PINE BLUFF, Ark. — Arkansas-Pine Bluff’s recent mastery of Southern is over.
The Jaguars defeated the Golden Lions for the first time since 2009 as Lenard Tillery rushed for a career-high 136 yards and a score, and quarterback Dray Joseph added 231 yards through the air with two touchdowns for a 29-21 victory Saturday afternoon in Southwestern Athletic Conference play at Golden Lion Stadium.
The Jaguars, who had lost three straight to UAPB and have won four of five overall, seized control when Joseph plunged in on a quarterback sneak from a yard out to extend the Jaguars’ lead to 29-21 with 8:34 left.
Southern (4-3, 4-1) came out with a determined rushing attack against the country’s worst rush defense. The Jaguars ran the ball five consecutive times on their second possession before Tillery broke loose for a touchdown run on third-and-1 from the UAPB 26.
The Golden Lions blocked Southern kicker Greg Pittman’s point-after attempt, but Pittman caught the ricochet and rumbled into the end zone to give Southern an 8-0 lead.
The Jaguars leaned on Tillery early and often, riding the redshirt freshman from McKinley High for 32 carries.
UAPB (0-7, 0-5) turned to its quarterback, preseason conference player of the year Benjamin Anderson, to take the lead from its Western Division rival. Anderson led the Golden Lions on back-to-back scoring drives of 75 and 77 yards to give his team a 14-8 edge.
Anderson converted a third-and-6 inside the Jaguars’ 10-yard line to keep the Golden Lions’ initial scoring drive alive. Two plays later, he scored from 8 yards to make it 8-7.
On the Golden Lions’ ensuing possession, Anderson used his arm to carve up the Jaguars defense, completing all five of his attempts, including a 21-yard touchdown strike to Isaiah Ferguson that gave UAPB a 14-8 edge at halftime.
The Southern defense forced a crucial turnover on UAPB’s first possession of the second half. With UAPB facing third-and-3 from the Southern 38, Anderson’s pass was deflected at the line of scrimmage by Kadeem Lewis, and the ball fell into the waiting arms of linebacker Detrane Lindsey.
“My coach just put me in the right spot at the right time,” Lindsey said. “If we just keep doing what we are doing defensively, then we will be all right.”
The Jaguars would capitalize on Anderson’s mistake.
Led by Joseph’s passing, Southern took the lead back when Joseph found receiver Willie Quinn alone in the left side of the end zone for a 32-yard scoring strike.
Following a 35-yard missed field goal by Pine Bluff kicker Tyler Stickland, Joseph led the Jaguars on an eight-play, 80-yard drive, eventually hitting Nico Talbert for a 16-yard TD pass to give the Jaguars a 22-14 advantage heading into the fourth. Joseph, who threw four interceptions last week in a double-overtime victory against Alabama A&M in perhaps his worst game with the Jaguars, showed his resilience this week.
But so did Pine Bluff. Anderson answered by leading UAPB on an eight-play scoring drive, culminating in his 11-yard touchdown pass to Jamie Smith that pulled the Golden Lions within one.
“Anderson showed his great talents out there,” Lindsey said. “I’m glad that I just got the opportunity to face him, but in practice we prepared for all type of situations, so we were ready for the type of challenge that he creates.”
Pine Bluff forced a Southern punt and was again on the move when sophomore safety Dionte McDuffy delivered a crushing blow to UAPB’s Drayton Willis, forcing a fumble that was recovered at the SU 25 by Southern’s other safety, Omar Cook.
“When (the running back) cut it inside, I just put my hat on the football,” McDuffy said. “Whenever I don’t know what’s going, Omar is always right there to help me out.”
That set up the clinching drive, capped by Joseph’s 1-yard scoring surge.
With next week’s Homecoming game against Alcorn State looming, Southern has an opportunity to go undefeated in October for the first time since going 5-0 in 2004. The Jaguars advanced to the SWAC title game that season.
“This is an overall great win for our team,” coach Dawson Odums said. “It was a hostile environment against a winless football team that was desperate for a win, and we are just happy it didn’t happen tonight against us.”