Game Preview: University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff
The Jackrabbits are 1-0 after a statement 45-14 victory against Montana State last Saturday. This week the Jackrabbits face the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff (UAPB) Golden Lions who are 1-1 on the season. I believe this is the first meeting between the two institutions. Last week, Pine-Bluff defeated Cumberland University from the NAIA 55-0. UAPB has a new head coach this season in Cedric Thompson. Previously he was the defensive back coach at Alcorn State since 2012. One area that they need to clean up is their penalties. Coach Thompson addressed this in his postgame interview following the Morehouse defeat. Through just two games they have been called for 21 penalties for 248 yards.
Through two games it is pretty evident that the Golden Lions want to air the ball out through a spread attack. As a team they have passed for 826 yards versus just 280 on the ground. The quarterback, #10 Shannon Patrick is a junior who has been really letting it rip this season. He is 27-36 on the season for 678 yards and 6 TD's with 0 interceptions. He doesn't appear to be much of a threat to run the ball with just 4 attempts so far. Last week against Cumberland, it looks like Patrick may have only played a half. Last season Patrick was an All-American for Northland (Minnesota) Community College after throwing for 4506 yards and 43 touchdowns. The Golden Lions may also be trying to break in a young quarterback in #11 Skyler Perry. Perry is a true freshmen and has played in both games so far this season. He has completed 9 of 16 passes for 86 yards and has also rushed for 34 yards. It wouldn't surprise me if Perry got a few reps against the Jacks.
At running back UAPB features #2 Taeyler Porter who has enjoyed a 5.5 ypc average this season on 32 carries to go with 3 TD's. It appears he is the primary back, but #23 Jamal Gladden has 13 attempts for 26 yards. Porter is another junior and stands 5-10, 185. Gladden is a senior and checks in at 5-8, 185. #21 KeShawn Williams was a preseason All-SWAC running back but has missed the first two games after suffering a torn ACL towards the end of last season. Last season he rushed for 1,035 yards and 7 TDs. His status for Saturday is up in the air.
When Patrick is slinging the ball all over the field, it appears he has plenty of options. He has four receivers with 5 or more catches already this season. His primary target is #3 Josh Wilkes, a 6-3 183 pound junior. Wilkes has 7 receptions in each game this season. These 14 catches have gone for 420 yards and 4 TDs. To say I am excited to see Jordan Brown lock up with Wilkes is an understatement. Opposite Wilkes is #86 Dejuan Miller, a 6-2 184 pound freshmen. Miller has 8 receptions for 157 yards and 1 TD. Other targets for Patrick may be #5 Kolby McNeal (5 rec 129 yards) and #7 Tyrin Ralph (5 rec 77 yards 1 TD). Ralph is just 5-8, 170 but is an intriguing athlete having scored on a punt return last week. UAPB does have three tight ends on the roster but they have not made a reception yet so it is hard to tell what is what.
The UAPB offensive line is young. From left to right they go #78 Mark Evans II (6-4, 295) a freshmen, #76 Antondre Smith (6-3, 320) sophomore, #52 Raynald St. Jour (6-2, 290) junior, #74 Jayden Glover (6-2, 285) junior and #70 David Aduo (6-2, 285) senior. Through two games they have only allowed 3 sacks and have helped the Golden Lion offense move up and down the field.
The UAPB Golden Lions have struggled on defense the past few years. Last year they finished last in the SWAC in total defense. However, Thompson has cut his teeth being part of a excellent defensive units so it will only be a matter of time before they turn it around. Against Morehouse they gave up 305 rushing yards and 262 passing passing. Against the outmatched Cumberland, they allowed 132 rushing yards and just 93 passing yards. There defense has spent a lot of time on the field. The time of possession has been heavily slanted to their opponent with a 22:33/37:27 and 23:56/36:04 advantage.
Because UAPB hasn't published a depth chart for either of their games it is hard to tell what the exact defensive formation is and who their starters are. I was able to find a post game video of the Morehouse game that featured some highlights and I've tried to go through this video and match numbers with the roster along with the statistics from the first two games.
It appears they play a 3-4/4-3 hybrid type of defense (at least in the highlights I found). Along the defensive line they have #58 Jalen Steward (6-4, 260) who has 17 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, and a .5 sack on the season. He is joined #96 Joshua Wallace (6-2, 275) at defesive tackle and #98 Kaleb McDonald (6-3, 290) at noseguard and #50 Keven Agee (6-3, 250) at defensive end who has 8 tackles and 2 sacks this season. Agee was selected as a preseason 2nd Team All-SWAC selection. Another defensive end is #15 Nicholas Stroud (6-2,220) and he has 6 tackles on the season. This is an experienced group so it should be a decent test for the #605Hogs.
The linebackers appear to be a strength of the defense and are led by #8 Jekevin Carter who has 19 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, and a sack. Next to him is #45 Londale Sanders who checks in with 3 tackles so far. On the outside the Golden Lions feature #16 Xavier Mitchell who has 16 tackles, 2.5 TFL, and .5 sack and #51 Arius Ofum (2 tackles).
In the secondary there are a number of playmakers. #12 Shawn Steele leads the group with 21 total tackles, 1.5 TFL, and 2 pass breakups. He is joined by #9 Rico Merriweather (6 tackles, 2 break ups) at safety, #35 Paul Reeves (10 tackles, 2 TFL), #33 AC Gilliam (4 tackles, 1 TFL, and .5 sack), and #20 Corey Bell (8 tackles, 2 breakups). This group has decent size across the board. So far, they have not forced an interception. The did allow Morehouse to pass for 262 yards but held Cumberland to just 93 yards.
It appears on paper that UAPB has a good kicker in #42 Jamie Gillan. Gillan has gone 2/2 on field goals with a long of 31 yards. He has also gone 9/10 on extra points. He also handles the punting duties and was selected as the 1st Team All-SWAC punter in 2017. He averages about 41 yards per punt and has forced 4 fair catches on 12 attempts while landing 3 inside the 20 and 3 have traveled 50+ yards. On kickoff he has a 60 yard average and has forced 5 touchbacks. The team does have a "long" field goal kicker in #47 Zack Piwniczka who booted a 47 yarder against Cumberland last week. In the kick return game the Golden Lions feature #28 Jaimon Peterson who has a 32 yard return average and #7 Tyrin Ralph who took a punt 58 yards to the house last week.
Should be a fun week! Matchups to watch and a prediction will come later this week.