UTEP Rallies in the Second Half to Beat FAU, 24-21
In a game of ebbs and flows, the UTEP football team rallied back in the second half to beat Florida Atlantic (24-21) off a Gavin Baechle game-winning field goal as time expired.
Baechle's three field goals helped him become UTEP's all-time leader in field goals made, surpassing Reagan Schneider (50) with 51 career field goals made.
The Miners (4-4, 2-2 C-USA) are now just two wins away from bowl eligibility for the second straight season.
Thanks to some key rushes by tailback Deion Hankins—including a breakaway 72-yard rushing play in the third quarter that set up the game-tying touchdown—the Miners were able to shrug off an interception for a touchdown and sluggish start to win at the Sun Bowl in front of just 12,796 announced fans.
Prior to the game-winning field goal by Baechle, madness ensued on the field as a result of a controversial call on Florida Atlantic's extra point attempt. UTEP appeared to block the extra point and run it back for two points, but the refs called a late unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Praise Amaewhule for running after the blocked kick when his helmet was off. FAU was able to re-do their extra point and, as a result, tied the game, 21-21.
The Miners responded to the controversial call by putting together a methodical 13-play, 65 yard drive that lasted 4:36 and ended in the Baechle game winner.
"Lots of stuff going on in that game but the bottom line is the Miners found a way to win the game no matter what the adversity (was)," said head coach Dana Dimel. "They stuck together and hung in there and had a great second half of football, which was big for us. Really proud of them and really proud of the effort."
The Miners were down 7-6 in the first half after the defense allowed a 32-yard rushing touchdown by Larry McCammon. Out of the half, quarterback Gavin Hardison threw an interception that was returned 72 yards for a touchdown by Teja Young, putting FAU up 14-6.
Then, Hankins' 72 yard run helped set up an easy two-yard rushing touchdown by Gavin Hardison. They converted the two-point conversion on a pass play from Hardison to tight end Trent Thompson. On the next drive, Hankins had another 27-yard run that helped set up a Hardison touchdown pass to Rey Flores to give the Miners the lead.
Hardison finished the day 16-of-26 with a touchdown and an interception for a touchdown. Hankins rushed for a career-high 138 yards on 17 carries (8.1 average). Ronald Awatt (59 rushing yards, 40 receiving yards) contributed to to the 234-yard rushing performance by the team. Wide receiver Tyrin Smith led the way with seven catches for 70 yards.
Defensively, edge rusher Jadrian Taylor contributed with two sacks, one forced fumble and 3.5 tackles for loss. Linebacker Cal Wallerstedt led the team in total tackles with 11.
FAU quarterback N'Kosi Perry ended 12-of-20 through the air for 164 passing yards, while McCammon led the Owls' rushing attack with 79 yards on 13 carries.
Up next: UTEP will host Middle Tennessee (3-4, 0-3 C-USA) for homecoming on Saturday, Oct. 29 at the Sun Bowl. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. and the game can be heard on 600 ESPN El Paso.