2023 DCTF Magazine Team Preview: Prairie View A&M Panthers

Photo by Brandon McAuliffe

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Prairie View A&M head coach Bubba McDowell knows a thing or two about heartbreaking losses on the gridiron. He was a safety for the Houston Oilers squad that held a 28-3 halftime lead against the Buffalo Bills in the 1992 AFC Wild Card. The Bills scored 28 points in the third quarter and defeated the Oilers 41-38 in an overtime contest now known as “The Comeback.”

McDowell also recalls a few comeback losses when he played collegiately for the Miami Hurricanes. Those experiences as a player were helpful when the first-year head coach’s team entered the final game of the 2022 season needing a win over 1-9 Mississippi Valley State. 

The Panthers held a 7-0 advantage at the half before disaster struck. MVSU took advantage of three PVAMU turnovers to score 27 unanswered points in the second half in a 27-7 victory that ended the Panthers season.

“I’ve talked to these young men about how to bounce back from a tough loss like that and learn to finish a game,” McDowell said. “I know what they were feeling at the end of that game because I’ve been a part of teams that were victims to big comebacks. Leave it in the past and move on because the nucleus of our roster is coming back, and we’ve added some guys to help. It’s time for this team to reach the SWAC championship.”

The loss to MVSU isn’t the only thing the Panthers can use as motivation heading into the 2023 season. PVAMU was shut out of the Southwestern Athletic Conference postseason awards despite tying for the West Division title. 

McDowell understands what it takes to win. He was part of a national champion in college with Miami. As a coach, McDowell wants his players to respond to the disrespect with the same attitude as the 1987 Hurricanes that featured Michael Irvin at wide receiver.

“If something like that had happened at Miami with the type of guys we had back then, they would’ve taken it personally and dominated the next year,” McDowell said. “That’s where we need to be as a group, and we have a roster that can dominate.We should have a chip on our shoulder. We were picked to finish second from the bottom in our division last year. We didn’t finish the season as we should’ve, but we have the talent to get the job done.”

The Panthers have a roster capable of dominating the SWAC this season but will need to exhibit more consistency to reach their full potential.

“We need to figure out what we need to do to play four quarters of football,” McDowell said. “We only had one game where we played the whole game, and that was a big win over Lamar.It’s also on me as a head coach to instill in our coaches the mentality needed to get these guys past that threshold to where they play every game at the same level as the Lamar game.”

The Panthers had a chance to show a new focus on consistency to their head coach while he was out of town for a couple of practices during the spring. The result wasn’t what McDowell wanted to see from his players, with what was described as their worst practice of the spring followed by a great practice the next day.

“I told the guys at our 5:30 meeting that next Monday morning that this isn’t how you win championships,” McDowell said. “I talk to them all the time about developing good habits. Right now, we continue to develop bad habits, and that’s why we lose in games that we should win.”

PVAMU is loaded with talent and experience at nearly every position group heading into Fall camp. However, McDowell mentioned that the Panthers would be looking to add defensive backs with the desire and ability to play man-to-man defense.

“I need my defensive backs to help set the attitude of the defense,” McDowell said. “It’s a mentality, and we’re looking to add guys that have that mentality to the roster during the summer.”

If the Panthers find the mentality and consistency McDowell seeks, they will be a favorite to win the SWAC West. Expecting anything less will only add more inspiration and make them more dangerous.



Prairie View A&M led at halftime in three of its five losses last year, which is why Bubba McDowell has spent the offseason trying to get his team to play consistently well for four quarters every week. The offense will be solid with Trazon Connley returning and the addition of running back Caleb Johnson, who transferred from Mississippi Valley State.

The defense will be solid, led by a versatile corps of linebackers that allows the Panthers to switch between a 3-4 and 4-3 scheme on every down. The Panthers have all the talent they need to compete. The question truly is whether PVAMU will play consistently enough to finish games, which is something they’ve yet to prove.

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