Those loud cheers you may have heard in Houston last Saturday were from the Prairie View A&M fans going wild at Darrell Tully Stadium. And they had every right to be excited.
They saw Panther running back Arnell Fontenot put on a major performance. Fontenot, a 5-foot-10, 195-pound junior, scored two touchdowns to lead Prairie View A&M to a huge 26-23 overtime upset against Southern.
He tied the game with a 3-yard run with 18 seconds remaining in regulation and then scored the gamewinner on a 14-yard run in overtime. It was Prairie View A&M's first victory over Southern since 1988.
"He's our leader," said Henry Frazier, Prairie View A&M head coach. "Stats don't indicate how valuable he was to our football team. We had a lot of guys who rushed the ball for over 50 yards, but Southern knew he was our guy. They keyed on him. He caught some passes. He protected the quarterback. Of course, he scored those last two touchdowns in overtime and to tie it up. He's an outstanding football player."
The Panthers got 251 yards on the ground, led by Kerry Wilson's 76 yards and one TD. Fontenot finished with 70 yards on 22 carries. On the defensive side, end Jermaine McGhee had 10 tackles (six solo) and two sacks.
"The kids never quit," Frazier said. "They kept on playing hard. Good things happen when you keep working. I was extremely proud of the effort to hold them to 211 yards total offense. Defense played extremely well. This was big for our university and our program. We're excited about winning that ball game. But that game was last week."
Frazier is trying to keep it real. Southern has one of the best football teams in the Southwestern Athletic Conference every year. The Jaguars (2-1, 1-1 in SWAC) are still recognized as one of the SWAC's top teams.
However, Prairie View A&M doesn't have the pedigree of Southern. This is Frazier's second year at the helm. He's trying to establish a solid foundation. A year ago, Prairie View A&M missed having a winning record (5-6) with a late season loss to Alabama State.
The Panthers (2-1, 1-1) have a 17-14 loss to arch rival Texas Southern. Prairie View A&M picked up a NAIA victory over Edward Waters College before surprising Southern. Prairie View A&M will host Langston University, another NAIA program, on Saturday. The Panthers could be 3-1 overall heading into a battle with Grambling State on Sept. 30 in Dallas for the State Fair Classic. It's just that Frazier doesn't want his players looking past Langston.
"We've moved on," Frazier said. "Everybody else wants to talk about it. We have to stay focused on playing Langston. Fans should savor the moment. Southern has a great team. It was a big game for us. But if you want to be a champion you have to look to the next week. Like I said, we've moved on."
• After the departure of four-year starter Rashard Pompey, who finished his career at Florida A&M as the No. 2 career rusher, the responsibility of "carrying" the Rattlers back to national prominence has fallen onto the shoulder of perhaps the next version of "Thunder and Lightning" -- halfback Joe Lawson and fullback Anthony Edwards.
Edwards, a 5-11, 212-pound junior, has the tools and build to become the consummate power back. So far, he has 56 carries for 221 yards and four touchdowns. Lawson, a converted wide receiver, is a 5-9, 165-pound junior, who has good quickness and a great burst of speed. He started in the opener against Delaware State and rushed for 38 yards on nine carries, with a long run of 16 yards.
• Wide receiver Tony Leath has been added to North Carolina A&T's roster. The Marshall transfer will help the Aggies in the kick return game and as the season progresses will look to have an impact on the Aggies' offense with his speed.
Leath was a track star in the 100 meters in high school. He won the state title in the 100 meters in 2002 as a senior at Eastern Guilford (N.C.) by running a 10.88.
• Getting away from the normal practice of selecting team captains, Hampton has instead implemented a Leadership Committee for the third straight season. The committee of 10 is charged with acting as spokesmen for the team and handling situations related to team policies, academic affairs and other topics.
The members of the committee are Calvin Bannister, quarterback; Alden Blizzard, defensive end; Vernon Bryant, defensive tackle; Marcus Dixon, defensive end; Justin Durant, linebacker; Curtis Lewis, fullback; Jermaine Mallory, strong safety; Nevin McCaskill, offensive tackle; Marquay McDaniel, wide receiver; and Princeton Shepherd, quarterback.
• Speaking of quarterbacks, Bethune-Cookman has been using two signal callers this season. With the split tandem of Jimmy Russell and Jarod Rucker, the defenses trying to stop the vaunted "Whyattbone" offense now have to focus on two quarterbacks with different styles and approaches to the option attack. Together, Russell and Rucker are passing and running over defenses. The team refers to them as "R&R Construction."
In fact, Rucker was named the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Week. He led Bethune-Cookman to a 45-21 victory over South Carolina State. He completed 22-of-27 passes for a career-high 367 yards and 5 TD passes.
Rucker's teammate Bobbie Williams was named MEAC Defensive Player of the Week. Williams, a free safety, had two interceptions and a team-high eight tackles.
• Timothy Turner, Arkansas-Pine Bluff linebacker, was named Southwestern Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Week. Turner had 13 total tackles (10 solo) along with 2.5 tackles for loss as UAPB lost to Alabama State, 3-13.
• Larry Kerlegan, Grambling State junior quarterback, had a noteworthy performance in a losing effort to Division I-A Houston. In his first collegiate start, Kerlegan threw for 248 yards on 18-of-23 passing with two touchdowns and no interceptions. He also had 20 carries for 88 yards. But the Cougars defeated the Tigers, 42-32.
Donald Hunt is a columnist for The Philadelphia Tribune.