While it wasn't exactly the statement win that most had hope it would be, UTEP picked up a much needed win Saturday night 24-20 over a much improved Tulane squad. The win improves the Miners to 2-6 overall, and 1-3 in conference play, while Tulane falls to 1-6, and 1-2.
The Miners started fast, as they drove right down the field on the opening possession, and put up the first score of the game on a 14 yard Josh Bell run less than 4 minutes into the contest. However, they were never really able to create any separation between themselves and the Wave.
A 31 yard pass from Tulane quarterback Ryan Griffin to wide receiver Justyn Shackleford tied the game at 7 with about two minutes play in the first. The Miners went on to score two more touchdowns and a field goal on their next three drives, but the Wave answered with a touchdown and field goal of their own that made the score 24-17 heading to the locker rooms.
The only other score of the game came on a 37 yard Tulane field goal early in the 4th quarter that brought the Green Wave to within 4 at 24-20. And, while the Miners' offense was unable to waste the clock away, the defense came up with consecutive big stops to seal the win for the Miners.
The Miners finished the night with a well balanced 445 total yards that included 228 through the air, and 218 on the ground. The Green Wave totaled 440 yards, 363 of which came through the air. They were only able to manage 77 rushing yards.
Nick Lamaison, who left the game late in the 2nd quarter after aggravating a hamstring strain, passed for 157 yards and 2 touchdowns on 11-16 passing. He also had 4 rushes for 36 yards. His replacement, Carson Meger, finished the game 9 of 14 for 71 yards, and had 25 yards rushing, also on 4 carries.
L.A. Dowell and Josh Bell split the workload in the run game, as Dowell got 21 carries for 72 yards, and Bell got 10 carries for 47 yards and a score. Autrey Golden had 3 carries for 37 yards, and Nathan Jeffery had 5 carries for 4 yards before also exiting early in the game.
Tulane was led by quarterback Ryan Griffin who went 28 of 44 for 363 yards and 2 scores. Running back Orleans Darkwa had 14 carries for 61 yards, and wide receivers Justyn Shackleford and Ryan Grant each had 6 grabs for 130 and 115 yards.
Again, while this wasn't the dominant win that many fans thought we would have, we have to take into account the fact that both our starting quarterback and running back went out the game with injuries, and the Wave are much improved with Griffin and Darkwa back in the lineup. They may not be the class of the league, but they're certainly no pushover either.
The Miners should be proud of this win, and should look to build on it in the coming weeks. Up next, the Miners travel to Houston for a matchup with the Cougars who will likely be looking to avenge the 72-42 shellacking they took Thursday against SMU. That game will be next Saturday, and kickoff will be at 2:15 MT.