The Prairie View Panthers loss control of their SWAC Championship Game destiny after their 27-7 loss to Mississippi Valley State last weekend. Credit: PVAMU athletic department

By Terrance Harris

In a perfect world, Prairie View coach Bubba McDowell would have liked to have been a little more definitive in the Panthers’ purpose at practice this week.

But thanks to the Panthers’ disappointing 27-7 thumping at Mississippi Valley State in their regular-season finale last weekend, the defending SWAC West champs headed out to practice this past week not knowing what they were practicing for. It could have been for nothing.

The loss to the Delta Devils put SWAC West-leading Prairie View in limbo this week, needing and hoping that somehow Grambling State defeats Southern in Saturday’s Bayou Classic in New Orleans. A Southern win means the Jaguars will claim the division title and will head to the SWAC Championship where undefeated Jackson State awaits on the other side.

“The emotions are down, but that’s on me and the coaching staff to get these guys back and ready to go,” McDowell said. “As I told them, we have to prepare as if we are going to go play another game.

“Going through the motions is not going to get it. You’ve got to go out as if you are getting ready to play a game and play for a championship and try to win it. It’s as simple as that.

“If those guys buy into that we are going to be okay,” McDowell continued. “If the outcome plays in our favor we will have them ready. I promise you that. I’m not a guy that just sits back and say, `Woe is me.’ If the situation is done, we’ve got to correct.”

The Panthers currently lead Southern by one game in the SWAC West standings with a 5-3 conference record. But the 4-3 Jaguars own the tiebreaker by virtue of their 45-13 blowout win over PVAMU last month.

All Southern needs is a win Saturday and former Prairie View coach Eric Dooley will be back in the SWAC Championship Game after leading the Panthers to the conference title game last season. But a Grambling State win means Prairie View returns for a rematch with Deion Sanders’ Jackson State Tigers.

The Panthers hit the practice field Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday this week preparing to play in the SWAC Championship, hoping that their efforts weren’t for nothing.

“We’ve been in this position before and here we are again,” said McDowell, who was the Panthers’ defensive coordinator last season. “Now we just have to go out and practice the way we know how to practice. We are going to practice like we going to play a football game and win a football game and at the same time it’s all on them.”