Heading into Saturday’s showdown against Southern at A.W. Mumford Stadium, the Prairie View football team had done just enough to win three of its past four games — via tough defense, timely special-teams plays or a high-scoring offense.
One thing the Panthers hadn’t done well was force turnovers. Prairie View came into the weekend with a minus-11 turnover margin, the worst mark in the Southwestern Athletic Conference.
Scratch that off the list.
In a 23-20 victory, Prairie View had three giveaways and only two takeaways. But their takeaways were key.
Defensive back Moses Ellis, who had eight interceptions last season for Prairie View, got his first this season in the second quarter, when he picked off a pass from Dray Joseph and returned it 48 yards for a touchdown.
The Panthers’ other takeaway came with 5:23 remaining, when linebacker Chris Townsend forced a fumble, and defensive back JohnMark Henderson fell on it.
PV later converted that turnover into a game-winning field goal by Christopher Barrick with 10 seconds left.
Though his own team forced three turnovers — including a 38-yard interception return by linebacker Anthony Balancier — SU second-year coach Stump Mitchell lamented his team’s untimely knack for giving away the football.
“But we can’t continue to have turnovers that cost us ballgames,” Mitchell said.
This season, Southern quarterbacks have thrown three interceptions that were returned for touchdowns.
Running back Sylvester Nzekwe had 108 yards on 28 carries for Southern, giving the Jaguars their first 100-yard rusher of the two-year Mitchell era.
Nzekwe has 236 rushing yards in three games since he took over as Southern’s starting tailback Sept. 24 against Florida A&M.
Before Saturday, the last SU running back to gain 100 yards was Gary Hollimon, who carried six times for 115 yards against Division II Fort Valley State in 2009.
On offense, Southern opened the game with Aaron Hall at left guard and Donald Glover at right guard. It was the second straight start for both players after Zach Brown and Taylon Jones suffered ankle injuries Sept. 24 against Florida A&M.
Senior center Lee Almanza left the game with a minor injury, Hall moved to center, and Jones returned to action for the first time, filling in at left guard.
Later, in the second half, Southern used seven linemen on some plays, with tackles Chris Browne and Clinton Boyd lining up as tight ends.
On defense, the Jaguars opened in a 3-3-5 for the second straight week, with freshmen Jaylen Jordan and Jeffrey Watkins at defensive end and D’Mekus Cook as the nickel back.
Different look for PV
Jonathan Troast started at quarterback for Prairie View, one week after he came off the bench to throw for 312 yards in a 31-23 win over Grambling.
The team’s regular starter, freshman Jerry Lovelocke, suffered a minor ankle injury in the Grambling win. Coach Heishma Northern said last week that Lovelocke was available to play, but that Northern would make his decision based on which quarterback had the better practice week.
Troast completed 13 of 23 passes for 97 yards, no touchdown passes and one interception.
Attendance was announced at 8,951 for Saturday’s game at A.W. Mumford Stadium — a much smaller crowd than Southern’s last home game Sept. 17 against Jackson State, which drew 21,734.
Saturday’s game featured a larger crowd than Prairie View’s last visit to Mumford Stadium on Oct. 22, 2009, a rainy Thursday night affair that drew 6,463 fans. Prairie View held on to win that game 16-14.
It was the last home game for then-coach Pete Richardson.
Mitchell prowled the sideline in a pink T-shirt and cap in support of breast cancer awareness. Players also wore pink towels, wristbands and shoelaces. ... Javandon Vallare, Dexter James and Chris Browne were team captains for Southern. ... SWAC Commissioner Duer Sharp attended Saturday’s game.
To the Prairie View defense. Chris Townsend finished with 11 tackles and a key forced fumble in the fourth quarter. Adrian Hamilton had seven tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles and three quarterback hurries.