Panthers RB Dawonya Tucker and QB Jalen Morton led Prairie View A&M to become the second member of the SWAC to win the MEAC-SWAC Challenge defeating North Carolina Central 40-24.
Prairie View opened a 23-7 lead in the first half but had to step on the gas in the fourth quarter. The Eagles got on the board with a touchdown 30 seconds before the end of the half and got as close as 23-21 in the third. Panthers head coach Eric Dooley and NC Central head coach Granville Eastman explain what happened:
The Eagles had a few opportunities to capitalize on the few mistakes PVAMU made in the first half. NCCU Defensive end Darius Royster’s sack of Panthers QB Jalen Morton near midfield that was recovered by senior linebacker King Kiaku at midfield produced zero points. The Eagles missed on another opportunity on the final play of the first half. NC Central’s front line blocked a 40-yard field goal attempt that landed at the feet of linebacker Patrick Connor. Despite nothing but green in front of him and zeroes on the clock, the redshirt freshman fell on the ball instead of scooping it up and trying to score.
One game made a difference according to Granville:
Tucker had a career day rushing for 267 yards on 25 carries. The junior from Terrell, Texas had runs of 68, 50, 34, and 18 yards in the game.
What the Tarik Cohen-sized back accomplished didn’t come as a surprise to his head coach.
Morton had a record-setting day for the Panthers passing for 264 yards and 2 touchdowns. The redshirt junior also rushed for 72 yards and a touchdown. His last touchdown pass was a big one. On third-and-three, Morton, who was named Offensive Player of the Year, delivered a strike to redshirt senior Markcus Hardy in the end zone. The score gave the Panthers a nine point lead with 9 minutes to play.
Cornerback Ju’Anthony Parker closed the door on the Eagles’ offense in the midst of a drive that had taken them close to midfield. “I just wanted it more,” said Parker. The Panthers capitalized on the turnover immediately. On the first play, Tucker popped through for a 50-yard game-sealing touchdown run.
All photos by Jason McDonald, JM Photography for CORE360 Sports