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COLLEGE NOTEBOOK: Falcons continue to take steps forward - Odessa American: Sports

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COLLEGE NOTEBOOK: Falcons continue to take steps forward

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Posted: Monday, March 15, 2021 3:56 pm

UTPB head football coach Justin Carrigan is taking a lot of pride in watching his team grow over the first three games of the spring season.

The Falcons took another step with their 31-6 victory against Western New Mexico on Saturday.

The defense led the way for UTPB, holding the Mustangs to 199 yards of total offense, forcing three turnovers and getting another defensive score in the final quarter to seal the victory.

That strong effort stood out in Carrigan’s mind and he shared that in a virtual press conference Monday.

“Our guys have done a tremendous job of buying into that and making it a team effort,” Carrigan said. “It’s been exciting to watch and fun to be a part of.”

The special teams unit also was involved, taking a blocked extra point and returning it for two points. But one of the key moments of that game came right before halftime with the Falcons leading 19-6.

After UTPB turned the ball over in the red zone, the Falcons took advantage of pinning the Mustangs deep in their own territory and earned a safety after Western New Mexico was called for a penalty in the end zone on the final play of the first half.

Carrigan said that he took a timeout before the final play to set up a blitz and try to make something happen.

“A lot of the players appreciated the fact that we called the timeout just for that and not let the clock run out going into halftime,” he said. “I think the players fed off the aggressiveness of trying to force a play and our defense made a great play.”

One of the breakout stars for the Falcons continues to be senior defensive back D’Ondre Robinson, who picked off two more passes and returned one for a score in the fourth quarter to seal the game.

Carrigan had previously spoken on how he’s been “a heartbeat for the program” and how his teammates feed off to that in a comparison to NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre in terms of his personality on and off the field.

“D’Ondre is a lot like that and if you just watch him, you can see his play speak for itself,” Carrigan said. “As you get a little closer to him, you can hear a lot of silliness going on and he has fun. He enjoys it and makes it good for all of us.”

The Falcons play their final road game of the spring season at Texas A&M-Kingsville at 1 p.m. Saturday.

The UTPB volleyball team is back in the postseason for the third straight season after sweeping a series at Lubbock Christian last week in a win-and-in scenario. The Falcons will play St. Edward’s in the opening round of the Lone Star Conference tournament next Tuesday in Fort Smith, Ark.

Arkansas Fort Smith won the North Division title and will be the tournament host.

Head coach Tim Loesch said his team has taken great strides over the course of the spring season.

“The team worked very hard to get here,” Loesch said. “It was tough winning a couple of matches on the road with the playoffs on the line. We’re really proud of them for their hard work and for playing their best at the end of the season.”

Loesch is also confident that the Falcons can put together a strong run and attributes to that to the difficult schedule. He said that 10 of the 13 matches that UTPB played in the spring were against teams either ranked or receiving votes.

“It’s a real tribute to the players,” he said. “Even after a slow start playing against good teams, they continued to improve and even though we might not have beat those top teams, we were right there with them. Our team motto has been about being resilient and they really showed that.”

The UTPB men’s soccer team is looking to build off its strong start to the season. Its 3-2 victory at Dallas Baptist last week propelled the Falcons into a tie for second place at 3-1-1 overall and 2-1-1 in the Lone Star Conference at the midway point of the season.

Head coach Dennis Peterson credited his team’s solid play on consistency and finding an identity that suits the players well.

“I think the biggest thing is that we’ve kind of have decided that the best thing for us is to use really high pressure with the formation that we run,” Peterson said. “We want them to play the ball on, we want them to be direct because we feel that our center backs and outside backs can win those balls.”

The Falcons will have an opportunity to continue their hot start when they host first-place West Texas A&M at 5 p.m. Tuesday at the UTPB Soccer Field.

The goal remains to finish in the top four to make the conference tournament and Peterson knows that the path to get there will not be an easy one.

“We’ve still got four pretty tough games,” Peterson said. “But I think if we win two of the last four we can get in the playoffs for sure. I think anybody can beat anybody on any given day in this conference.”

Odessa, TX

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