COLLEGE NOTEBOOK: UTPB faces Texas A&M-Kingsville at Ratliff Stadium

The last time Texas A&M-Kingsville lost a football game, UTPB’s Kris McCullough was standing on the opposite side of the field, wearing orange and black.

Just not UTPB orange and black as the Falcons’ first-year head coach was still at East Central University at the time.

That game was the Heritage Bowl back on Dec. 3, 2022 when the Tigers defeated the Javelinas 38-21, shortly before McCullough was named the second head coach of the UTPB football program.

Fast forward nine months later and McCullough is eager to once again face Texas A&M-Kingsville, which enters this week’s Lone Star Conference contest at 3-0 overall, 1-0 in conference in a game that’s scheduled for 6 p.m. Saturday at Ratliff Stadium.

The Javelinas are currently ranked No. 16 in the country.

“This is a battle,” McCullough said. “This is a top-25 team with one of the best defenses in the country. They have weapons all over the place. They’re dangerous. When I took this job, this game was circled on my calendar. I guarantee you that when I took this job, it was circled on the players and staff’s calendars as well. It’s going to be a good-old fashion dog fight and I can’t wait to play on Saturday.”

UTPB (3-1, 1-0) is coming off a 41-40 overtime victory over West Texas A&M this past Saturday at Astound Broadband Stadium in Midland.

It was the Falcons’ second win over the Buffaloes in program history.

But it didn’t come easy as UTPB had to erase a 14-point second half deficit and score 31 points in the fourth quarter alone just to force overtime.

“Welcome to the show,” McCullough said. “You never know what you’re going to get. One week we score over 90 points and then the next week, we got off to a slow start. Then we score over 80 and then have to fight back. You never know what’s going to happen. I’m so proud of our guys. We started off slow and got down. You could feel the momentum get taken out of us. But for us to continue to fight back was great. When you score that many points in the fourth quarter just to get to overtime, you have a special offense.”

>> OVERTIME: The Falcons struck first in overtime, scoring on a 1-yard run by quarterback Kenny Hrncrir and Rafael Vargas’ PAT made it 41-34.

After the Buffs responded with a 5-yard touchdown pass from former Wink standout Kanon Gibson to Kenneath Redd, the two-point conversion to try and win the game fell incomplete.

McCullough doesn’t blame West Texas A&M head coach Josh Lynn for trying the two-point conversion.

“The play of the night happened in overtime,” McCullough said. “If I was Josh Lynn, I would’ve gone for it too. Our defense made a great play and the defense tips the ball and that’s the ball game. It was a heck of a win. That’s the type of games you have in the Lone Star Conference. That’s why I took this job; to have battles like that.”

>> GIBSON: The true-freshman and recent Wink graduate continued to impress, despite West Texas A&M’s loss.

Gibson went 23-of-26 for 197 yards and three touchdowns while also rushing for 123 yards from 14 carries and found the end zone on the ground.

West Texas A&M fell to 3-2, 1-1.

>> SECOND HALF MESSAGE: The message McCullough gave his players at the half was short and to the point.

“Just to really get our foot out of our hineys,” McCullough said. “We’re a better football team than being down 14-3 at halftime. The defense played lights out in the first half. There’s no doubt. They only gave up one drive. The other touchdown came on special teams. We only four possessions in the first half and we’re not used to having the ball much. West Texas A&M had a great game plan. But I told the players that nothing changes and that we had the best offense the country. I told them we could get five more possessions in the second half and we ended up getting eight. I told them that if we scored on four possessions, we’ll win and we ended up scoring on all but two. I’m proud of the way those guys fought.”