The Miners made it a game for a while, well a half to be exact. For much of those first 30 minutes, the offense was able to move the ball, and the defense was able to make some much needed stops when necessary. They actually only trailed 6-3 heading into the locker rooms.
But, all that changed in the second half. On the opening drive of the third quarter, Tulsa faced a 4th and 1 from their own 34. Rather than punt it away, the Hurricane handed to their bruising 260 lb pound running back, Alex Singleton who gave them the first down. Tulsa continued to pound the rock the length of the field, and finally punched in a 1 yard score to go up 13-3.
After UTEP quarterback Nick Lamaison went out with a quad cramp, Carson Meger came in and provided an immediate spark, driving the Miners down the field for a first and goal. UTEP then had a total of 7 tries inside the 10 yard line (a pass interference gave them an extra set of downs), but they were unable to punch it in as Merger threw an interception on a 4th and goal from the three.
The floodgates opened from there as on the second play of the next drive, Tulsa running back Ja'Terian Douglas sprinted away for an 81 yard score that opened the game up to 19-3, after a missed extra point.
UTEP's Meger then turned the ball over once again, this time fumbling inside of Tulsa territory. On 3rd and 6 from the Miner 24, Meger dropped back to pass, and had the ball simply slip out of his hand as the rush came. Tulsa's Shawn Jackson picked up and returned that ball for the score to make it a 26-9 ball game.
The Miners and the Hurricane swapped possessions a couple more times, before Meger fired a 61 yard strike to Jordan Leslie for UTEP's only touchdown of the game. A successful two point conversion to wideout Jim Jones made the score 26-11 with 11:06 to play.
Tulsa then moved the ball 77 yards on 6 plays to get the lead right back to 22 at 33-11. The Miners had the Hurricane in a 3rd and 8 at their own 35, but a 55 yard completion to Zack Langer set up the Alex Singleton touchdown. It should be noted that Langer stepped out of bounds well short of the first down, yet no review was called for, and the play stood.
Both offenses had multiple opportunities after that drive, but neither was able to come up with any more points. The Miners did move the ball to midfield on one occasion, but a sack of Meger on 4th down gave the Hurricane the ball back. Tulsa also missed a short field goal with only about a minute to play, and the game ended 33-11.
The Miners' offense actually played much better than it had in weeks past. They amassed 407 total yards, including 376 through the air. However, as simple arithmetic will show, that means the run game only netted 31 yards, on 33 attempts.
The Hurricane managed to put up 479 total yards, including 281 on the ground. They also won the turnover battle 3 to 1, and held a slim advantage in time of possession. Tulsa also managed to convert on 8 of 17 third down attempts, while the Miners were only 3 of 14.
Carson Meger finished the day 16 of 23 for 257 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception, and 1 fumble. Josh Bell was the leading rusher with 25 yards on 9 carries, and Jordan Leslie was easily the top receiver going for 218 yards and a touchdown on 10 receptions.
The loss drops the Miners to 1-6 on the season, and 0-3 in Conference USA play. Its nice to see that the Miners were a bit better then they had been over the last couple of weeks, but its clear that the wheels have fallen off this wagon. The Miners should have some relief coming though as Tulane comes to town next week.
With 5 games to play, the Miners will need to win out to make it to a bowl game. But, all things considered, it sure looks like that will not be happening. At this point, all we can hope for is that this team can go out and be competitive on a weekly basis.