UTEP withstood a wild final minute, and walked out of the Sun Bowl with a 7-5 record, and a 27-24 win against a very good Middle Tennessee squad Saturday night.
The Blue Raiders would strike first after Jay Mattox botched the snap on a punt attempt, which helped MTSU quickly drive 16 yards in just 3 plays with Shane Tucker taking it in from four yards out to break the scoring seal.
UTEP would answer with a 59 yard, 12 play drive that would end in a Mattox 34 yard field goal with 5:23 left in the first quarter.
The Miners would take a 10-7 lead in the second quarter when Jameill Showers found Aaron Jones wide open in the middle of the field who went 72 yards untouched to give UTEP its first lead with 14:06 till halftime.
Both teams would trade punts until Middle cashed in on a field position opportunity and drive 55 yards in 6 plays finished off by another Tucker run, this time from a yard out to give Middle Tennessee a 14-10 halftime lead.
Middle Tennessee would use 13 plays and drive 55 yards on their first possession out of the halftime break, but Cody Clark would miss a 35 yard field goal try, and UTEP took over with momentum.
Methodically, and physically, UTEP called 11 runs for 60 yards apart of a 13 play 80 yard drive that ticked 7:46 off the Sun Bowl clocks as Aaron Jones capped off the physical statement of a drive with a seven yard touchdown run that put UTEP ahead 17-14 with 1:05 left in the third quarter.
That score would setup an epic fourth quarter.
Austin Grammer ran for 106 yards on the night, and helped finish a 9 play 75 yard drive with a 3 yard scamper to put the Blue Raiders back in front 21-17 with 11:44 left in the game.
Though UTEP would answer with another physical, run first drive.
Showers would drive his team 75 yards, and pick up 18 yards rushing on the drive, including the eventual game winning five yard keeper that put UTEP ahead 24-21, but with 6:19 left for Austin Grammer and Middle Tennessee.
With the defense reeling after a 2nd and 14 play that saw Grammer scramble for 15 yards, and a pass interference call that moved MT past the 50, Jameel Erving made THE biggest defensive play in UTEP football history.
On a second and goal from the seven yard line, Erving tip drilled a highlight worthy interception to himself that seemingly sealed the game, but that's were things got just flat out weird.
Despite having only two timeouts left and 1:26 left to play, Middle Tennessee forced a UTEP punt, and gave Grammer and the Blue Raiders once last chance from the 50 yard line that would turn the final minute into pure mayhem.
Grammer would would be flagged for an illegal forward pass on first down, which the officials originally ruled a ten second run off that would end the game since once the play was over there was only 10 ticks left.
Though after review, the officials would overturn that, and MT would lose only four yards and face a 2nd and 14 from the UTEP 46.
The very next play, Grammer fired a clear incomplete pass to Ed'Marques Batties that Batties would lateral to a fellow MT receiver who in turn took it inside the UTEP 24.
Somehow someway, the zebras ruled it a catch and first down at the UTEP 24 yard line, but after the reality of a review, the ball was placed back on the MT 46 yard line for one final gasp with five seconds left.
According to the stat book, Wesley Miller intercepted the hailmary try, but in talking to Wes after the game he says he was no where near the ball, but in any case the pass fell short and UTEP moved to 7-5.
Aaron Jones carried the Miners with 147 yards rushing on 29 carries, as UTEP ran for 250 yards as a team, and were 7/13 on third down conversions.
Tucker and Grammer both went over 100 yards rushing as MT tallied 259 yards on the ground.
But in the end it was the UTEP defense that came through with another game sealing turnover despite giving up 358 total yards.
Showers finished 7/13 passing for 106 yards, and carried it 10 times for 62 yards.
The win solidifies a bowl spot for the Miners, while Middle Tennessee heads home at 6-6.