For the third time this year, the Miners have played tough against a BCS school, and for the third time this year mistakes and poor play calling cost them the chance to pick up a huge win. After making a push to get the score back to within 23-19, a well rested UTEP defense allowed Wisconsin to drive down the field for a touchdown that put the game away.
The worst news from all of this; UTEP lost star safety Richard Spencer to injury in the 3rd quarter. The extent of the injury is still not known, but seeing him unable to put any pressure on his leg puts serious doubt into whether or not he'll be able to make a quick return to the lineup. The loss of Richard Spencer for the Miners, is exactly what they needed to stay away from in the non-conference run.
Personally, I am extremely disappointed in the outcome of this game. Sure the Miners made it exciting, by pulling it to within four with 8 minutes left in the 4th. But, for almost three full quarters the play calling was horrendous, and the defense was completely unable to pick up a stop.
The Miners came out, and jumped out to a quick 6-0 lead after having one solid offensive drive and a couple solid defensive stands. But, how is it that a blocked extra point returned for a score can have such a momentum shift in this game??
After that play, Wisconsin ran up and down the field at will, Joel Stave had unlimited time to throw the ball, and defenders fell down multiple times to give Wisconsin receivers a walk in to the end zone.
The Miners were finally able to get moving again midway through the 3rd quarter, but the offensive play calling was safe, and not once did they take a chance down the field. Granted, the safe play was working, but at some point you have to realize you don't win, on the road, against a Big 10 opponent in the top 25 by playing it safe.
This Wisconsin defense has been known to give up the big play through the first three weeks of the season, but not once between the first scoring drive, and the last scoring drive did the Miners even attempt to take advantage of their weakness. Funny thing is, both of the chances they did take resulted in touchdowns.
Over and over the Miners shot themselves in the foot with bonehead mistakes, penalties, turnovers, and poor play calling. Even after getting themselves back in the game, they put themselves right back in a hole. Its extremely disappointing to see the endless possibilities with this team, only for it all to be thrown away.
This coming week we'll have to travel to the most hostile venue in Conference USA. If we aren't able to get things straightened out, or able to play 4 full quarters, the outcome will not be much different than this one. This Miners' team is so much better than what their record shows, but unfortunately their record is all that matters.