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LA Tech 17 UTEP 15: Three Things We Learned

UTEP fought hard, and played with plenty of heart, but came up short in a few places in where offensive execution was needed.

Here are three things I learned from UTEP's close 17-15 loss the LA Tech.

The TK Powell show

Freshman running back TK Powell ran for 124 yards on just 16 carries, and gave UTEP some much needed life at running back going forward.

After only getting one carry in his UTEP debut last week against Old Dominion, Powell wouldn't let this opportunity slip with a productive afternoon against one of the best rush defense's in C-USA.

Powell rushed for 65 of his yards on UTEP's second quarter scoring drive averaging 12.8 yards per carry on that drive, and introducing himself to UTEP fans in a big way.

"It was very exciting, and a good opportunity to show off my talent."  Powell said.  "And to show my team how I can help them and the offensive schemes they needed me to help be on."

The walk-on gave LA Tech's talented defensive line duo and future NFL-ers in Vontarius Dora, and Vernon Butler fits in chasing him around with precise patience, cuts, and tremendous vision that led to him reach 100-yards rushing in his first heavy load of playing time.

"I was just staying patient and following my blocks." Powell added. "Going into the game my goal was to get over 100-yards rushing, and little did I know that is what I was determined to do."

With UTEP losing senior running back Jeremiah Laufasa to graduation, Powell has next week for a job audition behind Aaron Jones in 2016.

UTEP's defense stepped up in a huge way

They shut down Kenneth Dixon, and when it was needed the most the UTEP defense rose to the occasion with stop after stop.

UTEP held LA Tech to just 25-yards on their final five drives of the game that limited LA Tech to a 1.7 yard per play average in their last 15 plays of the game.

The Miners allowed 22 yards in the fourth quarter, 21 of which came on a single LA Tech drive.  UTEP has had a strong defensive IsoPPP in the fourth quarter, but this game took their fourth quarter defensive advanced stats to another level in terms of just getting the job done.

UTEP has the C-USA pride of being the only team to hold LA Tech to under 400-yards of total offense.  Alvin Jones once again proved he is all-conference material piling up 11 tackles and the key safety that kept UTEP in the game.

"We played hard." Alvin Jones said of the defense.  "We wanted to get them to throw the ball, so they just kept running and we got hats to him (Kenneth Dixon), and he was out there hurting."

UTEP was unable to cash in on field position, and needed fourth quarter scoring chances

A key point of the game came with one second left in the third quarter.

UTEP had LA Tech pinned inside their own five yard line, and forced a fourth-and-eight at the LA Tech five yard line as time ticked down on the third quarter.

Sean Kugler called a timeout to force a LA Tech punt into a nasty wind with one second left.

It paid off for UTEP in a big way as Gerald Shouse only got off a 34-yard punt that gave UTEP the ball at the LA Tech 39 down 17-12 with one final quarter to play.

Kavika Johnson then hit Tyler Batson for a 25-yard gain to put UTEP in the red-zone with a chance to take a lead.

The Miners would end up settling for a field goal after two rush attempts only netted six yards after Batson picked up that key first down.

UTEP's next drive started at their own 12, and Powell would run for 21-yards on a first down run, but it was called back for holding forcing UTEP to punt four plays later.   That run by Powell seemed to energize the sidelines, but the holding hankie killed that moment of momentum.

Fast forward to the missed Jay Mattox go-ahead field goal try, and UTEP once again let an opportunity on offense go wide right., and stall in the redzone.

UTEP started that drive on their own 41-yard line, and used a 20-yard jet sweep gain by Warren Redix, plus a LA Tech personal foul to move into the red-zone.

Stagnant play calling forced a promising drive that reached the redzone stall out instead of picking up a needed six.

In a game that was close like yesterday's against a team like LA Tech, you normally don't get three chances like that to take a go-ahead fourth quarter lead.

UTEP didn't cash in and is one of the biggest reasons why the Miners 2015 bowl hopes are gone.