Miners Fall in Final Seconds to LA Tech on the Road
UTEP drops their 19th straight in an oh-so-close fashion.
And if I told you junior transfer quarterback Brandon Jones—UTEP's third string quarterback—would be at the helm for the Miners on their final drive, you would probably say I was crazy.
But it boiled down to a goal-line situation for the Miners and Jones, who relieved senior quarterback Ryan Metz after he was knocked out of the game.
And for the fourth straight time in four consecutive games, the Miners were unable to score on their final drive in a potential game-winning or game-tying situation. It happened against NMSU; it happened in the final minutes against UTSA; it happened on a potential huge catch against North Texas; and it happened today off a 4th-and-goal situation where Jones overshot David Lucero on the final play.
But there was a lot of positives today.
UTEP out-gained LA Tech in total offense (356-325) and passing yards (284-156). They also won in third down efficiency, as UTEP’s defense held LA Tech to converting just 1-of-10 third down plays.
The negatives started early when Ryan Metz converted UTEP’s only turnover off a tipped interception for a touchdown.
But then Metz bounced back and put together a nice 80-yard drive capped off by a 25-yard touchdown to Keynan Foster.
That was the difference in this game, and maybe this entire season for the Miners: they simply don’t quit. When they’re down, they see it as a reason to claw back in the game.
However, there were some questionable coaching decisions for the Miners. They didn’t rush junior running back Quadraiz Wadley a lot tonight, with just two carries for 12 yards. In fact, they didn’t run a lot at all tonight, just rushing for 72 yards total on the ground.
Kai Locksley seemed to be nursing that ankle injury again, so we didn’t see the two-quarterback system that we expected to see this week from the Miners.
But again for this team, it’s about executing that last play that will send them over the edge and win the game.
Graduate transfer linebacker A.J. Hotchkins posted 11 tackles for the Miners, who had a season-high four sacks. Denzel Chukwukelu had a big night for the Miners with two sacks on the day.
LA Tech pass rusher Jaylon Ferguson had 3.5 of the Bulldogs’ four sacks.
UTEP's defense forced two fumbles on J’Mar Smith of the Bulldogs, but were unable to capitalize on them and recover the fumbles. The same happened with potential interceptions that were so close.
This one truly boiled down to the final minutes, and the Miners just couldn’t hang on. Next week they’ve got UAB at home and it’ll be interesting to see if they can possibly pull one out in that one.
Here's what head coach Dana Dimel said about the loss:
“Again, I liked the way the guys competed and fought, they really took it down to first and goal at the [eight] yard line and just didn’t complete the drive right there,” UTEP coach Dana Dimel said. “LA Tech’s players stepped up, #45 [DE Jaylon Ferguson] is a heck of a player and he really brought some energy on that last drive and made some plays.”
“All in all, the first turnover was a big part of the ballgame where they scored that touchdown. That gave them a little bit of momentum,” Dimel said. “But again we rallied back and made it a good ballgame. And the [field goal] they got before the half to put them up 17-7 was a big play in the game as well. And then we came back in the second half and just kept fighting.”
“I was really pleased with the way our defense played throughout the whole game,” Dimel said. “They held them to pretty limited yardage and got into some tough situations where we weren’t establishing good field position early in the game, and our defense responded really, really well to that. So the overall play of the defense was really good against a good offensive football team. And then I liked the way the offense responded when we got down to our third quarterback. Brandon stepped up and did some really positive things.”
“Right now our team is overcoming a lot of adversity and going out and fighting with a lot of heart and a lot of effort,” Dimel said. “It’s a fun team to watch play, and that’s what we appreciate the most. The people of El Paso should be proud with the way the football team is competing.”
Jones finished the day completing 7-of-15 passes for 98 yards and had two rushing touchdowns. Before he left with an injury, Metz was 11-for-17 through the air for 164 yards, with a touchdown and an interception. Metz was the team’s leading rusher with 12 carries for 28 yards. Foster had four catches for 84 yards of receiving.
LA Tech's Smith completed 17-of-29 passes for 156 yards and a touchdown. Wideout Teddy Veal had 11 catches for 103 yards, while running back Jaqwis Dancy led the way on the ground with 12 carries for 93 yards.
Next up, the Miners (0-7, 0-2 C-USA) will host UAB (5-1, 3-0 C-USA) at home on Saturday, Oct. 27.