BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — At long last, Arkansas-Pine Bluff is champion of the Southwestern Athletic Conference.
A 95-yard touchdown pass from UAPB quarterback Benjamin Anderson to Willie Young with 2 minutes left in regulation forced overtime, and the Golden Lions emerged with a 24-21 victory over Jackson State at Legion Field on Saturday for their first SWAC football title since re-joining the conference in 1997.
UAPB won the Western Division in 2006, but lost in that year’s championship game to Alabama A&M.
This time, the Lions (10-2) came from behind to win it.
The winning points came on Tyler Strickland’s 26-yard field goal. Jackson State (7-5) had the ball first in overtime, but Ryan Deising’s 43-yard field-goal attempt was blocked.
Jackson State dominated the first half, outgaining the Lions 270-78, but led only 21-14 at halftime. Clayton Moore threw a 40-yard touchdown pass to Rico Richardson and rushed for another score, but his fumble at the end of the first half kept things close.
In the final minute of the second quarter, the Tigers had a 21-7 lead. They had the ball and were driving deep into UAPB territory attempting to add to their lead.
But linebacker Xavier Lofton blitzed Moore from the blind side, forcing a fumble. The ball bounced directly to Bill Ross, who scooped it up and raced 73 yards for a touchdown with 4 seconds left in the first half.
Jackson State kept its seven-point lead until late in the fourth quarter, when Anderson hit Young for the 95-yard touchdown.
Anderson claimed the Offensive Most Valuable Player award. Ross was named Defensive MVP.
Arkansas-Pine Bluff’s victory gave the SWAC its eighth different champion since Southern won the title in 2003.
Since then, Grambling is the only school with multiple championships. Grambling won in 2005, ’08 and last season.