Prairie View has new coach, new plan
PRAIRIE VIEW, Texas (AP) _ Prairie View A&M football players don’t talk about the one subject that everybody else brings.
The Panthers haven’t won a game since Oct. 31, 1989 when they beat Mississippi Valley St. 21-12. The next game started a string of 68 straight losses _ the longest losing streak in college football.
But don’t expect that to come up in casual chats with the players or new coach Greg Johnson, who rebuilt a tattered Langston University program and now expects to do the same with the Panthers.
``I have no need to talk about what it takes to lose,″ Johnson said. ``All I want to talk about is what it takes to win. When I met with the team the first time, I told them it would be the first and last time I’d mention 0-68.
``I told them it means nothing to me. I had nothing to do with that. I’m concentrating on the present. The past is dead and everything that’s dead should be buried.″
Previous coaches couldn’t stop the losing. Johnson, armed with 15 scholarships, a new coaching staff and a woefully inexperienced group of players, says he can.
The question he most often gets is, why try?
``I guess you could say I’m very competitive,″ Johnson said. ``We’re always looking for the ultimate adrenalin rush. I’d done all I could do at Langston so it was time to seek a new adventure, a new thrill.″
Johnson will try to get his adrenalin rush with a squad that includes only five seniors and several incoming freshmen who will have to contribute immediately.
Johnson took the job in February, too late to do much in recruiting. And because the previous coaching staff was still under contract, Johnson couldn’t hire his staff until recently.
For spring drills Johnson said he ``invited some guys to help me out for a couple of weeks.″
Johnson has sophomore quarterback Josh Barnes will quickly grasp the new multiple offense. He’ll have returning receivers in Chris Allen, Jarrel Moore and Roy Moses, but Johnson isn’t sure what to expect.
``I don’t know if we’ll be good running or throwing,″ Johnson said. ``We have some talent but it’s inexperienced. Freshmen will do what freshmen do and we have sophomore who should be a little better this year.″
The defense is headed by junior defensive back Michael Patterson, a preseason All-Southwestern Athletic Conference pick.
``The first year I played a lot and were went 0-11,″ Patterson said. ``Then we got coach (Henley) Sapenter and everyone thought it would turn around and then it was 0-22.
``So this year we have a new coach and so I’m expecting to win. I believe we’re going to win every game until the final gun shoots off.″
Johnson left Langston with a 35-30 record as head coach. When he took over at Langston, the school hadn’t had a winning record in 20 seasons.
He’ll face an even tougher job at Prairie View. The Panthers have only been losing since 1991 but nobody has done it more consistently. Prairie View opponents have had several close calls over the years but the losing has continued.
Even the elements conspired against the Panthers. In 1992, they were leading Southern 7-0 until rain and tornadoes delayed the game one hour. When play resumed, the Panthers lost 12-7.
In 1995, Prairie View out-rushed Alcorn 143-109 and held them scoreless in the second half but lost 13-2.
Johnson hopes his scholarship allotment will eventually expand into a full complement.
``Right now, we’re fighting a bear with a short stick,″ Johnson said. ``It’s not apples to apples. They’ve (administration) told us to make do with what he have for now and if we improve, they’ll improve along with us.″
The Panthers open the season Saturday in the Astrodome against Texas Southern, then play their first home game Sept. 13 against Langston, Johnson’s old school.
``That game isn’t business anymore,″ Johnson said. ``It’s personal.″