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Arkansas-Pine Bluff quarterback Josh Boudreaux dropped back on fourth-and-3 from the Texas Southern 24-yard line with less than 30 seconds remaining, and the defense brought the house on a blitz to force an incomplete pass.

Moments later, TSU quarterback Arvell Nelson took a knee and brought down the entire house at Delmar Stadium.

That is, the entire house of TSU fans.

The Tigers gave most of the 11,285 fans in attendance Saturday night plenty to celebrate after holding off Arkansas-Pine Bluff for a 20-13 victory that clinched the program’s first Southwestern Athletic Conference Western Division title and a berth in the Dec. 11 league championship game against Alabama State in Birmingham, Ala.

TSU (8-3, 8-1 SWAC) won its seventh straight game and will compete for its first SWAC title since 1968 and first outright.

“I’ve been a part of this for 28 years, and I knew that we always had great players,” said coach Johnnie Cole, who played quarterback for TSU from 1982-85. “I told our team that Texas Southern’s never had a great team.

“But this is a great team, and these kids deserve it. They sacrificed everything, and did the things I asked them to do. And tonight, we’re celebrating.”

TSU was 0-11 the year before Cole’s first season in 2008 and was the laughingstock of the SWAC and the nation. But three seasons later, no one’s laughing at these Tigers.

TSU shook off a 1-3 start to capture eight wins in its last nine games, including an emotional come-from-behind win over SWAC powerhouse Grambling State on Nov. 11, and put itself within reach of supremacy in the Western Division.

As the Tigers have done all season, they put Arkansas-Pine Bluff away with a classic rushing attack and a defense that refused to break.

Running back Marcus Wright and Nelson rushed for 134 and 114 yards, respectively, and the defense held the Golden Lions (5-6, 4-5) to 244 yards while intercepting two passes. The Tigers came up with their biggest stop when they blitzed to pressure Boudreaux into throwing an incompletion on fourth down when Arkansas-Pine Bluff threatened to send the game into overtime.

“It’s a great feeling,” linebacker Dejuan Fulghum said. “We came out here and did what we were supposed to do. Now, it’s time to go win that SWAC championship.”

TSU wasted little time getting on the scoreboard. Nelson (14-of-20 passing, 166 yards) led the Tigers on a nine-play, 60-yard drive that was capped by Wright’s 5-yard touchdown run with 11:45 left in the first quarter.

The Tigers extended their lead to 10-0 when Robert Hersh made a 45-yard field goal with 12:38 remaining in the second quarter. Hersh connected on a 22-yard field goal with 2:18 left in the first half to send TSU into the locker room with a 13-0 lead.

But Arkansas-Pine Bluff would not go away easily.

The Golden Lions took the opening kickoff of the second half and marched it down the Tigers’ throats, going 81 yards in seven plays and scoring on a 9-yard touchdown pass from Boudreaux to T.J. Shelton to reduce the deficit to 13-7.

But TSU responded in a big way. Nelson led the Tigers on a seven-play, 45-yard drive that ended with Martin Gilbert’s 8-yard run with 1:40 left in the third quarter.

Boudreaux (22-of-42 passing, 165 yards, two touchdowns) hit Shelton on a 2-yard touchdown pass with 8:23 remaining to pull the Golden Lions within 20-13. But Jerome Thomas blocked the extra-point attempt, and the Tigers managed to hold on from there.

“This one is for the community,” said Wright, who finished the night with 1,089 rushing yards for the season. “It’s always negative when you hear about Texas Southern and the Third Ward community, and this win is for them.”