UTEP Falls to #4 Oklahoma in a Close, Competitive Contest
Most people gave the Miners a slim chance to beat the 4th ranked Oklahoma Sooners at the Sun Bowl on Saturday night. UTEP showed the country and the 40,137 in attendance that they could compete with one of the nation's elite college football teams. Oklahoma won the game 24-7, but did not pull away until the 4th quarter by scoring 14 points.
The Miners were stellar on defense, shutting down the high powered Oklahoma offense for 3 quarters. Oklahoma went 3 and out on their first possession of the game and attempted to punt when UTEP defensive back Richard Spencer blocked the punt, and running back Nathan Jeffery recoverd the ball and returned it 24 yards for a touchdown. The Sooners finally got on the board with 5:06 left in the first quarter as quarterback Landry Jones threw a 68 yard touchdown pass to Kenny Stills.
The Miners' special teams came through again for them in the second quarter as they blocked an OU field goal attempt. The defense and special teams certainly did their part throughout the contest, but it was the Miners' dismal kicking game and non existant passing game that led to their demise. Veteran senior kicker Dakota Warren missed 2 field goal attempts in the first half, and his replacement Steven Valadez missed another field goal in the 3rd quarter.
The Miners had tremendous success on the ground all night long as running back Nathan Jeffery rushed for 177 yards on just 21 carries. It was their passing game that ended up being their achilies heal. Senior QB Nick Lamaison finished the game throwing for just 39 yards, completing only 6 of 23 passes. Clearly this was a game that the Miners could have won, that is irrelevant though because coming close doesn't count.
UTEP certainly deserves quite a bit of credit though, they were 30 point underdogs and Oklahoma was supposed to beat them with ease. The 7-7 halftime score showed the Miners competitve spirit and heart as well. Even going into the 4th quarter they were only down 10-7 to the Sooners and still had a chance to win the game.
Following the game Coach Price discussed how much he appreciated his team's effort, and how they had a great opportunity to win the game, he mentioned,
Miners' QB Nick Lamison had this to say when he was asked if the nation's perception of the team had changed.
The Miners will be tested again next week when they travel to Oxford, Mississippi to face Ole Miss. Sometimes you can learn a lot about your team from a loss. One thing is for certain, if UTEP can hang with the 4th ranked team in the country, they can play with anyone.