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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Tarleton State lives up to high ranking against UTPB - Odessa American: Sports

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Tarleton State lives up to high ranking against UTPB

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Posted: Saturday, September 28, 2019 11:58 pm

The coaching staff and players of the UTPB football team know that the Falcons are on the cusp of becoming a force in the Lone Star Conference.

They’ve seen the work everyone has put in, not just this season, but the past four years as the program has matured, taking its lumps on the field as part of the growth process.

With a high-speed offense clicking early in the season and a defense that has been dominant from the first kickoff, UTPB won its first two games and held a nationally-ranked opponent to a pair of touchdowns and had a chance for victory late in the game.

That’s what makes Saturday’s contest against No. 4 Tarleton State so perplexing, and disappointing, for the Falcons.

It also showed them that, even though the program has made great strides this season, there are still some steps that need to be taken to be considered among the contenders not only for the Lone Star Conference title but a national championship as well.

Texans quarterback Ben Holmes and wide receiver Zimari Manning played catch in the first quarter and Tarleton State raced out to a quick lead en route to a 49-7 whitewashing of the Falcons at Ratliff Stadium.

Holmes and Manning connected on three long touchdown passes, of 33, 77 and 74 yards, in the first 15 minutes to put Tarleton State up 21-0 and effectively seal the victory.

Manning, who had 267 receiving yards through three games, finished with 199 yards in the first quarter alone and 257 for the night as he constantly won the one-on-one battles against the Falcons’ defensive backs.

“At the end of the day, they played like the No. 4 team in the country,” UTPB head coach Justin Carrigan said. “We got our butts kicked, lost matchups.

“For us, we have to regroup and find out what we are made out of mentally and how we are going to respond to this and play the next game.”

This game saw Holmes find Manning for the 33-yard scoring strike just 1:07 into the game, long before many of the UTPB fans had settled into their seats.

A little more than three minutes later, after the duo connected for 77 yards to put the Texans ahead 14-0 just 4:37 into the game, those fans sat stunned.

Holmes and Manning weren’t finished, pairing up with 3:42 remaining in the first quarter on a 74-yard scoring play for a 21-0 lead -- a lead that made a Falcons’ comeback that much more difficult, but not impossible, in the minds of the players.

“Going into it we believed we could win,” senior linebacker Chris Hoad said. “They came in and got a couple quick strikes and it didn’t put us back on our heels as much as it just made us have to work that much harder to get out of the hole we put ourselves in.

“They’ve got good players and they had good players make good plays. When that happens, all you can do is move on to the next one; once the points are on the board there is nothing you can do about it and there’s no reason to dwell upon it.”

As the Falcons looked for ways to get back into the game, the Texans switched things up offensively and began featuring running backs Daniel McCants and Khalil Banks.

McCants entered the game averaging 11 yards per carry through three games and finished with 135 yards on 17 carries against the Falcons.

Banks carried the ball 16 times for 94 yards, but did the most damage against the UTPB defense, finding the end zone three times on runs of 10, 1 and 8 yards.

Banks’ 10-yard run gave Tarleton State a 28-0 lead just past the midway point of the second quarter and the Falcons responded with their only scoring drive of the game.

Led by quarterback Clayton Roberts, making his first collegiate start, UTPB drove 75 yards in 13 plays, with running back Adrian Walker capping things with a 6-yard touchdown run with 2:01 remaining in the first half.

In the end, it was too little, too late.

“Obviously there is a lot to be improved upon,” said Hoad, who finished with 19 tackles to tie his own single-game school record.

“When you lose a game like that, it wasn’t a good game for anybody. We have to go back and figure out what they did to beat us and what we did to beat ourselves and then work on those things and get ready for the next game.”

>> Follow Lee Scheide on Twitter at OALeeScheide

Odessa, TX

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