Same story, different week for the UTEP Football program.
A gritty defensive effort, inept second half offense, and plenty of mistakes of both sides of the ball compounded a 31-14 loss to UTSA Saturday which drops UTEP to a hapless 0-8 record.
The young Roadrunner program improved to 5-2 overall, one step away from securing a second consecutive bowl appearance.
“That wasn’t very good,” UTEP Interim Head Coach Mike Price said. “We played hard. We certainly didn’t play real smart. The team that makes the least mistakes in this game usually wins, and no question about it, we made not very smart plays and it came back to hurt us.”
UTEP was held to just 243 yards of total offense with a 4.4 yard per play average. The Miners were 4-for-14 on third downs, while UTSA ran for 205 yards, and collected 22 first downs.
“I thought we had a real chance in the first half,” Price said. “The defense, at times, is playing well enough to win in this league. They didn’t have that many yards. They were well below their average against us.”
UTSA got on the board first after a UTEP three-and-out with a 20 yard field goal by Jared Sackett as the UTEP defense held strong defending a short field after a long punt return set up UTSA’s first drive.
The Miner offense went three-and-out on their first two possessions, then the third would end on an ugly interception from Zack Greenlee to UTSA’s Nate Gaines after UTEP drove 57 yards to the UTSA 23-yard line.
UTSA took the ensuing drive and went 80 yards in 10 plays with Jalen Rhodes reaching the end zone via a 17-yard run off the left edge and the Runners led 10-0 with 10:59 left until halftime.
After UTEP’s third three-and-out of the first half, Dalton Sturm went deep up the left sideline and found a wide open Kerry Thomas for a 48-yard touchdown pass to make it 17-0 UTSA with 7:48 left until halftime.
But the Miners had major answers, making things close at halftime.
Zack Greenlee would run in a six-yard touchdown after the UTSA score, capping off a seven play, 70 yard drive, then the UTEP defense came up with a huge play to keep the momentum going.
Justin Rogers picked off Dalton Sturm with a leaping grab on a second and short, and the Miners took over and put seven more points on the board.
On a 3rd and 11 during UTEP’s next drive, Greenlee went up the left sideline and found Tyler Batson for a 36-yard gain to the UTSA five yard line. On the very next play, Josh Fields scored his first career touchdown and UTEP cut the UTSA lead to 17-14 at halftime.
UTEP’s two third quarter drives would end in Alan Luna punts, and UTSA had a lengthy third quarter scoring drive that ended up being the difference.
Sturm would convert a pair of third down conversions, and a fourth down conversion during a 17-play, 85 yard scoring drive that took 8:28 off the third quarter clock. Jalen Rhodes finished the drive with a one yard plunge for the score to make it 24-14 UTSA with 1:22 left in the third quarter.
Greenlee finished the evening 8-for-29 passing for 133 yards, and threw a pick six early in the fourth quarter to Deron Davis who returned it 22-yards for the games final score.
Josh Fields ran for 41 yards, while Kevin Dove ran for 46 yards and had a 72-yard touchdown called back due to a holding penalty.
UTSA averaged 4.9 yards per rush in the ball game with Terrell Clay running for 71 yards. Sturm scrambled for 67 yards, and threw for 188 yards in the ball game.
UTEP will head east and face Middle Tennessee next week.