Houston running back Chandler Smith, right, fumbles after being tackled by Prairie View cornerback Logan Jackson, left, during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday. Sept. 7, 2019, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)

The Prairie View Panthers have a chance to be special this season, but as they head into their fourth game Saturday – a showdown with at defending SWAC champion Alcorn State – they are still a work in progress.

The offensive trio of quarterback Jalen Morton, running back Dawonya Tucker and wide receiver Tristen Wallace can put up yards. And defense, led by free safety Drake Cheatum and middle linebacker Tre’Shaud Smith, is relentless and tough.

But after two lopsided games – a win over Texas Southern and in the loss at University of Houston – and narrow loss last week against nationally ranked Nicholls State just how good these Panthers are remains to be seen. It’s a process and the Panthers are very much in the midst of figuring it out.

Second-year PV coach Eric Dooley, however, made it clear that he isn’t looking at the last two games – both losses – as a learning experience for his team going forward. He is only concerned with Alcorn State (1-2 overall, 0-0 SWAC).

“Our mindset is we know we are in conference play right now and everything is going to stack,” said Dooley, whose 1-2 team is coming off a 42-35 loss to Nicholls State in which the Panthers surrendered a 21-6 halftime lead. “We know that we are playing a worthy opponent (Alcorn State), an opponent that is use to going to the championship so we know we have to play for 60 minutes and do the little things that are going to give us the opportunity to win this game.”

As the Panthers get set for SWAC play, he knows his team has an explosive offense, a stout defense and reliable special teams. But he now he has to fix the continuing theme of untimely penalties that have played a major role in the last two losses. 

Prairie View (1-2 overall, 1-0 in SWAC play) gave up 13 penalties last week against Nicholls State, many of which occurred in the decisive third quarterback when Nicholls State scored 21 unanswered points to take the lead.

But Dooley isn’t worried about discipline as an issue for his team.

“I think we are good football team,” he said. “We’ve got all three phases and I think they are coming together. They’re understanding what we are trying to accomplish and the chemistry is getting there.

“We just had a couple of games that didn’t go our way and so it makes it look as though things are not coming to part, but I like what I see in all three phases. We’ve just got to continue to keep pressing.”