UTEP 28 – Old Dominion 21: Miners Win 1st C-USA Game Since 2018, Improve to 4-1
In a back-and-forth second half, the Miners prevailed thanks to a late touchdown drive and a few defensive stops, beating Old Dominion 28-21 to open Conference USA play. UTEP is now 4-1 for the first time since the 2010 season and they just snapped a 15-game conference losing streak.
With just over 12 minutes to go in the game, UTEP quarterback Gavin Hardison was in the locker room and backup Calvin Brownholtz trotted onto the field to try and lead a scoring drive, as the Miners trailed 21-20.
Brownholtz paced the ground game, while Hardison jogged back on the field and completed a 24-yard pass to Justin Garrett on a crucial third down. Several plays later, running back Deion Hankins punched in the go-ahead run from three yards out. And on the two-point conversion, Hardison threaded a perfect pass to Garrett for the conversion.
“I just felt like the whole time we were the better team, and were going to find a way to win the game,” UTEP coach Dana Dimel said. “That’s kind of the thing we talked about, expecting to win. Our football team expected to win, that’s when you make a big turn. That’s a big stride for a football team. We’ve taken ourselves to that point where no matter what happens in a game, we expect to win. That’s gigantic.”
In front of 11,025 fans at the Sun Bowl, the Miners' back-and-forth contest ultimately turned into a win for the program. Now, they need just two wins to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2014.
The Miners dominated 29 minutes of the opening half and put up 17 unanswered points on the Monarchs. They started with a 29-yard field goal by Gavin Baechle after linebacker Tyrice Knight forced a fumble on the first possession.
UTEP put together back-to-back 14+ play, 80+ yard touchdown drives to put them three scores ahead of ODU to start. First, it was a seven-yard Hardison touchdown pass to Justin Garrett. Next, it was a Hardison seven-yard toss to Tyrin Smith for his first career touchdown.
The defense forced two punts and a turnover in the first half before allowing a late touchdown to close the second half. With only 54 seconds left in the half, the Monarchs marched down the field on a rapid six play, 75-yard drive capped off by a DJ Mack touchdown pass to Ali Jennings.
UTEP went into the half with the 17-7 lead but didn't have the momentum they needed going into the second half. ODU proceeded to outscore UTEP 14-3 in the third quarter, including a Miner punt that was blocked and returned for a touchdown.
Old Dominion took the one-point lead off the blocked punt and UTEP was left to scramble and score late in the game. After the go-ahead score by Hankins, the defense held ODU three separate times to close out the game and win in the end.
Hardison ended the game completing 10-of-20 passes for 191 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. Cowing had another great performance, totalling four catches for 118 yards, and now has nine 100+ yard games in his career. Pass rusher Praise Amaewhule led UTEP with eight total tackles, one sack and 1.5 tackle for loss.
Up next: UTEP (4-1) travels to face off against Southern Miss (1-4) next Saturday. The Eagles recently dropped a game to Rice (24-19) and will host the Miners at 5 p.m. local time.