 after halftime. They crossed midfield just twice in the second half, and both were a result of a turnover.
"It got a lot tougher for us in the second half," Morehouse Coach Rich Freeman said. "We missed two field goals in the first half that should've given us six points. But we had two crucial personal fouls penalties in the second half that kept drives alive for [UAPB], and I think those ultimately changed the momentum of the game.
"But you've gotta give [UAPB] credit. They played well on defense, particularly in the second half, and did the things they needed to do to win."
UAPB had four sacks in the second half and forced two turnovers in the fourth quarter to put away a Maroon Tiger team that held their own for much of the game before slowly running out of steam midway through the third quarter. But Morehouse did waste two prime opportunities to jump on UAPB early.
The Maroon Tigers came up empty after Alex Gonzalez missed a 43-yard field following a 12-play, 43-yard drive on their first possession. Morehouse got the ball back on the very next play when Treyvon Lucky recovered a fumble by UAPB wide receiver Paris Mack but eventually turned it over on downs at the Golden Lions' 13-yard line.
The Maroon Tigers managed to cash in two possessions later, though, when Gonzalez nailed a 24-yard field goal with 7:09 left in the second quarter to finish off a 15-play, 67-yard drive. Morehouse had another chance to add on to its lead but had a 34-yard field goal blocked just before halftime.
UAPB, on the other hand, failed to generate much of anything offensively in the first half. The Golden Lions punted on four of their six possessions and turned the ball over on the other two, including an interception by quarterback Brandon Duncan on their final drive of the half. But UAPB's defense never allowed Morehouse to get into the end zone despite giving up chunks of yardage on several occasions. "Part of our defensive philosophy is to bend but don't break," Coleman said. "It could have been devastating had they punched those scores in. We held them to one field goal out of the times they got into the red zone. That was huge for us because turnovers put us in bad spots at times."
The Golden Lions' defense found themselves on their heels again almost immediately after halftime. Morehouse was forced to punt on the first series in the third quarter but got the ball right back after UAPB fumbled the punt on its own 10-yard line. The Maroon Tigers scored three plays later on quarterback Kivon Taylor's eight-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Aurelius Smith to push their lead to 10-0.
UAPB finally got going on its ensuing series to get back in the game. Duncan threw a 44-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jaelen Collins to polish off a six-play, 68-yard with 10:18 left in the quarter.
Jamie Gillan pushed UAPB's lead to 17-10 with a 39-yard field goal with 1:11 remaining in the period. The Golden Lions struck again quickly on its next possession to grab their first lead of the game.
After forcing Morehouse into a three-and-out, Williams sprinted 37 yards for a touchdown on the next play to put UAPB ahead 14-10. Running back Christian Jordon added a 10-yard run with 3:58left in the game to pad the Golden Lions' lead to 23-10. Morehouse threatened to inch closer late in the fourth quarter after defensive end Voris Bryant returned a fumble 88 yards before being caught from behind at UAPB's eight-yard line, but the Maroon Tigers failed to score on four consecutive plays.
The Golden Lions will be on the road next weekend Saturday Sept. 9, in Arkron, Ohio against Akron Zips at 6:30 PM