The Miners went into Fort Collins on Saturday looking to even out their record after a 1-2 start. It wasn't meant to be. Colorado State outscored the Miners 28-7 in the first half, and eventually put the Miners away 59-42.
The Rams started the day off with a quick 5 play, 65 yard drive that last all of a minute and forty-one seconds. Quarterback Garret Grayson capped off the drive with a 22 yard strike to Kivon Cartwright for the opening score.
UTEP responded on its first possession, moving methodically down the field in 14 plays and 6:49 to knot the score at seven. That drive was finished by a two yard completion from Jameill Showers to freshman fullback Darrin Laufasa on a 3rd and goal from the two.
That was however, the lone bright spot for the Miners in the first half. The UTEP defense forced a Colorado State punt on the ensuing drive, but the Miner offense could do nothing with the next four possessions, punting on each of them, while totaling just 55 yards.
The Rams on the other hand, used each of their next three possessions to go 56 yards, 71 yards, and 55 yards, with no drive lasting longer than 3:17. Each of those drives ended with touchdown passes, and the Miners found themselves in a 28-7 hold heading into the locker rooms.
However, they would respond at the start of the third quarter. On their first play from scrimmage in the second half, Showers dialed up a deep ball to Jordan Leslie for a 75 yard touchdown score.
The UTEP defense chipped in, coming up with a forced fumble on the Rams next drive, and giving the offense the ball back with great field position. And, the offense capitalized, once again on the deep ball to Jordan Leslie, and just like that it was 28-21.
The defense once again did their part on the next CSU possession, forcing a punt after giving up just five yards. The Miners would once again take advantage of a suspect secondary, this time hitting Ian Hamilton on a crossing route. Hamilton eluded a couple defenders and took it 48 yards to the house.
With the score tied at 28, and still better than eight minutes left in the third, the Miners were back in the ballgame. However, much like things went after the Miners tied the score at seven, Colorado State would once again run away with it; this time for good.
Colorado State missed a field goal on their next possession, the first of the year for kicker Jared Roberts, but the Rams defense would respond. They pushed the Miner offense backwards on their next possession, eventually all the way to endzone on a sack fumble that resulted in a safety.
The Rams would then score touchdowns on their next four possessions, and although the Miners would pick up a couple garbage time scores of their own, it was too little too late. In the end, the Rams walked away with the 59-42 victory.
Jameill Showers led the way for the Miner offense, passing for 365 yards and five touchdowns on 26 of 43 passing. Aaron Jones was the Miners' leading rusher once again, going for 93 yards on 24 carries, but did have a fumble late in that third quarter.
Jordan Leslie had a solid outing, going for 130 yards and two touchdowns on just three grabs. Ian Hamilton also had a nice day, hauling in three balls for 60 yards and score, but it was tight end Eric Tomlinson who was the real bright spot in the Miners pass game.
After not seeing much from the UTEP tight ends in the opening weeks, Tomlinson reeled in 8 catches for 75 yards and a touchdown on the day. Hopefully we'll see much more of that moving forward.
For the Rams, quarterback Garrett Grayson went 17 of 28 for 307 yards and three touchdowns, while holder Joe Hansley also got in on the action, passing for a 34 yard touchdown on a fake field goal late in the second quarter.
The loss is an extremely tough one to take for the Miners as they simply have not figured out how to put a complete ballgame together. There were certainly flashes of excellence on both sides of the ball, but clearly there are things that just need to be straightened out.
When the Miners had their run going, the defense responded well, and contributed to the team coming all the way back to tie the game. However, allowing 59 points against a middle of the road Mountain West team is just completely unacceptable.
Offensively, the Miners have plenty of weapons to be successful, but they just cannot disappear for extended periods of time as we saw today. In all reality, we saw the offense play well on the first drive, for about five minutes in the third quarter, and perhaps for the last five minutes of the game, if you want to consider that.
All that said, the Miners just need to get back to work, and figure out how to get better in all aspects of the game. They'll return this week to take on a struggling La Tech team. This is truly a prime opportunity to get back on track, pick up a conference win, and gain some momentum moving forward. We'll see if they can do it.