Jeremiah Laufasa rushed 15 times for 92 yards and a touchdown, including 9 times for 52 yards on the game winning drive, leading the Miners to an impressive 24-21 win over the Rice Owls Friday night in the Sun Bowl.
Neither team could get going early, with the first four possessions of the game combining for three punts and one fumble. Rice would be first to score though, capitalizing on that UTEP fumble just four seconds into the second quarter to take a 7-0 lead.
The Miners would answer right back though, going 75 yards on 4 plays in just 1:38 capped by a 58 pass and catch from Mack Leftwich to Jaquan White, tying the game at 7-7 early in the second quarter.
Both teams would punt twice on the ensuing four possessions, but again Rice would pull ahead, capitalizing on a busted coverage on a 3rd and 16 as Driphus Jackson found Zach Wright for the 36 yard score with just over eight minutes left in the half.
Again though, UTEP would respond. This time the Miners would engineer a methodical 12 play, 91 yard drive again capped by a Leftwich to White touchdown pass. That second hookup of the night would tie the game, sending the teams to the locker rooms knotted at 14.
The second half would start with another impressive drive by the Miners, as they put together a 13 play, 75 yard drive eating up more than six and a half minutes to take their first lead of the night at 21-14. This time it would be Laufasa to pound it in from a couple yards out.
Rice would tie the game late in the third on a touchdown pass from Jackson to Luke Turner, and the score would remain the same heading into the final quarter.
The Owls would have an opportunity to pull ahead with just under nine minutes left to play, but the Miners would step up with a huge blocked field goal that kept the game tied at 21.
That's when Laufasa would take over. UTEP would use a 16 play 73 yard drive, Highlighted by Laufasa's 52, driving all the way inside the Rice 10 yard line before settling for the go ahead field goal.
That Jay Mattox kick would give the Miners the 24-21 lead, and would prove to be the nail in the coffin as the Owls would be unable to get anything done in the final minute of the game.
Mack Leftwich led the way with 231 yards and 2 touchdowns on 18 of 36 passing. Jeremiah Laufasa was the game's leading rusher with his 92 yards, and Jaquan White finished with 4 catches for 90 yards and 2 touchdowns. Hayden Plinke also had a night, finishing with 9 catches and 85 yards, including a pair of big grabs on the game winning drive.
Driphus Jackson led Rice with 230 yards and 2 scores on 14 of 26 passing. Darik Dillard finished with 53 yards on 13 carries, and Zach Wright had 116 yards and a touchdown on 6 catches.
The win improves the Miners 4-5 and 2-3 in Conference USA play, while the Owls fall to 4-5 and 2-3 in league action. Up next, the Miners will hit the road to take on Old Dominion next Saturday, with the kickoff slated for 10 a.m. MT. That game will be televised by Fox Sports Network.
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