UTEP Prevails Against NMSU Aggies in a Sloppy, Defensive Battle
Winning isn't always pretty, in the end all that counts is that you end up winning, even if it is done so in a sloppy fashion. UTEP defeated NMSU in the annual Battle of I-10 16-10 on Saturday evening before a rather large, energetic crowd at Aggie Memorial stadium. While most expected an offensive shootout, both teams turned it up defensively to make it the ultimate chess match where points were at a premium.
It was obvious that this was going to be the case when NMSU led UTEP 7-6 at the half. The premiere play for the miners was a fumble recovery in the end zone in the first quarter that not only took away momentum from the aggies, but also made an early defensive statement for them as well. UTEP quarterback Jay Hall who is filling in for the injured Nick Lamaison, remained composed throughout the contest despite his inexperience.
The miner's defense put quite a bit of pressure on aggies' quarterback Andrew Manley, allowing him to throw only1 touchdown all evening. The secondary did their job skillfully defending the wide receivers for the Aggies, and the defensive line forced Manley to constantly overthrow them all night long.
We all know that Coach Price is quite the gambler, he proved this in the 3rd quarter when he called for a fake punt from his own 29. Miners' running back Joe Banyard took the ball all the way to the Aggies' 11 yard line on the play that literally turned the game around. The miners were down 10-6 at the time of the fake punt that literally stunned everyone in the stadium, after this they never looked back.
UTEP finished the game strong proving that you can win with an inexperienced QB, utilizing their ground attack. Joe Banyard finished with 90 yards rushing, and Leilyom Myers had 55 yards on the ground for the miners. UTEP fans were celebrating a sure victory when Leilyon Myers converted a crucial 4th and 1 from the 34 with under 2 minutes left to seemingly put the game away.
Then the unthinkable happened just 2 plays later when UTEP QB Jay Hall fumbled the snap giving the Aggies new life with a minute and change remaining in the contest. I'm not going to lie, at this point I thought the miners were going to lose the game 17-16.
As fate would have it the Aggies ended up fumbling the ball a couple of plays later giving the miners the opportunity to take a couple of knees and win this thrilling game. What made this victory so impressive for UTEP was that they were able to show that they are a resilient team that went into Aggie memorial with a kid at QB no one had ever heard of and beat a team that was on an emotional high by winning at Minnesota the week before.
This was a game that UTEP had to win because their schedule is brutal over the next month as they travel to play #18 South Florida this Saturday, then they play Houston the following Thursday at the Sun Bowl, and Colorado State a couple of weeks later. Who knows maybe the win against NMSU will be just what they needed to give them the momentum to make a run at another bowl game.