UTEP controlled the time of possession and won the turnover battle, but it wasn't enough to overcome a stout Utah State defense as the Aggies prevailed 21-6 Saturday afternoon.
It would be a defensive struggle early on, with both teams punting on their opening drives. The Miners would work their way to a field on the second offensive possession, taking a 3-0 lead with 3:10 left in the opening frame.
Utah State would answer quickly though, going 75 yards in just 3 plays and 1:18 to take their first lead of the game at 7-3. Neither team would be able to get much going the rest of the half, and despite an eventful final minute that featured a botched snap on a field goal, and another missed field goal, the teams would go to locker rooms at that same 7-3 score.
The Aggies would open the second half with a 7 play 75 yard drive that expanded their lead out to 11 at 14-3, and the Miners just wouldn't have the answers offensively to get back into the game after that.
UTEP would pull to within 8 at 14-6 with 3:02 to play, but elected not to kick an onside kick, and wound up allowing Utah State to put the nail in the coffin with a 4 play 69 yard touchdown drive. That score put the Aggies up 15 at 21-6, and that's how the game would end.
Kent Myers led the way for the Aggies, going for 68 yards and a score through the air, as well as another 70 yards and a score on the ground. Five other Aggies carried the ball on the day, with with four of those tallying 34 yards or more. Jojo Natson was USU's leading receiver, hauling in 2 catches for 47 yards.
Jameill Showers finished 13 of 24 for 126 yards passing, and also rushed for 26 yards on 10 carries. Aaron Jones led the way with 88 yards on 25 carries, and Ian Hamilton had a team high 4 catches for 79 yards.
As a team, the Aggies totaled 347 yards, including 279 on the ground. The Miners tallied 275 yards, with a fairly balanced 126 through the air, and 149 rushing. USU totalled 16 first downs to 12 for the Miners, and UTEP controlled time of possession 36:34 to 23:26 and forced 2 turnovers while committing just 1.
The loss ends the Miners season at 7-6, and marks the sixth straight bowl loss for the program, with the last win coming against Mississippi in the 1967 Sun Bowl.
All in all, it was a very gutsy performance by the Miners. This loss was certainly not for a lack of effort. However, much can be said about plenty of the choices in play calling throughout the game.
It was clear that the Miners' coaches were going to run the ball rain or shine. In the end, what was their strength all year long, may have turned out to be their down fall.
Utah State keyed on the run all afternoon, stacking the box with 7 or more on a regular basis, which in turn allowed UTEP just 3.2 yards per attempt. Despite the struggles, the play calling continued to be run heavy, even into the final possessions of the game.
Perhaps things would've been different had they mixed it up a bit. Perhaps it wouldn't have. In the end, the Miners' season ends on a sour note, but it was a very, very successful season.
Much thanks, and congratulations goes out to every one of the players who gave their all, especially those seniors. Until next year...
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