Four Downs: UTPB, ACU, McMurry earn program-changing wins. What’s happening at QB for UIW?

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It was a massive week for UTPB, ACU, and McMurry, with each earning a victory that could set their program on a new course while we seek answers for what’s happening with UIW quarterbacks following a narrow win over a winless McNeese.

First Down: Falcons clear path to LSC title

UTPB took a significant step towards earning its first official Lone Star Conference title and has guaranteed its first winning season in program history with a 28-23 win at Angelo State. As discussed in the Game of the Week story, third-down conversions played a major role in determining the winner.

Angelo State made plays on special teams and converted two of its three third-down attempts to take a 20-14 lead at the half. However, the Rams struggled to convert on third down in the second half (3-of-8), and the Falcons took advantage. The Rams are unlikely to secure their third consecutive playoff berth with three losses this season.

The Falcons victory is another feather in the cap for first-year head coach Kris McCullough. UTPB has cleared its path to secure the LSC title with two of its final three games at home, including hosting Central Washington in a game that could determine the outright champion to end the regular season if UTPB remains focused the next two weeks.

Second Down: ACU breaks close game curse

Abilene Christian coach Keith Patterson wasn’t about to let another close game slip away against Stephen F. Austin in Nacogdoches. The Wildcats lost by a field goal three times last season, including twice to the Lumberjacks. ACU suffered another close loss at home to UIW earlier this season. 

ACU faced a fourth and one at the ‘Jacks 12-yard line in a tie game with just over seven minutes left in regulation. Patterson wasn’t settling for a field goal, and Rovaughn Banks Jr. converted the fourth down with a two-yard run. The Wildcats scored the game-winning touchdown on the next play.

For SFA, it was the ‘Jacks third consecutive loss, and it appeared that head coach Colby Carthel isn’t fully confident in his defense. ACU was called for offensive pass interference at the SFA 22-yard line on a third down play. Carthel declined the penalty instead of pushing the Wildcats back to the 38-yard line for a third and 22. ACU kicker Kyle Ramsey converted the 40-yard field goal attempt to give the Wildcats a 13-10 lead.

Carthel faced another decision in the fourth quarter, down seven points and facing a fourth and eight from SFA’s 46-yard line. Carthel left the offense on the field instead of trying to pin ACU deep with just over three and a half minutes left and the Lumberjacks possessing two timeouts.

Third Down: McMurry earns program-changing victory

McMurry has been tantalizingly close to earning that victory that would announce to the country that the War Hawks are headed in the right direction this season. The War Hawks scored 24 points in the final 17:05 to defeat Howard Payne 45-21 and earn that signature victory for coach Jordan Neal.

The War Hawks have won three games in a season for the first time since 2016. McMurry’s schedule appears easier down the stretch with games against Austin College, Texas Lutheran, and a beat-up Sul Ross State squad remaining in the season. At minimum, the War Hawks have announced themselves as a threat to contend for the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference next season.

Fourth Down: QB controversy or injury concerns at UIW?

It was a surprise when Ryan Stubblefield took the field as the starting quarterback for UIW against McNeese Saturday night. Some thought that former Texas A&M signal-caller Zach Calzada had lost his starting position after a three interception performance against Texas A&M-Commerce last week.

Instead, Cardinals coach Clint Killough chose to rely on his depth against the Cowboys, with Calzada suffering an injury against the Lions. Calzada was in on the tackle following his third interception last week. While nothing was apparent then, Calzada led with his shoulder and seemed in pain heading to the sideline.

Calzada returned for UIW’s next offensive possession but only handed the ball off. Richard Torres replaced Calzada for the Cardinals final drive of the night. Torres saw action against McNeese Saturday and led UIW to 21 points in the second half to keep the Cardinals undefeated against FCS competition with a 28-24 win. Calzada’s status will undoubtedly be a topic of discussion this week.

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