UTEP 30 – NMSU 3: Miners Blow Out Aggies in Season Opener
UTEP got off to a fast start in the Battle of I-10 and never looked back, downing NM State 30-3 to snap a three-game losing streak in the rivalry game on Saturday night in front of 19,034 fans at Aggie Memorial Stadium.
Offensively, the Miners flexed a balanced attack against a struggling NMSU defense, as they racked up 249 passing and 203 rushing yards (452 total yards). Despite amassing 140 penalty yards in the game as a team, the defense was able to hold the Aggies to just three points over five red zone attempts.
“Obviously, I am pleased get to get a win in our first game,” head coach Dana Dimel said. “I think it's really important to play an archrival in an opening game. I like the outcome of what happened. Anytime you get a road victory, you’re super happy as a coach. For a first game, it was frenetic but it wasn't frenetic in the way that really worries you as the head coach. It wasn’t like we're having personnel issues or we're doing silly mistakes or turnovers, it wasn't like we were giving up a lot of big plays defensively and then just turning guys scot free. We did a time or two, but I have a lot of respect for NM State’s offense. They do a great job and they are a hard team to keep from scoring points.”
The Miners got off to a nice early start, featuring a 72-yard connection from quarterback Gavin Hardison to wide receiver Jacob Cowing. It helped set up a five-yard rushing touchdown by tailback Deion Hankins. On New Mexico State's next drive, UTEP safety Justin Prince forced a fumble on quarterback Jonah Johnson, which led to a field goal for Miner kicker Gavin Baechle. UTEP built on their 10-point lead when backup running back Ronald Awatt scored on a 34-yard rushing play.
NMSU finally got on the board in the second quarter by an Ethan Albertson 27-yard field goal. They could've shifted momentum after the Aggies forced a Hardison interception in the second quarter, but they failed to score off the turnover.
Coming out of the half with a 20-3 lead, UTEP showed they were the aggressors to start the third quarter by putting together an easy three-play, 75-yard touchdown drive highlighted by a 59-yard receiving touchdown by Jacob Cowing. When things were already grim for the Aggies, the Miners were able to notch another field goal late in the third quarter to cap the game, 30-3. In the fourth quarter, both teams threw out their backups and, despite a Calvin Brownholtz interception that pinned the Aggies inside the Miners' 5 yard line, NMSU failed to score on offense for the remainder of the game.
Hardison finished the day 11-for-16 through the air for 249 passing yards, one interception and one touchdown. Cowing was the star of the show tonight with five catches for 158 yards and a touchdown. Justin Garrett finished the game with four receptions for 74 yards. Awatt (11 carries, 74 yards, one touchdown) led the Miners on the ground, followed by Quardraiz Wadley (51 yards) and Hankins (50 yards). Hankins didn’t see any action in the second half of this game, but Dimel suggested it was only precautionary and that there was no need to play him extensively in this game.
Safety Dy’vonne Inyang led UTEP with six total tackles, while the defense racked up three sacks thanks to Praise Amaewhule, James Neal and Jadrian Taylor.
NMSU put up just 190 total yards of offense in this game.
Up next: UTEP (1-0) will host FCS opponent Bethune-Cookman in the home opener at the Sun Bowl on Saturday, Sept. 4.