UTEP had a solid, simple, but obvious offensive game plan from the start: control the ball and clock, in trying to limit the number of plays WKU ran on offense.
From the start of the first half UTEP played almost perfect and saw things go their way, on the road may I add. The Miners found points on four of their first six possessions with two drives lasting over four minutes.
Defensively the Miners limited WKU to only 31 first half plays, three straight three and outs at one point which would add up to five total three and outs in the first half, all while keeping the Toppers to under 200 yards in the first stanza.
After all that and 30 minutes of football behind them, UTEP was ahead 20-14 with the ball to open the second half.
Perfect position to not quite put things away just yet, but we all knew a long methodical drive was needed in continuing to breakdown a reeling WKU defense fresh out the second half gates.
Using 16 runs for 63 yards, the Miners overcame penalties to finish an 18 play 86 yard, Sean Kugler signature style drive that ate up 11:20 of the third quarter clock, and gave UTEP a commanding 27-14 lead after the physical drive opened the second half.
That drive was no doubt a huge one in terms of momentum. Although Brandon Doughty completed four passes for 64 yards on the ensuing drive, finding Willie McNeal for an easy seven yard pitch and catch to cap off it off, bringing WKU back within a score down 27-21 with less than two minutes left in the quarter.
So there it was, up a score, offensive line getting into a nasty rhythm, and UTEP's three headed attack at running back wearing down the WKU defenders.
The first three plays of the next UTEP drive possibly had folks looking for those bowling shoes to shine.
32 yards on three carries later, including an 18 yarder from freshman David Hamm sent things into the fourth quarter with a UTEP lead and the ball in WKU territory.
To open the fourth quarter, Hamm went twenty yards to the WKU 20 yard line on the first play, and we're sitting just 20 yards, and a few more runs away from going back up two scores right?
UTEP faced a third and six from the WKU 16 yard line, and at that point of the second half, UTEP had ran 22 times for 119 yards in the first 15 or so minutes using bruisers Josh Bell and Nathan Jeffery, while Hamm was doing his best Aaron Jones impersonation.
But on the third and six situation, UTEP went a different, and costly route.
WKU sent a heavy blitz, forcing a quick, and horrible decision by Jameill Showers who felt the pressure from his blind side and tried to throw one up to a blanketed receiver. His ball was tipped at the line, and eventually snatched by Wonderful Terry who it took back 90 yards for six, and gave WKU a 28-27 lead.
That big play turned out to be points 13 and 14 of 21 unanswered second half WKU points that put UTEP's bowl hopes on ice for another week.
But why pass there?
For a team that prides it self on ball control, and physical scoring drives found themselves moving the ball at a five yard per carry clip in the second half with no signs of a WKU stop coming. Why not keep the lead with a safe play call there?
Run a draw, zone-read, or signature dive, hell even a running back screen was safe enough to help you either take your points to grow the lead, or keep the clock moving with a first down.
Just a flat out play horrible call for starters, and a bad decision by Showers, throwing high and out of bounds or at the intended receivers feet if possible is what should have happened.
To be fair there is no guarantee UTEP gets six yards on that third down play for a first down if you call a run. But you're right in Jay Mattox's range either way, and even if they score on the ensuing possession if you settle for three you figure you have six or seven minutes left in the fourth quarter with possession, and at minimum a two point lead if WKU came up with a non-turnover defensive stop on that third and six.
Very frustrating and confusing call on that third and six, being conservative there may have been the best way to go about it. You had a feeling WKU may gamble on their defensive play call right there because well UTEP was just doing whatever they wanted with the run the second half . What looked like a fade was just not healthy for the final score or to end a promising must need some type of points drive.
After that interception Showers could not get comfortable and back into a rhythm that saw him complete his first five out six attempts
UTEP drops to 5-4, and 3-2 in conference after the final 12 plays netted only 37 yards in the Miners final three drives after a game killing play call decision saw points and a lead go 90 yards the other way.