It didn’ take first-year Prairie View A&M coach Willie Simmons long to get into the swing of Labor Day Classic, which pits the Panthers against their in-state SWAC West Division rival Texas Southerrn.
Simmons guided Prairie View to a 38-11 victory over the Tigers Saturday night in Houston in his head coaching debut. The victory for Prairie View was the eighth in its last 11 games against Texas Southern.
“It’s a great feeling,” said Simmons, who helped Alcorn State to the SWAC championship last season as well as the Black College national title as the Braves’ offensive coordinator. “I’m happy to see these guys achieve their goals. I’ve been told this is the most important game on the schedule. From a fan and alumni base, this is the one they circle. It just so happens to be the first game of the season. The success of our season rides in this game from a fan perspective.”
Alcorn was among the top offensive teams in the FCS last season, averaging 44 points a game. Simmons appears to have the Panthers on a similar track even though they were unable to have spring drills because of Academic Progress Rate (APR) sanctions.
Prairie View racked up 457 total yards, with the majority of them coming on the ground. Running back Courtney Brown, who missed last season with an injury after gaining 1,000 yards in 2013, was the Panthers’ main weapon. Brown ran for 88 yards on just nine carries. Quarterback Trey Green had 81 yards on the ground, including touchdown runs of 80 and two yards. Green also passed for 167 yards and a touchdown. Johnta Hebert, who rushed for 1,063 yards last season, ran for 55 yards and scored on an 11-yard run.
Green scampered 80 yards for a score on the third play of the game, and Prairie View never looked back. Texas Southern stayed close through quarters despite not being able to generate much offense. The Tigers gained 291 total yards, turned the ball over twice on interceptions and were penalized nine times for 90 yards. Still they only trailed 10-3 at the half.
Prairie View broke the game open with touchdowns on three consecutive possessions. Green scored on a two-yard run; Hebert added an 11-yard scoring run and Green connected with Nick Pitre to give the Panthers a 31-3 advantage.
Hampton 35, Kentucky State 20 — David Watford had an auspicious debut as the Pirates’ starting quarterback, passing for 345 yards and five touchdowns in a home victory. Watford, a senior transfer from the University of Virginia, completed 22 of 37 attempts. His yardage total is the ninth-highest in a single game in school history. Twarn Mixon was on the receiving end of four of Watford touchdown passes. Mixon had seven receptions for a career-high 135 yards.
Watford’s performance propelled Hampton to its first season-opening victory 2011. The Pirates led 21-0 midway through the second period on three touchdown passes by Watford, who connected on scoring plays of 15 and 23 yards to Mixon and 18 yards to Dwayne Garrett. Kentucky State rallied in the second half after trailing 21-3 at intermission. The Thorobred cut the Pirates’ lead to 28-20 with 12:07 left in the fourth quarter, but Watford and Mixon connected on a 55-yard scoring strike with 8:29 left to ice the victory. Kentucky State moved the ball well at times but wasn’t able to sustain drives. Running back Kyle Jackson rushed for 93 yards on 16 carries. However, the Thorobreds’ passing game was ineffective, largely because their inability to protect the quarterback. Hampton had six sacks.
Tuskegee 26, Clark Atlanta 0 – The Golden Tigers, the defending SIAC champions, made up for their sloppy kicking game with a stifling defense as they opened the season with a home victory in an inter-division game. Tuskegee held the Panthers to minus yardage in the first half and intercepted three passes, two of which set up touchdowns for the Golden Tigers. Clark Atlanta finished the game with 203 total yards, 50 rushing.
Running back Dennis Norfleet, a transfer from the University of Michigan, was Tuskegee’s offensive spark with 86 all-purpose yards. Quarterback Kevin Lacey completed 9 of 20 passes for 120 yards and a touchdown. The Golden Tigers’ kicking game was woeful. Punter Kemuel Lawrence was pressed into placekicking duty after the starter was ruled academically ineligible. Lawrence missed all of his kick attempts (two field goals and three extra points, and he had two kickoffs sail out of bounds. The victory was the 17th in the last 18 games against SIAC opponents for Tuskegee.
North Carolina A&T 61, Shaw 7 – Junior running back Tarik Cohen opened the season by rushing for 106 yards as the Aggies cruised to a home victory in the first meeting between the teams since 1963. Cohen needs 928 yards to become North Carolina A&T’s career rushing leader. Quarterback Lamar Raynard threw for 188 yards and three touchdowns in his first career start. Wide receiver Denzel Keyes was responsible for 119 of Raynard’s passing yards, and he caught two touchdown passes.
Air Force 63, Morgan State 7
Appalachian State 49, Howard 0
Colorado State 65, Savannah State 13
Liberty 32, Delaware State 13
Miami (Fla.) 45, Bethune-Cookman 0
North Carolina Central 72, Saint Augustine’s 0
South Florida 51, Florida A&M 3
Rutgers 63, Norfolk State 13
Cal 73, Grambling State 14
Cincinnati 52, Ala. A&M 10
Georgia Tech 69, Alcorn State 6
Louisiana Tech 62, Southern 15
Middle Tenn. State 70, Jackson State 14
New Mexico 66, Miss. Valley State 0
Bowie State 35, Merrimack 32
California (Pa.) 35, Virginia State 16
Lincoln (Pa.) 29, Cheyney 22
Livingstone 49, Benedict 6
UNC Pembroke 17, Winston-Salem State 7
Virginia Union 35, Brevard 21
Delta State 48, Fort Valley State 7
Lane 17, Concordia-Selma 14
Morehouse 38, Edward Waters 8
Valdosta State 21, Albany State 13
West Alabama 52, Stillman 0
Alderson Broadus 22, Central State 22
Lincoln (Mo.) 35, Langston 32
West Va. State 59, Fairmont State 34
(Photo: Prairie View A&M)