UTEP tallied a season high 287 total yards of offense, and the defense would put forth an outstanding effort, but it wouldn’t be enough to overcome three missed field goals by sophomore Brady Viles.
The Miner defense came out strong, stopping WKU on their first three drives, but a short field allowed WKU to grab the game’s first points.
After a UTEP three-and-out, WKU would go 45-yards in six plays capped off by a five yard keeper by WKU quarterback Mike White to break open the scoring with 10:14 left until halftime.
UTEP would finally put together a scoring drive, and it was a long impressive drive led by plenty of play action, and a nice touchdown catch by Kavika Johnson.
The Miners would drive 75-yards in 10 plays, and Zack Greenlee would roll out and find Kavika Johnson between two WKU defenders making it 8-7 WKU with 4:49 left until the halftime break.
Greenlee would lead another UTEP Scoring drive right before the half, set up by a huge punt return by Terry Juniel.
The Miners defense would force a three-and-out, and Juniel would take the ensuing punt back to the house, but it would be called back for holding.
UTEP still had prime field position at the WKU 38-yard line and it would take UTEP just three plays to put six on the board.
Greenlee opened the drive with a 31-yard completion to Walter Dawn, then Greenlee would keep it on the bootleg for a five yard touchdown run giving UTEP a 14-8 lead.
The Miners would punt on their opening drive of the second half, giving the ball back to the Tops who put together a lenghty scoring drive to take the lead.
White engineered a 13-play, 80 yard drive, with the QB keeping it on the zone-read for a short two-yard touchdown, give the Tops a 15-14 lead with 7:24 left in the third quarter.
UTEP would drive 60 yards on the ensuing drive, but Brady Viles missed his second field goal attempt of the game, this time a 47-yarder late in the third quarter.
The Miner defense would continue to stand strong though, holding Western Kentucky scoreless on their final four possessions, giving their offense every opportunity to find some points for the win.
It would come down to the Miners’ final possession. Zach Greenlee would lead them down the field, well into Hilltopper territory with just over 2:00 to play.
Brady Viles would once again be called upon, this time from 41 yards out, but his kick would sail well left of the posts, and the Miners would fall 15-14 in heartbreaking fashion.
Zach Greenlee would finish the game 12/24 for 124 yards and a touchdown, while also rushing for 46 yards on 8 attempts and another score. Kevin Dove would finish with 69 yards on 15 carries and Eric Brown added 2 receptions for 32 yards.
Mike White led Western Kentucky with 208 yards on 24/37 attempts. Jakairi Moses led the Hilltopper rushing attack, finishing with 50 yards on 19 attempts, and Lucky Jackson led all receivers with 56 yards on 3 catches.
UTEP finished the night with a slight 287-282 advantage in total yards, including 163 to 74 on the ground. The Miners also won the time of possession battle 33:02 to 26:58. Neither team had a turnover on the night.
The loss drops the Miners to 0-6 overall and 0-2 in Conference USA play. Western Kentucky improves to 3-2 and 1-1 in conference action.
It was an inspired effort in Mike Price’s return to the Sun Bowl, but unfortunately it wasn’t enough to come up with the Miners’ first win of the season. They’ll now have to rebound quickly as they’ll hit the road to take Southern Miss a week from tonight in Hattiesburg. That game will kick at 5:00 p.m. MT.