UAPB Football Team Falls in SWAC National Championship

The Alabama A&M Bulldogs handed the Golden Lions their only loss of the season.

UAPB Football championship game
Photo courtesy of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.

The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff football team’s pursuit of a perfect season came to an end Saturday. The Alabama A&M Bulldogs defeated the Golden Lions 40-33 in the Cricket Wireless SWAC Football Championship Game Presented by Pepsi Zero Sugar at Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium in Jackson, Miss. 

Head coach Doc Gamble told UAPB Sports Network there were a lot of missed opportunities in the title game, but he was still proud of his team and staff who advanced to the national championship for the first time since 2012. 

“Not one of our better days, but we’ve got a bunch more here in our future,” Gamble said.

With just over seven minutes left in the game, the Golden Lions trailed 40-26. Following a fourth down stop by the defense, UAPB drove 72 yards in 11 plays, ending with an 11-yard scoring pass from Skyler Perry to Josh Wilkes with 2:30 remaining.

Strong defense forced a Bulldog punt, and a nine-yard return by Tyrin Ralph set up the dramatic ending from the Alabama A&M 44-yard line with 37 seconds remaining.

Perry completed a 10-yard pass to Ralph for a first down, then rushed for 12 yards to the AAMU 22-yard line with 23 seconds to play. Following a spike and two incomplete passes, the final pass was intercepted by Alabama A&M in the end zone with six seconds to play ending the Golden Lions’ chances of winning the SWAC Championship.

The SWAC football season has been an unprecedented one with the COVID-19 pandemic prompting a decision to move the season to the spring. The pandemic also resulted in the cancellation of some games including UAPB’s matchup against Texas Southern Apr. 24. 

Despite the unique challenges of this season, UAPB has earned several accolades. The Golden Lions won the SWAC Western Division Championship and eight standouts were named to the BOXTOROW HBCU All-America Team.

Coach Gamble was named National Coach of the Year. OL Mark Evans II, LB Isaac Peppers, DB Jalon Thigpen and RS Tyrin Ralph were named first-team All-America, with Ralph also named as the National Special Teams Player of the Year. WR Josh Wilkes and TE Jeremy Brown were named as Honorable Mention All-America. QB Skyler Perry earned the Impact Award for his play this season.

All eight were also named to the All-SWAC team, with Gamble named league Coach of the Year; Evans, Thigpen and Ralph named first-team All-SWAC; and Peppers, Wilkes, Brown and Perry named second-team All-SWAC.

“The award has my name on it, but it’s all about us, man,” Gamble said. “We all won this thing together.” 

Coach Gamble led the Golden Lions to the program’s second undefeated season and first since 1937 (7-0-3), and to the first SWAC Western Division title since 2012. UAPB turned back the clock to the 2012 SWAC Championship season this year, defeating Southern University and A&M College, Grambling State University and Prairie View A&M University in the same season for the first time since 2012.

Gamble is also one of 16 finalists for the Stats Perform FCS Eddie Robinson Award, which is presented to the national coach of the year in college football’s Division I subdivision. The recipient of the award will be announced tomorrow.