COLLEGE FOOTBALL: UTPB runs winning streak to eight with home victory

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Quarterback Clayton Roberts was 23-of-32 passing for 281 yards and a school-record six touchdowns as the Falcons got another monkey off their back with a 42-31 victory against West Texas A&M in the Lone Star Conference opener for both teams Saturday at Ratliff Stadium.

UTPB improved to 2-0 on the season, 1-0 in conference and defeated the Buffaloes (1-1, 0-1) for the first time in five tries.

The Falcons extended their winning streak to eight games as they returned to Ratliff Stadium for the first time since November, 2019. UTPB played its entire Spring schedule at Grande Communications Stadium in Midland due to COVID-19 restrictions.

MJ Link and Jordan Smart were Roberts top targets on the night, turning several short passes into long gains or touchdowns.

“I thought we started off well, to go back and forth with big plays and touchdowns,” UTPB head coach Justin Carrigan said. “At the end of the first half, to hold them to a field goal was kind of the start of a momentum shift and then come out in the second half, drive down the field and score quickly, I think that’s what kind of set us apart and get the wheels in motion.

“Clayton managed the game unbelievably well. Our game plan was to just take what they give us, we weren’t really looking for a lot of big plays, but our playmakers made big plays.”

Link finished with eight receptions for 140 yards and two touchdowns, including a 53-yard score in the first quarter in which he caught a pass from Roberts while moving toward the center of the field from the right side.

With two Buffs’ defenders converging, Link planted his left foot and stopped, quickly reversing direction to run to the right, around the defenders and down the sideline to complete the scoring play.

Smart finished with six receptions for 75 yards and two scores, which came on back-to-back drives in the third quarter to push the UTPB lead to 25 points (42-17) with 2:43 remaining in the quarter.

“We’ve got a lot of guys like that and to see it actually happen is positive for everyone,” Roberts said of the yards after catch gained by the Falcons receivers on the night.

“This was a team we’ve wanted to beat for a while. This was a long-awaited matchup.”

Tight end Matt Zubiate caught the Falcons’ first touchdown pass of the night and running back Nate Tilford also had a scoring reception, along with rushing for 76 yards on 14 carries.

West Texas A&M was led by quarterback Nick Gerber, who completed 25 of 39 passes fof 261 yards and two touchdown. Running back Khalil Harris finished with 94 yards on 21 carries and was difficult to bring to the ground all night.

>> Follow Lee Scheide on Twitter at @OALeeScheide