LITTLE ROCK -- Arkansas-Pine Bluff coach Lee Hardman is counting on a better passing game and defense to help dig the Golden Lions out of a rut of two consecutive losing seasons.
The team's attempt to end the streak starts with a tough conference test Saturday at home against Alcorn State. Arkansas-Pine Bluff finished 3-8 last year and only Prairie View A&M's 1-10 mark kept the Golden Lions from the Southwestern Athletic Conference's cellar.
Hardman expects a passing game led by Antonio Lovelady and an improving defense to help turn things around. It also should help that the Golden Lions play their first four games in Arkansas.
"For this team and this year, I think it's definitely starting out better," Hardman said. "Last year we were on the road with young players and it was rough on them. If we can get the ball rolling we feel like we have a chance to do well."
Three Gulf South Conference schools from Arkansas kick off their football seasons this week.
Arkansas Tech seeks a quick turnaround from a 4-7 season with a road game at Midwestern State at 7 p.m. on Thursday.
Arkansas-Monticello will help Southeastern Louisiana restart its football program after a 17-year hiatus at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Henderson State starts its third season under Jesse Branch with the difficult task of playing at McNeese State, the preseason No. 1 in NCAA Division I-AA, at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Central Arkansas and Southern Arkansas don't open their seasons until Sept. 4, while Harding and Ouachita Baptist start on Sept. 6.
Alcorn State was picked to finish second in the SWAC's East Division after its second straight 6-5 season. The Braves were 6-2 and 3-1 in conference play last year before losing their final three games.
On offense, Alcorn State returns quarterback Donald Carrie, who had a bad sophomore season after being named SWAC newcomer of the year in 2001. Carrie threw 17 interceptions and completed only 46 percent of his passes for 2,197 yards and 19 touchdowns.
Alcorn State's defense is led by four preseason all-conference players in 6-foot-6, 315-pound Bryan Williams, middle linebacker Omega Logan, outside linebacker Dwan Williams and cornerback Tyrone Parsons.
This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index
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