The path of least resistance would be me taking the week off on the week Cougar football plays their one Division 1-FCS opponent of the season: the Prairie View A&M Panthers.
Even if there’s little question about who will win this game, I can still find 5 interesting about PVAMU and how they could match up with the Coogs on the Saturday.
1.) The Marching Storm
I have plenty of things to talk about when it comes to the PV football team, but I couldn’t go any further without mentioning their excellent band: The Marching Storm. I was lucky enough to see them and TSU’s Ocean of Soul go head to head in person up at Prairie View last November.
It was as intense as anything I’ve seen between bands, starting with the Storm trying to play over TSU as they entered the stadium.
During a period where PV’s viability as an institution was in doubt during parts of the 1980's and 90's (while the football team was racking up the sport’s longest losing streak) the Storm gave Texas’ oldest HBCU some hope.
Led by 50+ year director George ‘Prof’ Edwards (who passed away in 2009) they became one of the best and most exciting show bands. They’ve performed at Super Bowls, inaugurations and iconic events like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade and the Tournament of Roses Parade.
Even if you’re not someone who generally stays in their seat at halftime, I’d encourage you to make an exception this week because it’ll be really good. Here’s the Storm’s recent performance at last year's Honda Battle of the Bands:
2.) FBS Experience a Plenty
On the current PV roster 10 players started their careers playing for Division 1-FBS schools including at least a few who should start on Saturday.
The Panthers’ leading receiver from 2018, junior Tristen Wallace, started his collegiate career at Oregon as a 4-star dual-threat QB before being dismissed and switching to receiver at Trinity Valley CC. Wallace only had 4 receptions against TSU, but I imagine the Tigers’ game plan was heavily focused on denying Wallace the ball.
Another former 4-star recruit, senior DE Isaiah Washington, started his career at LSU and played in 6 games as a true freshman there in 2015. Washington started last Saturday against TSU and had 7 total tackles. Junior defensive back Jaylen Harris, who started his career at UTEP, had PV’s lone interception against TSU as well.
Other one-time FBS players junior WR Jared Scott (Wyoming), junior WR Travis O’Connor (Miss State) senior RB Justin Jones (LSU) and sophomore RB Kristian Mosley (La Tech) saw action for the Panthers in their opening game.
3.) Dooley the HBCU Lifer
Panther head coach Eric Dooley has been either a player or a coach in the SWAC nearly his entire adult life. Dooley played receiver at Grambling State under legendary head coach Eddie Robinson at Grambling State.
For 14 seasons Dooley held a variety of position coach roles at Southern and in 2011 he got an offensive coordinator job with Arkansas Pine-Bluff. He was on staff when Pine Bluff won the SWAC title in 2012.
In 2014 Dooley returned to his alma mater, which had fallen on hard enough times that Grambling players boycotted a game during the previous season.
From 2015-17 Grambling won the SWAC West division and in 2015 and ’17 won the whole conference. Dooley’s offenses led by Ole Miss transfer QB Devante Kincaid averaged over 30 points per game all 3 of those years, and an astonishing 43.4 ppg in 2015.
That kind of resume made Dooley almost a no-brainer when PV’s previous coach took the same job at Florida A&M. The Panthers were 5-6 overall last year but scored 60+ points 3 times, came breathtakingly close to beating Rice and beat Grambling at the Cotton Bowl Classic.
If Dooley can get his current starting QB Jalen Morton to be as effective in his offense as Kincaid was at Grambling, then Panther fans should expect a trip to the SWAC championship.
4.) Diminutive Offensive Weapons
The two breakout offensive players from PV’s 44-23 win over Texas Southern are both listed 5’9” or shorter on the Panthers’ roster.
Senior RB Dawonya Tucker, who’s listed at 5 foot 5, may be the smallest guy the Cougar defense faces in 2019. But Tucker isn’t one to be underestimated as he ran for 1,096 yards in 11 games last year and was named 1st team All-SWAC. In PV’s 2 games against FBS opponents last year (Rice, UNLV) Tucker rushed for 134 yards on 6.1 yards per carry.
In the Panthers’ opener against TSU he ran for 188 yards (on 17.1 yards per carry) and 3 TDs. I am realistic about what Tucker will be dealing with this week against the Coogs, as compared to what he’ll face in SWAC play. But I’ll be surprised if Tucker isn’t one of the top rushers in Division 1-FCS when its all said and done this year.
The other offensive standout in PV’s week 1 win was junior receiver Tony Mullins who led the Panthers with 141 receiving yards. Mullins, listed at 5 foot 9, is originally from Katy and began his collegiate career at Trinity Valley CC. I expect Tristen Wallace to still be the Panthers’ top receiving target and get a lot of Damarion Williams covering him. But Mullins certainly showed the Coogs shouldn’t get too comfortable focusing just on Wallace.
5.) Panther Confidence
When asked about the 34.5-point spread on Saturday’s game between the Cougars and PV, multiple Panther players bristled at the idea they couldn’t win this game.
QB Jalen Morton even went as far as to say to Fox 26: “It is disrespectful to say we are even going to lose.” Similar sentiments were echoed by Dawonya Tucker and cornerback Logan Jackson, who were also quoted.
I am bringing this up here not to make fun of those guys for having faith in their team, far from it. To ask a team that has surely been working as hard as the Panthers have all off season to say anything different is lunacy, even if they are justifiably deemed long shots by the oddsmakers.
If you liked the fact that Cougar head coach Dana Holgorsen stood in front of everyone at Cage Rage and said he was going to bring a win over Oklahoma back to Houston, you can’t (or at least, shouldn’t) be mad at what these young men said.