Sept 8, 2012; Oxford, MS, USA; UTEP Miners quarterback Nick Lamaison (7) drops back to pass against the Mississippi Rebels at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-US PRESSWIRE
If the first half needed any series of plays to define it, there was no need but to look any further than the first 11 plays of the game.
After kicking off to NMSU, it didn't take long for UTEP to get their first possession of the game and their first score, too. Senior defensive back Richard Spencer intercepted sophomore quarterback Andrew Manley on the fourth play of the game, and it didn't take much longer for the Miners to capitalize on the miscue.
The run game dominated the first possession, contributing to six of the seven plays on the drive, including a one-yard touchdown run by sophomore running back Josh Bell that gave UTEP the early 6-0 lead. Sophomore kicker Steven Valadez, who stepped in for the injured Dakota Warren, had his PAT blocked. UTEP would never need to go for the 2-point conversion in the first half to make up for the kick, though.
The Miners turned to the arm of senior quarterback Nick Lamaison on the next drive as four of the seven plays were passes, contrary to their first series. Lamaison went 4-of-4 for 34 yards in that possession and found junior tight end Kevin Perry for the four-yard strike.
The Aggies would assist UTEP on the next score when Lamaison found Leslie from 32 yards out on the ensuing drive. NMSU defenders jumped offsides allowing a free play for the Miners, which Lamaison used to find Leslie for the wide-open catch in the end zone when Aggie coaches argued it was a false start, instead. The play would stand, giving UTEP a 20-0 lead.
The Miners scored their first three scores of the game on their first three drives, converting two in the red zone.
UTEP would go on to score on their fourth possession, too, their first of the second quarter. Bell would get his second score of the game with a three-yard run to put UTEP up 27-0.
The only NMSU score happened to come when Lamaison was taken out of the game and the Aggies got in UTEP territory for the first time with five minutes left in the half. Sophomore QB Andrew Manley hit sophomore WR Austin Franklin for a 37-yard touchdown pass to cut the lead to 27-7 with 3:05 left in the half.
That would also be the score at the half after the Miners failed to score in the red zone for the first time all game at the end of the half on a botched field goal attempt.
Lamaison finished the half 16-of-22 for 204 yards and two touchdowns; he went 7-of-9 for 76 yards in the first quarter. Leslie led all receivers with 108 yards on five receptions and one score.
NMSU had four punts and went 2-of-6 on third down, while UTEP went 4-of-7 and had only one punt. The Miners also dominated the time of possession, 18:29 to 11:31.