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Sun Bowl Smash: The UTEP Miners Grind Out a Win against the Memphis Tigers

This was exactly the kind of game that last year's team would have found a way to lose.  

If the UTEP Miners still ran Osia Lewis's 3-3-5 defensive scheme, last night probably would have turned out differently.For the first time in a long time, credit for a win lies squarely with UTEP's defense. The defense faced bad field position the entire night, but time and time again the Miners found a way to stop a physical Memphis offense.

Oh, and Dakota Warren helped out a bit too.   On a night when UTEP's offense couldn't punch anything into the end zone, Warren booted three field goals, including the game winner as time expired and two of over 50 yards, that were the difference between an ugly win and an even uglier loss.

When the chips were down late in the fourth quarter, last years team would have rolled over.  Last year's team would have shot themselves in the foot.  This time, Jamie Irving & Co. stopped a Memphis drive that took the ball to UTEP territory with under four minutes to play.  Memphis, having held UTEP to under 200 yards of total offense up to that point punted and pinned the Miners down on the 2 yard line.

Then, the offense finally woke up.  And, we got a taste of what UTEP's offense could look like now that Donald Buckram is back on the field.  Vittatoe, Buckram, Kris Adams, and newcomer and serious weapon Joe Banyard, marched the Miners 95 yards in just over 2 minutes.  

  • Donald Buckram, rush for zero yards.
  • TV hits Elijah Goldtrap for 10.
  • Buckram rush for 11 yards.
  • Buckram rush for 6 yards 
  • Vittatoe to Buckram for 3 yards (huge first down on 3rd and 1)
  • Buckram rush for 8 yards.
  • Trevor Vittatoe pass to Kris Adams for 30 to the Memphis 28.  
  • Joe Banyard rush for 8 yards to the Memphis 20.
  • Joe Banyard rush for 18 yards to the Memphis 2 with 35 seconds on the clock.

Before that drive, the Miner offense has mustered only 193 total yards of offense.  Then, the Miner offense rolled 95 yards in 98 seconds.  The Miners, despite the momentum, again failed to punch the ball into the end zone, but luckily, a field goal was all they needed.

Buckram finished with 13 carries for 59 yards and caught 3 passes for 15 more.  On UTEP's final drive he pitched in 28 yards, Kris Adams had 30, and Joe Banyard rushed for 26 more.  It was a total team effort, and as Donald gets his feet back under him, Banyard has proven to be a reliable threat with a nice combination of power and speed.  He finished with 45 yards on nine carries and scored UTEP's only offensive touchdown, a 6 yard run late in the third quarter.

Mike Price said "It was a great team victory.  It was a great character builder for the guys. It was a tough game but we got mentally tough as the game went on.  The more adversity we had the better we did and that's what I want to dwell on.  The defense made big plays and the offense when it came down to it, on the 2 yard line take it 94 yards to the other end.  It was quite a deal."

Yes, it was.  For the first time in a long time, UTEP faced adversity late in a game and found a way to win.   


More Rush?  Post Game Awards Will be Posted Monday in a new feature.