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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Falcons prevailing in key moments early in the season - Odessa American: Sports

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Falcons prevailing in key moments early in the season

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Posted: Sunday, September 15, 2019 7:45 pm

MIDLAND Looking at the final score of UTPB’s 40-24 victory against Northern Michigan Saturday at Grande Communications Stadium, it would be easy to surmise that the Falcons’ offense was the catalyst in the outcome.

Putting up that many points will do that and UTPB did have a strong night against the Wildcats, amassing more than 500 yards of total offense.

This game, however, turned on the Falcons’ defense and kicking game – especially in the second half – highlighted by a fourth-quarter goal-line stand that kept UTPB comfortably in front, though the final 30 minutes were far from relaxing.

After the Wildcats scored bookend touchdowns around halftime to take a one-point lead, Carrigan got the response he was looking for from the Falcons as they move the ball 73 yards in 12 plays, with freshman placekicker Hayden Decossas nailing a 25-yard field goal to put UTPB back in front, 23-21, with 6:45 remaining in the third quarter.

“For me, I was kind of anxious to see how we were going to respond,” UTPB head coach Justin Carrigan said. “In years past, I don’t know if we battle back as well as we did.

“I’m proud of our guys and the maturity and growth that they’ve shown.”

UTPB defensive back Quinn Tinley gave the Falcons the ball back two plays later with his first interception of the season. It was actually Tinley’s second pick of the game, the first one leaping, acrobatic theft that was nullified by a Falcons’ penalty.

UTPB couldn’t capitalize on the quick turnover as Northern Michigan forced a turnover on downs near midfield that frustrated Falcons’ quarterback Taylor Null.

“We left some points out there,” he said. “The defense got us a couple of turnovers and we didn’t turn them into points, which is something we need to work on.”

The defense did its job again, forcing a punt, and this time Null and the offense went to work, moving the ball down the field for the insurance touchdown, a 7-yard run by Marquis Simmons with 46 seconds remaining in the third quarter that put Falcons in front 30-21.

But the visitors refused to concede, showing they were willing to battle to the end.

UTPB’s Sergio Landeros watched as his 49-yard punt was knocked out of bounds by teammate Trent Ward at the Wildcats’ 2 to pin Northern Michigan inside the shadow of their own goalpost.

Tyshon King quickly flipped the field for the Wildcats, taking the ball over the right side and nearly outrunning everyone to the end zone.

UTPB’s Clinton Holmes saved the touchdown, bringing King to the turf after a 75-yard jaunt to the UTPB 23. Three plays later, it was first-and-goal at the Falcons’ 3 and everyone got involved.

On first down, King went into the line for two yards to the 1 before Beau Narrell and Martin Brown stopped him.

UTPB’s Kadarryus Hartfield and Chris Hoad made the stop on second down, with linebacker Keegan Gray flying over the pile to disrupt the timing of Wildcats’ quarterback Ryan Johnson.

“Chris and Keegan are the emotional leaders of the defense for sure and they do a great job of getting everyone on the same page and know exactly where they need to be,” co-defensive coordinator Jacob Martin said. “Everyone was ready down there.”

Johnson was stuffed on the next play by Tyson Carter and Dominique Varela, forcing Northern Michigan to settle for an 18-yard field goal by Daniel Riser with 9:20 to play in the game.

Those points brought the Wildcats within one score, 30-24, of the Falcons, which increased the tension along the home sideline, especially when their next drive stalled at the Northern Michigan 18 and Carrigan sent out Decossas and the field-goal unit.

No worries as Decossas calmly converted the 35-yard kick to put UTPB back up by nine points (33-24) with 5:46 to play.

“So far, he’s been ice cold,” Carrigan said of Decossas. “The couple misses that we’ve had haven’t been on him; we had an issue with hold in the first game and he had one blocked today.

“In some critical moments, he came through. Proud of him, as a true freshman, to be able to handle those moments.”

>>Follow Lee Scheide on Twitter at @OALeeScheide

Odessa, TX

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