Prairie View survives see-saw battle with Alabama A&M to take first SWAC title in 45 years (845 hits)
December 12, 2009
by Lut Williams
The remarkable rise of Prairie View A&M from football pit to pinnacle was all but completed Saturday as the Panthers survived a determined effort and nip-and-tuck battle with Alabama A&M to score a 30-24 win over the Bulldogs in the 11th SWAC Championship game Saturday afternoon at Birmingham’s Legion Field.
In a game filled with penalties, big plays, big-play reviews and plenty of drama, it was the West Division champion Panthers (9-1) that prevailed behind the play of SWAC regular season and championship game offensive MVP, quarterback K.J. Black.
The junior transfer completed 18 of 28 passes on the day for 258 yards, no interceptions and three touchdowns, two in the fourth quarter that allowed the Panthers to take a lead they would not surrender. Prior to his two late-game TD tosses, the teams traded the lead seven times while giving both sides in a crowd of 20,218 plenty to cheer.
The most critical stretch of the game came with 10:09 left in the fourth quarter after Prarire View had gone ahead 23-21 on Black’s 23-yard scoring toss to Gabe Osaze-Ediae. Four plays after the ensuing kickoff, AA&M quarterback Deauntae Mason was hit by Prairie View defensive back Anthony Beck and fumbled. Prairie View defensive end Quentin Spears recovered on the A&M 47.
Five plays later, Black hit Anthony Weeden on a 22-yard TD pass. Brady Faggard’s PAT gave Prairie View its largest lead of the day and some breathing room at 30-21 with 7:01 left. It was the first time either team led by more than one score.
East Division champion Alabama A&M would drive for a late field goal, a 33-yarder from place kicker Jeremy Licea to cut the lead to 30-24 with 4:02 to play. But the Bulldogs (7-5), who used all three of their second-half timeouts in the third quarter, could not stop the clock after they kicked off.
Prairie View earned one first down and then punted with less than15 seconds to play. But the punt also had drama as A&M return man Thomas Harris momentarily broke free for 26 yards on the right side of the field and had one man to beat. That man, back-up running back Michael Jason, made perhaps a game-saving tackle, stopping Harris at the Prairie View 47. Mason’s desperation pass attempt at the final buzzer was knocked down.
Prairie View head coach Henry Frazier III, who inherited the Panther program in 2004 on the heels of an embarrassing and record-setting 80-game losing streak (1989-98) that marked them as the worst program in college football, was understandably jubilant after his Panthers won the school’s first SWAC title in 45 years.
“The champ is here, the champ is here,” Frazier said as he entered the post game interview room with a host of celebratory family, friends and players and two championships trophies in tow. “It’s been a long time coming. 1964 is the last time Prairie View was champion. Forty-five years later, God saw fit to bring a group of coaches and group of players together to make history. In 1964, nobody on the (coaching) staff, nobody on this team was born. This is a special time and a special occasion.” “It was a great football game. It was a chess match out there,” Frazier said of the back-and-forth affair. “We both made adjustments. It came down to the last play of the game and that’s what you want in a championship game.” Alabama A&M head coach Anthony Jones, whose team was penalized 13 times for 112 yards, several negating big plays and touchdowns, was understandably disappointed. His squad, who had lost to Prairie View 33-27 in the regular season, battled hard, but came up just short again. The Bulldogs committed five holding penalties on the day.
“I know teams on both sides were frustrated because every time you get a big play it was called back,” Jones said of the game that also saw Prairie View whistled for nine penalties covering 57 yards.
Jones lost a Mason-to-Rashard Johnson TD pass on the second play of the second quarter to a holding penalty. He had runs of 13 yards by running back Ulysses Banks and 10 yards by Mason brought back for holding calls in the Bulldogs’ 11-play, six-minute drive that came up empty opening the third quarter. Another pass, this one with over eight minutes left that Mason threw to tight end Quentin Carlock, was initially called a TD pass on the field but was overturned on review.
“They were significant moments in this football game,” Jones said of the flags and replay decisions that impacted the final outcome. “Obviously we could not overcome them.” Up 14-10 at the break, Alabama A&M’s drive to open the third quarter was halted by the penalties and ended when Licea was wide left on a 44-yard field goal try. Jones burned two critical time outs in that drive when his squad had trouble getting the right play in.
“That’s my fault,” said Jones emphatically.
Prairie View got the ball back on its own 23 with 8:51 left in the period and proceeded to drive for a go-ahead touchdown. Two interference penalties on the Bulldogs, the second on defensive back Chris Foush in the end zone put the ball at the 1. Prairie View running back Donald Babers got the TD on his second try from there. Faggard’s PAT gave Prairie View a 17-14 lead with 4:27 left in the period.
But AA&M answered, going 57 yards, primarily on the ground, to jump right back in front on a 1-yard TD run on fourth down by Mason on the third play of the fourth quarter. Bud during that drive, A&M burned its final timeout of the half. After Licea’s PAT, the Bulldogs led 21-17 with 13:30 left in the contest.
Then it was Prairie View’s turn and again they didn’t falter. The Panthers needed only 7 plays and covered 65 yards in just over two minutes. The big play was a 45-yard pass from Black to wideout Anthony Weeden after the Panthers faced 3rd-and-23 from their own 18. Three plays later Black hit Adiae for the TD. Faggart’s PAT was blocked by Maurice Thomas leaving Prairie View up 23-21 and setting the stage for the final plays.
Mason finished with 154 passing yards (12 of 27) and 110 rushing yards on 18 carries. Banks reeled off 109 yards on 20 carries. Rashad Johnson had three catches for 70 yards to lead Bulldog receivers.
Prairie View was led on the ground by Babers, who tallied 78 yards on 17 carries. Osaze-Ediae had 7 receptions for 106 yards. Alabama A&M out-gained Prairie View 403 to 375. Spears, who had two fumble recoveries and tied for the team lead in tackles with 6, was named the game’s defensive MVP.
The teams exchanged scores on their first two possessions to open the game.
After Michael Benson returned the opening kickoff to midfield, Prairie View drove 28 yards in nine plays and got on the board first on Faggard’s 39-yard field goal at the 10:29 mark to take a 3-0 lead.
Alabama A&M followed that up with a 7-play, 63-yard drive culminating in a Banks 2-yard TD run. The Bulldogs got 62 of those yards on gains of 19, 18, 11 and 14 yards on their first four plays from scrimmage to get into scoring position. Licea’s PAT gave the Bulldogs a 7-3 lead with 7:08 left in the first quarter.
Penalties halted Prairie View’s second possession. The biggest was a personal foul for a chop block that got lineman Jermaine Bluford ejected from the game.
After an exchange of possessions, Prairie View drove 82 yards in nine plays and scored on quarterback Black’s 22-yard pass to Michael Benson. Before the scoring toss, A&M’s recovery of a fumble was negated by an offsides penalty. On the TD play, Black dodged blitzing lineman Preston Nelson to hit Benson who got behind defensive back Justin Borden down the middle of the field. Faggard’s PAT put Prairie View up 10-7 with 6:46 before the half.
Alabama A&M answered with a 7-play, 58-yard drive capped by Mason’s 9-yard scoring toss to Carlock. Banks ran for 30 yards on 3 carries in the drive and Johnson had a big 35-yard gain on 2nd-and-21 from the their own 47 after the Bulldogs were backed up following another holding penalty.
At the break, A&M had 237 total yards, 174 on the ground. Banks had 98 rushing yards on 14 carries in the half while Mason had 53 on six carries. Prairie View totalled 187 first half yards. Black was 10 of 17 for 131 yards.
Posted By: Jehan Bunch
Tuesday, December 29th 2009 at 1:30PM