John-Paul Pierce nearly guided the Grambling State University football team back from a first-half deficit, but the Tigers dropped a hard fought 33-26 decision to Arkansas-Pine Bluff in a Southwestern Athletic Conference game on Saturday at Simmons Bank Field.
Pierce, the third-string quarterback, had a opportunity to guide the team to the potential tying score in the final three minutes, but his pass was picked off by Andre Fuller at the UAPB 4 and returned 95 yards as the Golden Lions sealed the game.
“I thought John-Paul Pierce did well coming in off the bench for us,” said GSU head coach Broderick Fobbs. “He made some big plays when we needed it and unfortunately the interception came at the wrong time. But overall I am extremely proud of the way he played. We continue to play from behind and that is something we will continue to work on. I am proud of the way our kids fought and battled back. Now we will look at the film and make adjustments and as we turn to a very good Bethune-Cookman football team.”
Grambling State’s defense and special teams set the tone early.
Arkansas-Pine Bluff (2-7 overall, 1-5 SWAC) went three-and-out as Sundiata Anderson picked up a sack on third down. On the very next play, Myron Stewart blocked the punt out the back of the endzone, giving the Tigers a 2-0 advantage with 13:06 left in the opening quarter.
Arkansas-Pine Bluff took advantage of a short punt as Zac Pinwinczka booted a 55-yard field goal, giving the Golden Lions a 3-2 lead with 7:40 remaining in the first.
The Tigers capitalized on a muffed punt as Aldon Clark scored ona 6-yard touchdown keeper as Grambling State grabbed a 9-3 lead with 10:36 left in the second quarter.
However, Arkansas-Pine Bluff quickly answered, going 77 yards in just two plays as Dayln Hill scored on a 34-yard rushing touchdown with 9:48 remaining in the first half.
The Golden Lions added to the lead late in the second as Skyler Perry connected with Josh Wilkes on a 43-yard touchdown, extended the lead to 17-9 with 2:52 remaining.
Perry opened the scoring in the third quarter with a 67-yard touchdown run as the Golden Lions pushed the margin to 24-9 with 13:43 left in the quarter.
Grambling State (3-6, 2-4) closed the gap to one score as John-Paul Pierce scored on a 1-yard keeper, capping an 11-play, 78-yard drive, as the Tigers trailed 24-16 with 38 seconds remaining in the third.
Arkansas-Pine Bluff worked the clock on its next drive, going 58-yards in 12 plays and nearly five minutes as Zac Pinwinczka booted a 35-yard field goal to give the Golden Lions a 27-16 advantage with 10:46 left in the final quarter.
Grambling State refused to go away quietly as the Tigers put together a 13-play, 75-yard drive as Pierce connected with Greg White on third and long for a 42-yard score. CJ Russell added the 2-point conversion as GSU closed the gap to 27-24 with 6:42 remaining.
On the ensuing drive, Perry capped a 7-play, 67-yard drive with a 3-yard keeper, but the extra point was blocked and returned by Kenan Fontenot for two points as UAPB took a 33-26 advantage with 2:53 remaining.
Grambling State had one more opportunity to potential tie the game as Pierce connected with White for 40 yards and Donald Johnson for 23 yards. However, Fuller intercepted Pierce on the very next play at the Golden Lion 4 and returned it the GSU 1.
Arkansas-Pine Bluff ran out the clock and picked up its first conference win.
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