UTPB wins first LSC title in program history

Photo courtesy UTPB Athletics

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MIDLAND – The celebration began when the clock hit 0:00 and continued until security cleared the players, coaches, families, friends, and media from the field following a 42-14 win for UTPB over Central Washington at Astound Broadband Stadium. 

The Falcons secured the program’s first Lone Star Conference title and are almost assured of hosting an NCAA Division II playoff game next week when the bracket is revealed at 5 p.m. Sunday. 

Many will remember the UTPB offense exploding for 28 points and the defense holding CWU to 73 total yards in the second half to secure the title. But the celebration on Saturday might not have happened if not for the Falcons only loss of the season and an overtime win two weeks later.

UTPB entered its Week 2 contest at Western Colorado fresh off a season-opening 96-0 win that drew attention across the college football landscape. The Mountaineers were the more physical team and held a 35-20 lead with 13:45 remaining in the fourth quarter.

The Falcons mounted a furious comeback and saw their final drive end at the WCU nine-yard line with no time remaining in a 35-27 defeat.

“That fourth quarter was definitely a turning point for us,” UTPB senior linebacker Hayden Kelly said. “We were down big in the first half, and the way we fought back was when I knew we had something special.”

“I didn’t see one head down in the fourth quarter (against WCU). Everyone was cheering for each other on the sideline,” UTPB senior quarterback Kenny Hrncir said. “The offense was picking up the defense, and the defense was picking up the offense.”

Two weeks later provided the Falcons another galvanizing moment, trailing West Texas A&M 34-10 at home with 16 seconds remaining in the third quarter. Once again, UTPB mounted a comeback and tied the game with 15 seconds remaining on Hrncir’s one-yard touchdown run. 

The Falcons offense scored first in overtime, and the defense secured the victory by stopping the Buffs two-point conversion attempt in a 41-40 victory.

“After the fight we showed to come back and make it close against Western Colorado and then come back and win against WT in overtime, that’s when I started believing we had something special brewing,” UTPB head coach Kris McCullough said. “I’m so proud of these guys. They played their asses off all year.”

“I think we all started to believe after we won that game against West Texas after being down 14 late in the third quarter,” Hrncir said.

If UTPB makes a run in the playoffs, the second half against CWU might serve as another moment the players and coaches remember. 

“You don’t see people on this team quit,” Hrncir said. “I knew we were going to play hard for three quarters today, and we knew Central Washington would too. But we stuck with it today, and it’s great to play with a bunch of guys that don’t quit on you.”

“We were hurting ourselves today with turnovers and penalties on offense and defense,” Kelly added. “At halftime, we knew if we cleaned up our mistakes, we would dominate the second half.”

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