Commentary

Prairie View A&M tops SWAC West

Originally Published: October 14, 2009
By Donald Hunt | Special to ESPN.com

Prairie View A&M sent a strong message to all the teams in the Southwestern Athletic Conference with its big win over Grambling State, the defending conference champion, on Oct. 3. Prior to the victory over the G-men, the Panthers made an even bigger statement in a losing effort against Division I-A New Mexico State, dropping a narrow 21-18 decision Sept. 12.

Prairie View A&M coach Henry Frazier III has done a marvelous job with his team. Frazier has the Panthers (3-1 overall, 3-0 league) on top in the SWAC Western Division with their 24-10 win over Alabama State on Saturday.

"Grambling is a very good football team," Frazier said. "They're a two-time defending Western Division champs. New Mexico State is a I-A school. It was just a great opportunity to see where we are. We responded very well. Then to go on the road and get a win in Montgomery after that was huge."

What's been even bigger for Prairie View A&M is the play of quarterback KJ Black, who earned SWAC offensive player of the week honors for the second consecutive week. Black completed 22 of 33 passes for 341 yards and one touchdown against Alabama State. He also had a rushing TD over the Hornets.

On the season, the 6-foot-4, 225-pound junior from Louisville, Ky., has completed 72.6 percent of his passes while throwing for 626 yards with four touchdown passes and four rushing touchdowns. In addition, he leads the conference in scoring with an average of 8.7 points a game.

"KJ is the real deal," Frazier said. "We watched him last fall when he was at Western Kentucky. He called and contacted us. He had quit the team. He knew he was leaving. You look at him on film, you knew he had talent. He came to us in January. He just kind of learned the system. He didn't look that impressive when he first got to us, so we were kind of wondering.

"The kid was very smart. He did wait his turn. He waited for his opportunity. Now, once he got his opportunity, he took advantage of it. We didn't play him the first game against Texas Southern. Jay Bluford was the starter. He knew our offense. We didn't want to risk what KJ could do in a conference game and a crosstown rival. We thought we had enough in Jay Bluford to get the win.

"But we knew we were going to play him against New Mexico State because it was a I-A game. We were going to play both guys. We put him in when we were down 21-3. Man, he just took over that ballgame. If we had one more possession, we beat New Mexico State. Then, we started him against Grambling, and he had a great game. This week he had another great game. He's playing very well. His best football is ahead of him."

Prairie View A&M will entertain Mississippi Valley State on Saturday at Blackshear Stadium. Delta Devils coach Willie Totten knows a little something about playing quarterback. Totten used to throw touchdown passes to wide receiver Jerry Rice, who will be headed to the Pro Football Hall of Fame next year. He knows his team will have its hands full with Black.

"He's a big kid," Totten said. "He's not intimidated. He runs the football extremely well. He throws the football extremely well. He's a big target. He knows his receivers. The big thing that impressed me the most with him is that he can run the football. He can pull the ball down and run like a running back."

Speaking of running backs, Prairie View A&M's quick-footed back Donald Babers can run between the tackles and get to the edge very quickly. In 2008, he led the SWAC in rushing with 1,085 yards and in TDs with 11. Babers is off to a bit of a slow start, but he still seems to be having a pretty good season with 70 carries for 260 yards and two touchdowns.

"Babers is our guy," Frazier said. "It starts with Babers. He started the season with a hamstring. He was kind of hampered. He had a good game against New Mexico State. I thought he played solid against Grambling. It's just that they stack the box on us. And when a team stacks the box, you got to throw the ball. When they empty the box, you have to be able to run the ball. We're balanced, very balanced. We're going to take whatever the defense gives us."

The Panthers should give their fans something to cheer about against the Delta Devils, who lost to Alcorn State 32-10 this past Saturday. And after four straight weeks on the road, homecoming couldn't get here fast enough for Prairie View A&M.

"We have another big game, which is homecoming," Frazier said. "It's our home opener. Everybody from Prairie View is going to come back to see what's going on with this football team. It's going to be a packed house. We want to give these guys a good showing and represent the university."

HBCU notes

• Prairie View A&M won its eighth consecutive SWAC game dating back to last season by defeating Alabama State.

• Alcorn State defensive end Brandon Morris was named the SWAC defensive player of the week. He had eight tackles, three sacks with two quarterback hurries and one fumble recovery, which he returned for a 24-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter, in the Braves' 32-10 win over Mississippi Valley State. Morris' three sacks contributed to the Braves' NCAA record-tying 14 sacks.

• South Carolina State quarterback Malcolm Long was selected as the MEAC offensive player of the week. Long completed 70 percent of his passes (16-of-23) with 206 yards and one touchdown in the Bulldogs' 37-10 win over Norfolk State. He also ran the ball seven times for 22 yards with a rushing touchdown to help the Bulldogs increase their MEAC win streak to 13 games.

• Long's teammate Philip Adams was chosen the MEAC defensive player of the week. Adams, a defensive back, recorded five tackles, four solo, and scored on a 31-yard fumble return.

• Grambling State running back Cornelius Walker had a big game on the ground in a win over Alabama A&M. Walker rushed 11 times for 146 yards and one touchdown.

• Arkansas-Pine Bluff defensive back Kevin Thornton had a monster game. Thornton intercepted two passes and blocked a field goal as time expired to send his team into overtime against Jackson State. The Golden Lions nipped the Tigers 20-13 in OT.

• Hampton running back LaMarcus Coker rushed 21 times for 125 yards and two touchdowns in the Pirates' 37-0 victory over Howard in The Battle of the Real HU.

• Texas Southern freshman defensive back Robert Joseph was named the SWAC newcomer of the week. Joseph had a game-high 13 tackles for the Tigers in their loss to Rutgers.

• Florida A&M kicker Trevor Scott made three field goals (32, 34 and 21 yards) and nailed an extra point to account for 10 of the Rattlers' 16 points in the matchup against Miami.

Donald Hunt is a columnist for The Philadelphia Tribune. You can reach him at dhunt37261@aol.com.