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UTEP gives up late lead in 35-31 loss to FAU

NCAA Football: Southern Mississippi at Texas El Paso Ivan Pierre Aguirre-USA TODAY Sports

Aaron Jones ran for 229 yards, and two touchdowns, but it wasn’t enough as UTEP blew a two score lead late in the fourth quarter to become mathematically eliminated from bowl eligibility.

UTEP led 31-20 with 7:34 to go in the game, and held the ball for nine minutes in the fourth quarter, but FAU would put together two late scoring drives to come away with a 35-31 win.

The final drive was a dramatic 10-play, 96 yard drive with Nate Terry hauling in a 7-yard touchdown pass from Jeff Driskel with 25 seconds left to complete the comeback.

FAU put up 476 yards of total offense led by Devin Singletary who ran for 145 yards and two touchdowns in the win.

The Owls scored quickly to open the scoring with a 7-play, 77 yard drive finished off by a 4-yard run by Devin Singletary just 2:53 into the ball game.

The Miners would go 19 yards in six plays on their first possession which ended in a punt, but the UTEP defense set up the Miners first score.

Brendan Royal came up with his first career interception and a 12-yard return that set up an Aaron Jones two yard touchdown run after Jones ran for 18, then 9 yards on the previous two plays to complete a six play, 47-yard drive to tie things at seven-all with 4:22 left in the first quarter.

Freshman Kolbi McGary then recorded his first career INT off Daniel Parr who came in for Driskel three plays after UTEP tied the game, setting up another UTEP touchdown.

UTEP would need just 40-yards in six plays to go up 14-7, cashing in on the turnover as Ryan Metz found Sterling Napier for a four yard touchdown pass just 50 seconds into the second quarter.

The Miner lead wouldn’t hold for long as Singletary put his second touchdown on the board gashing UTEP for 36-yard touchdown run two minutes after UTEP took the lead to tie things at 14.

UTEP scored all 17 first half points off FAU turnovers, the third was a muffed FAU punt recovered by UTEP’s Lawrence Montegut setting up a 20-yard Jay Mattox field goal with 5:41 left until halftime.

Greg Joseph would then hit a 43-yard field goal with 30 seconds until the half to send the game tied 17-17 into the break.

The Miners got the ball first in the second half, and drove 75-yards in six plays to break the tie and grab a 24-17 lead.

On a second-and-ten from the 50, Jones ran for 49-yards setting himself up for a one yard score on the very next play to finish off UTEP’s opening second half drive.

FAU’s next drive took 6:28 off the clock, but would settle for a field goal as the game went into the fourth quarter with UTEP holding a 24-20 lead.

Then UTEP would answer with an equally long drive.

The Miners would covert three third down conversions that kept a 13-play, 89 yard drive going until Metz found Hayden Plinke for an 11-yard touchdown connection as UTEP increased their lead to 31-20 with 7:34 left in the game.

Less than three minutes later, Gregory Howell capped a 8-play, 75 yard scoring drive plus the two point conversion to pull within a score trailing 31-28 with 4:36 left in the game.

On UTEP’s next possession, the Miners were facing a third-and-four, but Walter Dawn was stuffed for seven yard loss on a risky veer option play at the FAU 44-yard.

Despite the tough field position after the ensuing punt pinned FAU at their own four yard line, the Owls would polish off that final drive as Driskel completed six passes in a row, and went 6-for-7 68 yards on the drive which was aided with a UTEP face mask call as well in the final 2:46.

UTEP took over with with 25 seconds left, but Metz would be picked off by Ocie Rose to officially seal the deal on the first play from scrimmage.

The Miners ended the night with 355 yards of total offense, but Metz was just 13-of-19 for 118 yards passing. UTEP held the ball for seven more minutes than FAU in the time of possession department, but FAU ran for 243 yards with a 6.8 yard per carry average.

Jones passed John Harvey for the title of UTEP’s all-time team leading rusher, and notched his fourth 200-yard rushing game which also ties a school record.

Driskel finished 20-for-25 for 235 yards passing, Kalib Woods caught eight passes for 104 yards.

It was a night full of what if’s, and what could have been’s, but the Miners drop their 21st straight game in the Eastern Time zone, and fall to 3-7 overall on the season.