Nevada 37 – UTEP 21: Miners Fall After Late-Game Struggles
The Nevada Wolfpack capitalized on three UTEP interceptions and scored twice in the fourth quarter to outlast the Miners 37-21 in front of 10,493 fans at the Sun Bowl.
Call it the quarterbacks, call it the struggling offensive line, or call it the play-calling—not much on offense was impressive for the Miners.
Defensively, they allowed too many advancements on Nevada broken plays and allowed 403 yards of total offense on the night.
UTEP finished with seven penalties for 82 yards, while their three turnovers resulted in 13 points for the Wolfpack.
“I wanted to put the whole night into perspective," head coach Dana Dimel said. "You are going against a Nevada team that was 8-5 last year and an upper Mountain West divisional foe. The turnovers and the penalties ended up having a major influence on the outcome of the game. It would be very easy to look at that game say it could have easily been a 37-21 victory for us if certain plays were made here or there, we eliminate a couple of the huge penalties that we had and if we don't turn the ball over.
"Overall, I thought our defense played fine. They can play better, but they got some short fields at times. We have to do a better job of not throwing the ball to the other football team. If you talk about the overall pace of the game and physicality that we played with, you can see we are making some huge strides as a football team. They are an upper Mountain West team and it was a very competitive football game throughout the night."
The Miners got off to a nice start to open the game, holding Nevada on their opening series and then scored on a 10-play, 70-yard drive capped off by a four-yard rushing touchdown by Treyvon Hughes.
Nevada responded by marching 73 yards down the field and finished the drive with a five-yard touchdown carry by Toa Taua.
On the ensuing drive, Dimel decided to put Kai Locksley in for the series to mix it up from starter Brandon Jones, as he said he would earlier this week, but his first pass was intercepted by Tyson Williams. Luckily for the Miners, cornerback Miles Banks forced a fumble on a Wolfpack receiver and Michael Lewis fell on the ball.
UTEP would travel 86 yards down the field following the fumble recovery, including a fourth down conversion inside Nevada territory, and ended the drive on Hughes' second carry for a touchdown, this one from six-yards out.
Everything looked up for the Miners here.
Nevada quarterback Cristian Solano orchestrated a nine-play, 75-yard drive to respond to the UTEP touchdown and nailed Elijah Cooks for a 28-yard passing score. UTEP took over with a little over three minutes to go in the half, when Jones threw UTEP's second interception of the night.
Nevada took over at the Miner 22 and scored three plays later on a 20-yard pass from Solano to Cooks for their second hook-up of the night. Still, the 21-14 Nevada lead seemed manageable for UTEP coming out of the half.
In fact, their opening drive lasted nearly 10 minutes, featuring 17 plays and resulted in a rushing touchdown. The downside on the drive was that Jones injured his shoulder, thus putting Locksley in a situation where he had to finish the drive. Locksley was able to punch a one-yard rush for a touchdown at the goal line.
Nevada marched the ball down the field at a rapid pace but only got a field goal out of their drive to lead 24-21.
Instead of stalling out and going three-and-out, a Locksley pass on third down was tipped off Walter Dawn Jr.'s hands and intercepted by Nevada. They took over at the UTEP 22 and scored within the first minutes of the fourth quarter to lead 30-21.
The Miners struggled to move the ball in the final minutes and a late Nevada rushing touchdown sealed the game for the Wolfpack, 37-21.
While Dimel indicated that Jones would be okay from his injury, he did say that the quarterback play was "not good enough." UTEP ran the ball 47 times, compared to just 17 passes all night. Jones finished 8-for-11 for 106 passing yards and an interception, as Locksley ended the game going 2-for-6 for 10 yards and two interceptions.
Treyvon Hughes led the offense with 17 carries for 80 yards rushing and a pair of scores. UTEP controlled the time of possession (34:55-25:05) but struggled on third down conversions (3-of-11) and had 278 yards of offense.
Next up, the Miners (1-2) will take on Southern Miss on the road, who lost 49-7 to No. 2 Alabama, while the Wolfpack host Hawai'i.