Prairie View found itself in the same position as the previous year, a Southwestern Athletic Conference West Division title within its grasp.
This time, the Panthers held on despite a flu strain that hit the team on Nov. 13.
David Murray scored on a pair of 1-yard touchdown runs, and Trazon Connley threw a clinching 54-yard scoring pass to Chris Herron with 8:53 left as the Panthers held off Alabama State 21-14. They will meet Florida A&M in the league championship game at 3 p.m. Dec. 2 in Bragg Memorial Stadium in Tallahassee, Florida. The Panthers lost 45-7 to FAMU on Oct. 28 in Tallahassee.
Last year the Panthers lost at Mississippi Valley State when a victory would have clinched the division title, which went to Southern on a tiebreaker. The Panthers (6-5, 6-2 SWAC) held on Saturday despite being outgained 399-279. The Panthers defense held the visitors to 16 yards rushing.
“It means a lot,” second-year coach Bubba McDowell said of the Panthers’ second division title in three seasons. “We’ve been in this position before and it didn’t happen. We don’t like to go back to the past but sometimes you have to. We put it in their minds this can’t happen again.
“I didn’t know if we would have enough guys to get through the week. We got hit by the flu and a lot of starters went down Monday through Wednesday.”
Alabama State stayed in the game on the arm of quarterback Damon Stewart, who completed 27 of 38 passes for 372 yards and two touchdowns. He threw a 76-yard TD pass to Tyree Saunders in the fourth quarter to cut Prairie View’s lead to 14-7. After the Panthers made it 21-7, Stewart hit Saunders for a 16-yard score with 16 seconds left. Sanders caught six passes for 120 yards.
Prairie View recovered the ensuing onside kick to snuff out Alabama State’s final chance.
Prairie View tied Alcorn State (7-4, 6-2) for the division title but advances by virtue of its 23-20 victory at Alcorn State.
Hampton’s first SWAC win
Arkansas-Pine Bluff rallied from a 31-7 deficit to hand rookie coach Lorenzo Hampton his first SWAC victory with a 35-34 win against Texas Southern on Saturday.
The Lions trailed 34-13 in the fourth quarter, but quarterback Mekhi Hagens scored on two touchdown runs and a two-point conversion, and Elijah Jenkins returned a blocked punt 30 yards for another score. Hagens’ 5-yard run with 1:46 left tied the game, and Dean Sarris won it with the extra point.
Hagens also threw a 17-yard scoring pass to Kenji Lewis, and Michael Jamerson rushed for 113 yards on 10 carries for UAPB (2-9, 1-7).
“At halftime we told them don’t break, trust the process and fight hard,” Hampton said. “We stayed in the fight. It was good for our players, the university and our recruiting.”
LaDarious Owens had another big day running the ball for Texas Southern (3-8, 2-6) with 143 yards and three touchdowns on 25 carries. He had scoring runs of 3, 2 and 30 yards in the first quarter to get the Tigers off to a 21-0 lead.
Owens increased his league-leading rushing yardage total to 1,512 and 14 touchdowns on 227 carries.
Players of the week
Alabama A&M RB Donovan Eaglin, Alcorn State LB Terreance Ellis, Florida A&M’s Cameron Gillis and Stewart captured SWAC player of the week weekly awards.
Eaglin rushed for 207 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries in a 30-21 win over Mississippi Valley State; Ellis won the defensive honor with 10 tackles and an interception in a 28-24 win against Jackson State; Gillis had a 44-yard field goal and three extra points for the special-teams honor; and Stewart won the newcomer honor with 372 yards and two TDs passing.