Arkansas-Pine Bluff 20, Kentucky State 13By Richard N. Hayes
On paper, Division I-AA University of Arkansas Pine Bluff (UAPB) should have had little trouble with Division II Kentucky State (KSU). Luckily for the fans at the Gateway Classic in Saint Louis, games aren't played on paper. Instead UAPB's (2-1) Golden Tigers escaped with a 20-13 victory over KSU's (0-3) Thorobreds.
In the first quarter, neither team was able to sustain a drive. On their first possession, UAPB was the beneficiary of a pass interference call, then proceeded to lose 5 yards on their next three attempts.
Kentucky State had the first big play of the game on their opening possession when freshman wide receiver Derek Talbert took a screen pass for 22 yards. However, a penalty and a sack by UAPB defensive end Maurice Talbert killed the drive.
The teams would trade possessions until Pine Bluff kick returner Mark Bradley took off down the sidelines and set the Golden Lions up with first and ten from the Kentucky State 40-yard line.
Pine Bluff immediately took to the ground with three big carries from tailback Ron Johnson. Johnson would push the ball down to the Thorobred 5 yard line before quarterback LaKendrick Powell hit Bradley on a fade route for the game’s opening touchdown. The Pine Bluff drive covered 40 yards in 2 minutes 3 seconds and staked a 7-0 lead.
KSU responded with their first impressive drive. Starting on their own 26-yard line, the Thorobreds marched down the field. Senior tailback Alastair Couch started the drive with a key 3rd down conversion. Quarterback Jonathon Harris then showed that he was deadly both on the ground and in the air. On 3rd and 17 from the Kentucky State 32, Harris scrambled for 12 yards. Two plays later, he rolled for 21 more and set the Thorobreds up at the Pine Bluff 33-yard line.
A costly personal foul call against Pine Bluff would move the ball to the UAPB 20 yard line. With the clock running down, Harris would drive the Thorobreds down to the Pine Bluff 6-yard line.
On what seemingly was the last play of the half, KSU boldly attempted to punch the ball into the end zone. However, Harris was flushed out the pocket and sacked. KSU was given a second chance when offsetting penalties were called. The Thorobreds again went for the touchdown instead of the field goal but UAPB withstood the challenge, stopping tailback Alvon Brown on the 2-yard line.
Kentucky State continued their offensive momentum into the third quarter. On their first offensive possession, Alvon Brown converted a key 3rd and 8 with a 15-yard carry. Pine Bluff's mental miscues continued as the Golden Lions committed a personal foul following a sack.
Three plays later, Brown broke through the UAPB line and rolled 30 yards for a touchdown, tying the game at 7. KSU would hold the Golden Lions on their ensuing possession and appeared ready to take control of the game.
On their next possession, Brown carried twice more for 9 yards setting up a 3rd and 1 from the Kentucky State 39-yard line. KSU attempted twice to obtain a first down but when Harris was stopped on a quarterback sneak, Pine Bluff took over possession at the KSU 28 yard line. The Golden Lions would take advantage of the great field position. Ken Johnson and backfield mate Dwight McKissic chewed up nearly half the distance with consecutive 6-yard carries. Five plays later, McKissic would walk in from the 6-yard line, giving UAPB the lead for good.
KSU's mistakes would continue. On their first offensive play following the touchdown, KSU would fumble and Pine Bluff recovered on the KSU 30-yard line. This time, the Golden Lions deployed an aerial attack. Powell would hit wide receivers Tavoris Haynes and Kerrick Williams as UAPB marched down the field. On the seventh play of the drive, Powell called his own number and ran in for the touchdown and the 20-7 lead. The Thorobreds, though, would hang tough.
On their second possession of the fourth quarter, KSU marched 60 yards for their second touchdown of the game. Talbert had two catches to get the drive started and once again KSU was aided by a Pine Bluff penalty. This time, a roughing the passer call moved the ball down to the UAPB 25-yard line. On 3rd and 8, Harris would connect with Talbert for the third time on the drive and on the ensuing play. Brown would score again, this time from 10 yards out.
After a three and out by Pine Bluff, KSU received the ball with 4 minutes on the clock and a chance to tie the game. The Thorobreds would move the ball from their own 37-yard line to the Pine Bluff 15 before Harris was sacked on the final play of the game.