Aaron Jones ran wild and all over the North Texas defense on Saturday night in the Sun Bowl, rushing for a career high 301 yards, and four touchdowns as UTEP dominated North Texas 52-24.
Jones started the party early, and the UTEP defense set the tone as well, shutting down the Mean Green’s bowl hopes with a nice win to end a disappointing 2016 season.
UTEP would get on the board first with an 11-play, 50 yard drive that ended with a 48-yard field goal from Jay Mattox that took 6:40 off the clock, and put UTEP ahead 3-0 with 6:20 left in the opening quarter.
North Texas, and running back Willy Ivery got going on the ensuing drive after punting on their first possession, and put the Mean Green on the board.
Ivery ran for 56 yards, including the final 39 yards on the scoring drive with his 14-yard sweep putting the Mean Green up 7-3 after an eight play, 81 yard drive three and half minutes after the Miners struck first blood.
One play later though, Aaron Jones did what he does best.....run past defenders.
Jones broke off an 83-yard touchdown sprint on the next play from scrimmage, and just like that UTEP regained a 10-7 lead with 2:36 left in the first quarter.
He would then break off another long touchdown run, and energized the UTEP defense for a nice stretch in the opening half.
Jones escaped to the house on a 48-yard touchdown run on the Miners next drive, finishing off a six play, 81 yard scoring drive just a minute and change into the second quarter to lead 17-7.
UTEP’s defense would force three straight three-and-outs, the third ended with a special teams touchdown off a North Texas miscue.
North Texas punter Eric Keena mishandled a low snap around the goal line that was recovered by UTEP’s Brandon Moss to give UTEP a commanding 31-7 lead with 9:25 left until halftime.
The Mean Green would score on their final two possessions of the half, including a 10-yard Alec Morris to Thaddeous Thompson touchdown hookup, then a 45-yard field goal from Trevor Moore sent the teams into the halftime break with UTEP leading 31-14.
But Aaron Jones wasn’t done just yet.
Jones would go 58-yards to the house on the Miners second possession of the second half to cap off a quick three play, 71 yard drive as UTEP took a 38-17 lead with 6:58 left in the third quarter.
UTEP’s defense held North Texas scoreless on their first four possessions off the second half, including a fourth down stop after an eight play 50 yard drive that was stopped at the UTEP 25 yard line.
Three plays later after the stop, Ryan Metz hit Hayden Plinke on a deep crossing route for a 72-yard score, 40 yards of that was sheer speed from Plinke who broke free as UTEP led 45-17 heading into the final quarter.
Jones would go in his for his fourth touchdown of the day after a 13-play, 95 yard screw you type of drive that took nearly seven minutes off the clock. The three-yard run gave UTEP a 52-17 lead with 7:51 left in the game.
UTEP ended the night with 555 total yards of offense, 384 of those coming on the ground. Jones carried 24 times, and notched his fourth 200-plus rushing day on the season.
Metz finished the night 12-of-17 passing for 171 yards and two scores. Hayden Plinke caught three passes for 84 yards, while Cole Freytag caught three passes for 45 yards.
The UTEP defense allowed just 304 yards of total offense, and forced the Mean Green into a 4-for-14 clip on third down tries. UTEP’s defense forced four total three-and-outs, and kept the North Texas run game in check with just 114 yards on the ground.
Jones set the school’s record for rushing yards in a season, and also became the second UTEP rusher to run for 300 yards in a game.
After the game Jones said he will weigh his options, and speak with Sean Kugler, and his family before making a decision on his future.
For UTEP’s 20 seniors, they go out winners, as the Miners finally pulled together a complete effort in the win column to end the 2016 season at 4-8.