Alabama A&M 24, Prairie View 30
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP)—Prairie View A&M, a program once synonymous with football futility, is a conference champion for the first time in 45 years.
K.J. Black threw for 258 yards and three touchdowns, two coming in the fourth quarter, and the Panthers ralllied for a 30-24 win over Alabama A&M in the Southwestern Athletic Conference championship game on Saturday.
“It’s been a long time coming,” said Prairie View coach Henry Frazier III. “Nobody on this staff, nobody on this team was born in 1964. This is a special time.”
Frazier is the one most responsible for turning around a program that gained notoriety during the 1990s by losing 80 consecutive games.
“It’s a special occasion,” Frazier added. “I’m very proud of this football team.”
Alabama A&M (7-5) led 21-17 early in the fourth quarter before a 23-yard touchdown pass from Black to Gabe Osaze-Ediae put Prairie View (9-1) ahead 23-17 with 11:21 to play.
Moments later, Alabama A&M quarterback Deaunte Mason lost the ball following a hit by Prairie View’s Anthony Peck, and Quinton Spears made his second fumble recovery of the game for the Panthers. Black then connected with Anthony Weeden for a 22-yard touchdown pass and a 30-21 lead with 7 minutes remaining, and the Panthers held on from there.
“All anybody was talking about this year was a championship,” Black said. “When you can see that in somebody’s eyes and you know everybody is striving for the same goal, it makes you want to work that much harder. That collective effort got us to where we are right now.”
The game lasted nearly 4 hours, thanks in part to 22 penalties and several replay reviews.
Alabama A&M had a long second-quarter touchdown pass wiped out by a holding penalty, and a late fourth-quarter TD toss overturned by the replay official, who ruled that receiver Quintin Carlock bobbled the ball and did not maintain possession in the end zone.
“Anytime you take seven points off the board, it’s huge,” said Alabama A&M coach Anthony Jones. “You’re frustrated. Every time you got a big play, it was called back. Those were significant moments in this football game. And obviously, we could not overcome them.”
The teams exchanged the lead six times in the game, and neither team led by more than four until Prairie View pulled away in the fourth quarter.
“It was a great football game on both sides,” Frazier said. “We both made adjustments, we both countered. It was chess match out there. Both teams played extremely hard, and it came down to the last play. That’s what you want in a championship game.”
Osaze-Ediae had seven receptions for 106 yards, and Weeden had four catches for 82 yards. Donald Barbers led Prairie View on the ground with 78 yards and a touchdown.
The Bulldogs’ Mason passed for 154 yards and a touchdown while rushing for 110 yards and another score. Tailback Ulysses Banks added 109 yards rushing and a touchdown.
It was the fourth SWAC championship game loss in the past 10 years for Alabama A&M, whose lone conference title during that span occurred in 2006.