Prairie View gets up from mat to end Alcorn’s championship quest

Prairie View A&M, like a bruised but proud heavyweight title-holder, rose one final time to knock somebody out.

The Panthers (6-4, 5-3 SWAC) scored a pair of thrilling touchdowns in the final seconds to hand Alcorn State a staggering 35-27 defeat. Just like that, the Braves’ dream for their first Southwestern Athletic Conference championship since 1994 went down.

There will be no repeat for Prairie View, but this game stands as a final testament to the team’s reign as champion.

Alcorn had actually struggled back from a 23-0 third-quarter deficit. Brandon Bridge tossed three scoring passes, including a 35-yard touchdown to Jacque Caldwell to give the Braves their first lead with 3:30 to go.

But K.J. Black threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to Shaun Stephens with four seconds remaining to again give Prairie View a slim 29-27 advantage. The Braves (5-5, 4-4 SWAC) blew their own chance at a storybook finish by losing the ball on a lateral attempt during the ensuing kickoff. Prairie View ran it back for a touchdown on the final play of the night.

“I don’t know what happened,” Prairie View A&M coach Henry Frazier said after the game. “All I know is that we’re up 23-0 and on cruise control, then we’re down, and then we get two touchdowns in a span of four seconds. It was an exciting game, and it was meant to be for these seniors. And how fitting for K.J. to find Shaun wide open with four seconds left.”

[Alabama State believed in its SWAC title dream, even during awful skid.]

With the win, Frazier became the first Panthers coach to have four consecutive winning seasons since local legend Billy Nicks, who earned nine in a row between 1957-65. This senior class achieved a remarkable series of milestones along the way, going 31-9 since 2007, capturing Prairie View’s first winning season since 1976 and then the program’s first SWAC championship since Nicks’ tenure.

The Panthers close out 2010 next weekend on the road against Alabama A&M, while Alcorn plays against Jackson State in a game that once might have had championship-game implications. Alabama State, with its victory over Southern on Saturday, has now sewn up the Eastern Division.

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