On a night in where Aaron Jones was not 100% health wise, and the UTEP defense could not bottle up the FIU run game in the second half. A small Sun Bowl crowd witnessed UTEP falter for the fifth straight week in an almost carbon copy fashion of the previous four losses.
The Miners mustered up only 330 yards of total offense, were 4-of-14 on third down conversions, and Zack Greenlee only completed 44 percent of his passes as the UTEP offense sputtered for 21 points and a below average 5.2 yards per play average for the game.
Both offenses would start slow, with FIU getting on the board first via a 50-yard field goal by Austin Taylor after a 7-play, 39 yard drive at the 8:43 mark of the first quarter.
Then Aaron Jones got going for a big run.
Jones would would cut left, and get a nice seal block by Derron Gatewood which sprung a 49-yard touchdown sprint capping off a 7-play, 75 yard drive with 5:40 left in the opening quarter.
UTEP’s defense would start strong once again, forcing back-to-back punts on FIU’s next two drives after the field goal. Although FIU made the proper adjustments on their next drive to get back on the board.
Alex McGough would go 6-of-6 passing for 69 yards on the next FIU drive, finding A.J. Branisel behind the UTEP defense on a goal line pop pass with 4:05 left until halftime to finish off an 8-play, 70 yard scoring drive.
UTEP would come up scoreless on their final four drives of the half, two of those drives would be three-and-outs, and FIU took a 13-7 lead into the halftime break.
Eddie Sinegal hauled in a touchdown catch in the left corner of the endzone on a fade route against single coverage, but that would be wiped away by a holding penalty ending a golden opportunity to put up points right before the half.
The Miners offense only managed 60 total yards of offense after the Jones run, and only averaged 5.2 points per play in the first half.
Jones was very limited in the first half with only five carries, as he appeared to tweak his already injured ankle on the touchdown run.
The Miners took the run game away from FIU in the first half, but McGough was 14-of-17 passing for 150-yards in the opening half.
McGough would continue his strong start into the second half, taking advantage of holes in UTEP’s zone looks.
He would engineer an impressive 12-play, 75 yard drive, escaping pressure to find Thomas Owens for an eight yard touchdown pass to put FIU up 20-7 at the 9:13 mark of the third quarter.
But UTEP would get back into the game later in the quarter with a nice punt return, and some creative play calling that would set up a touchdown.
Eddie Sinegal took an end around 42-yards after a 19-yard Terry Juniel punt return and set the Miners up with a first-and-goal from the one yard line.
Aaron Jones would punch it in behind left guard to cut the FIU lead to 20-14 on the quick 2-play scoring drive with 5:41 left in the third quarter.
But this was McGough and FIU’s night, as he continued to pick apart the UTEP zone coverage.
McGough would convert a pair of third and longs on the next FIU drive, and found Owens again for six. This time he exposed a UTEP cover-2 pass coverage for a 23-yard touchdown strike up the right sideline.
The two-point conversion would make it 28-14 FIU with 1:59 left in the third quarter.
FIU would go up 35-14 after Alex Gardner ran in from 9-yards out to complete a 5-play, 91 yard drive just two minutes into the fourth quarter.
The Miners showed some signs of life thanks to a Justin Rogers interception off a tipped pass which would lead to a UTEP scoring drive.
The Miners went five plays on a short 34-yard drive with Greenlee finding Cole Freytag for a 12-yard score with 8:51 left in the fourth.
But both Alex Gardner and Anthony Jones ran for over 100-yards on the night and put the Miners away with the inability to slow down the run. Gardner ran for 141 yards, and Jones posted 128.
McGough finished the night 21-for-31 passing for 241 yards and three touchdowns. Thomas Owens ended the night with seven catches for 125 yards and the two touchdowns.
FIU piled up 499 yards of offense, picking 23 first downs to the Miners 16, and ran for 126 of their rushing yards in the fourth quarter.
Greenlee had a rough night going 17-for-39 passing for 191 yards, most of which came on the Miners final drive in garbage time. Greenlee also threw a bad, airmailed interception late in the third quarter with UTEP driving in plus territory and down only two scores.
Aaron Jones would finish with just eight carries, netting 73 yards and the pair of touchdowns. Cole Freytag was the Miners leading receiver catching five passes for 68 yards.
Eddie Sinegal added four catches for 49 yards, and the 42 yard rush on the end around.
Sean Kugler once again took full blame for the Miners latest loss. But did admit he understands his own promise to turn the program around and the self consequence that comes with what is looking like another season to forget.
UTEP drops to 1-5 on the season, and 0-3 in C-USA play, with a much needed bye coming up.