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UTEP Survives Old Dominion Second Half Rally

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Old Dominion rallied for three third quarter touchdowns, but the Miners overcame the fierce rally for their first conference win.

Tom Gonzales-MinerRush.com

UTEP used their usual physical running attack, though with some much needed wrinkles to rack up 334 yards on the ground, withstanding a disaster third quarter in picking up a much needed homecoming, and conference win Saturday night in the Sun Bowl.

Old Dominion would receive the opening kickoff but would go three and out thanks to a huge second down sack from Cooper Brock that would force a third and long, and eventual ODU punt.

UTEP would take advantage of a 19 yard punt return from Damian Payne, and in turn would drive just 47 yards in 4 plays with Josh Bell pounding it in from two yards out for evening's initial score.

Taylor Heinicke would answer with a six play 52 yard drive capped off by a 13 yard strike on a post route by Zach Pascal to tie things up at 7's with 2:03 left in the first quarter.

UTEP would score on their two next drives, including at 16 play 75 yard drive that took 9:41 to finish.

To open the nine minute drive UTEP faced a 1st and 28, but preserved though the situation thanks to great offensive line play, and some explosive runs from Nathan Jeffery who finished the drive with a one yard run for his first touchdown of the season.

Josh Bell would finish off the second drive with a 21 yard run to paydirt after a 9 play 76 yard drive that sent the Miners into halftime with a 21-7 lead.

It seemed UTEP was on cruise control to open up the third quarter as the Miners opened up the half with a balanced drive, but faced a fourth and one at the ODU 24 yard line after turning a 2nd and 20 situation into the manageable fourth down spot.

Although ODU would stuff Nathan Jeffery on the fourth down play, using the defensive momentum on the ensuing drive to go 76 yards on 9 plays with Ray Lawry putting six on the board with a four yard run cutting the UTEP lead to 21-14 just past the midway point of the third quarter.

The Miners would answer one play from scrimmage later after a failed onside attempt from ODU, Josh Bell raced 37 yards untouched to put UTEP up 28-14 just nine seconds after ODU cut the Miner lead to one score.

Ray Lawry would again finish an ODU drive by running 25 yards on the final two plays of the scoring march, including a seven yard scamper that once again brought the Monarchs within a score, 28-21 at the 4:57 mark of the third quarter.

For the third straight week special teams miscues on punt coverage doomed the Miners in a key situation.

This time punter Mike Ruggles mishandled a Nick Dooley snap inside UTEP's own 10 yard line and was flagged for an intentional grounding around the goal line that put the ball on the one yard line.

Taylor Heinicke would find his backup quarterback David Washington on a slant pattern the very next play to tie things up at 28's with 2:53 left in the third quarter.

The UTEP defense came up with a huge third down stop of a Ray Lawry draw play early in the fourth quarter, in turn UTEP drove 91 yards, and went 4 out 4 on third down during another nine minute scoring drive.

One of the biggest plays of the game came from Jameill Showers on that drive.

Facing third and ten from their own nine yard line the pocket broke down near his own goal, though Showers calmly, and skillfully scrambled right for 14 yards, giving UTEP a huge first down to keep the drive alive.

Thirteen plays and almost eight minutes later Showers found Autrey Golden streaking on a cross pattern from 10 yards out for the go ahead touchdown with 3:44 left to play.

The Miner D again would come up with a clutch stop on the ensuing ODU drive, this time on a fourth and one with ODU going for it on their own 34.

Roy Robertson-Harris, and Anthony Puente teamed up to stuff Lawry once again, and the Miners had prime field position to put the game away.

Two plays later Showers found Golden through the air again for a score, this time a 32 yard hitch out of a newly shown four receiver stack formation, Golden actually ran 35 yards to give UTEP a 42-28 lead with 2:03 left.

Old Dominion would set up a quick 4 play 75 yard drive that took only 53 seconds, with Heinicke finding Marques Little for a highlight reel throw and catch with 1:10 left and two timeouts remaining.

The ensuing onside kick attempt went out of bounds, though it took UTEP four downs, and a Jameill Showers scramble, and errant pass into the student section to run out the final 1:10 for the win.

UTEP's rushing attack was spearheaded by three stat sheet stars, and a physical offensive line that played lights out, and played their best football on those two nine minute-plus drives which were the longest drives from a UTEP team since 2000.

Aaron Jones had a "quiet" 104 yard rushing night on 18 carries, Josh Bell had a career day rushing for 78 yards on 10 carries with a career best three rushing touchdowns, Bell also had 3 catches for 32 yards.

Nathan Jeffery had one of his best games of the season rushing for 70 yards on 13 carries with a score. Showers finished 17 out 26 for 152 yards and two touchdowns.

Autrey Golden finished with 169 all-purpose yards, including 7 catches for 70 yards and the two big scores late in the fourth quarter to go ahead, and seal the W.   Golden was very effective on the new entrenched fly sweep, throwing ODU's defense off when he didn't get the hand off, but broke a 51 yard run to pad his rushing stats.

Defensively the Miners were lead by senior Cooper Brock who had six tackles and a sack, credit is also due to the secondary who held Heinicke to under 200 yards passing with some great coverage in key spots.   The early first quarter pressure which included three sacks affected the talented signal caller who was only 3 out of 9 for 40 yards through the air at halftime.

The win evens the Miners conference and overall records, UTEP now sits at 3-3 on the season and 1-1 in conference, while Old Dominion falls to 3-4 and 1-3 in their inaugural C-USA season.

Huge team win  in where the Miners almost gave this one away with penalties, and special teams errors, though the boys and senior leaders came through when it matter the most to keep 2014 bowl hopes alive.