Published November 20, 2014
The Southwestern Athletic Conference's most consistent team this season also was its most resilient.
That was evident Saturday at Legion Field when Arkansas-Pine Bluff overcame a two-touchdown deficit, forced overtime with a late 95-yard touchdown pass and then beat Jackson State in the extra session, 24-21, to win the SWAC Championship Game for the first time and the conference title for the second time.
Tyler Strickland kicked a 26-yard field goal to end the first overtime game in SWAC Championship Game history and complete UAPB's first 10-win season. The Golden Lions won their final seven games to go 10-2 under SWAC coach of the year Monte Coleman.
UAPB, which trailed by 14 points twice in the first half, never led in the game until Strickland's field goal. The Golden Lions tied the game, though, on a stunning 95-yard pass from Benjamin Anderson to Willie Young with two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
Jackson State had the first possession of overtime and it ended with UAPB blocking Raphael Dent's 43-yard field goal attempt.
Justin Billings then opened the UAPB possession with a 20-yard run to the 5- yard line, setting up Strickland's field goal four plays later.
The Golden Lions' other SWAC title was in 1966.
The two teams also played on Oct. 6, with West Division champion UAPB beating East Division champion Jackson State, 34-24.
Jackson State (7-5), which was seeking its 17th SWAC title and first since 2007, took a 14-0 lead in the first quarter.
Tigers quarterback Clayton Moore threw a 40-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Rico Richardson, the SWAC's offensive player of the year, for a 7-0 lead with 9:16 left.
UAPB then turned the ball over on the first play of its next possession, Jackson State's Qua Cox intercepted Anderson's downfield pass at the Tigers' 21. The Tigers converted the turnover into an eight-play scoring drive, capped by Rakeems Sims' 37-yard touchdown at the 4:48 mark.
UAPB pulled within 14-7 on Anderson's 1-yard rush on the first play of the second quarter. Jackson State then pushed its lead to 21-7 when quarterback Clayton Moore scored from 1 yard out to complete a 16-play, 64-yard drive with 2:29 left.
After a defensive stop, the Tigers drove toward the UAPB red zone again. But Moore was hit from behind by Xavier Lofton and the ball came out of his hands and bounced to Golden Lions linebacker Bill Ross, who caught it and raced 73 yards for a touchdown with only four seconds left, tightening the game to 21-14 by halftime.
Jackson State lost despite holding a 10-minute, 26-second edge in time of possession. The Tigers entered the game on a five-game winning streak.
Anderson claimed the offensive most valuable player honor, connecting on 13- of-25 pass attempts for 225 yards and the touchdown, with two interceptions. He also rushed for 36 yards and the touchdown.
Ross was the defensive most valuable player with 10 tackles (seven solo), a tackle for loss and the fumble return for a touchdown.