Photo: Raymond Holley

Over the past few years, the State Fair Classic football game between Prairie View and Grambling State has usually been the game that brought either team one step closer to winning the SWAC West outright. However, this year is different because the winner will contend for the division title while the loser will have an even steeper path to winning the division.

For only the second time in his six seasons at Grambling State, head coach Broderick Fobbs is beginning the season with an 0-3 record. The Tigers (0-3, 0-1 SWAC) suffered a heartbreaking 23-20 loss last week to a hungry Alabama State team on the road.

If anyone can get Grambling State back on track, it’s Coach Fobbs, who is the only SWAC head coach to win an HBCU national championship in the Celebration Bowl era.

Second-year head coach Eric Dooley and his Prarie View Panthers (1-3, 1-1 SWAC) are a team that arguably should be 3-1, if only the team had better defensive play, avoided penalties, and had consistent quarterback play in earlier games.

Luckily, nobody knows Coach Fobbs better than Coach Dooley, who was the former offensive coordinator under Fobbs from 2014-2017, and owns a victory over Grambling State from last year’s 22-16 matchup.

PV’s offense has proven it can score points in bunches averaging 34.3 points per game so far this season.

This past week, the Panthers gave the defending SWAC champions Alcorn State all it could handle in a 45-41 loss on the road. If the Panthers can score as they did against one of the more stingier defenses in the SWAC, they should be fine in the SWAC West.

PV’s offense is led by redshirt senior quarterback Jalen Morton who has thrown for 300 yards or better in three out of four games including his last game where he threw for 321 yards and three touchdowns.

Junior star wide receiver Tony Mullins has been a favorite target of Morton’s so far this season catching for 84 yards on four receptions and a touchdown against Alcorn State.

Defensively, the Panthers will be leaning on junior linebacker Tre’ Shaud Smith and sophomore Jason Dumas to cause problems for Hickbottom.

Smith had a solid game against Alcorn State causing 10 stops and a sack, while Dumas added seven stops and sack of his own to the stat sheet.

Grambling’s offense is led by junior quarterback Geremy Hickbottom and sophomore running back Jakarie Nichols.

Hickbottom threw for 184 yards, ran for 70 yards, and threw for a touchdown in the Tigers’ loss to Alabama State. His dual-threat capabilities and veteran management of the game make him a problem on any down for any opposing defense.

The Tigers had 241 yards rushing on the ground last week against Alabama State by committee. However, Nichols may be the person that Fobbs leans on more going forward. Nichols had a breakout game running for a season-high 91 yards on 11 carries against Alabama State.

Defensively Grambling State is anchored down by veteran defensive back Joseph McWilliams. The 5-11 senior had an interception last weekend that shifted momentum momentarily for Grambling against Alabama State.

McWilliams and the Tigers’ defensive secondary will have a stiffer task this Saturday against a talented core of Prarie View receivers.

Keys to the game for both teams:

Prairie View A&M
– Limit the mental mistakes
– Put pressure on Hickbottom
– Get RB Dwaonya Tucker going on the ground early

Grambling State
– Finish offensive drives with points
– Control time of possession
– Be balanced on offense

The 2019 State Fair Classic will come down to the wire, and who wants it more.



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