UTEP Special Teams Errors Lead to UAB Victory
The UTEP football team finished their regular season with three poor special teams plays that decided their 42-25 loss at UAB on Friday afternoon.
They dealt with a blocked punt, a fumble on the kickoff and a missed recovery on the kickoff—all which led to Blazers touchdowns in the game.
To start things off, both teams totaled four straight punts before points got on the board. After a stalled drive near their own 35, Miner punter Josh Sloan had a 16-yard punt that gave the Blazers terrific field position. They put together a 44-yard drive that lasted six plays and was capped off by a 17-yard score by running back DeWayne McBride.
UTEP's offense came to life with back-to-back scoring drives. First, they got on the board after a lengthy 10 play, 75-yard touchdown drive that ended in a seven-yard rushing touchdown by running back Quardraiz Wadley. Quarterback Gavin Hardison and the offense were able to extend this drive following a successful fourth down conversion deep inside UAB territory.
Blazers quarterback Dylan Hopkins threw an interception to start their next drive, as safety Dy'vonne Inyang snagged his third takeaway of the season. The Miners capitalized off the turnover thanks to some nice run plays. Running back Deion Hankins rushed for 19-yards and scored on an 11-yard carry to cap off the drive.
UAB tied it up thanks to tailback McBride, who had a 69-yard carry. However, he was injured on the long run and would not return to the game. The Blazers scored on a fourth and goal touchdown run by Jermaine Brown Jr.
Right before the end of the first half, the Miners took the 17-14 lead with a 29-yard field goal by Gavin Baechle. They capitalized off great field possession due to UAB's punter shaking his punt.
The Blazers regained the lead in the second half following a UAB blocked punt that gave the Blazers great field possession. UAB turned the blocked punt into an easy four-play, 40 yard drive that ended in a Brown Jr. rushing score. Then on the kickoff return Dennis Barnes fumbled for the Miners, which led to another quick UAB touchdown drive. The 4-yard touchdown pass from Dylan Hopkins to Hayden Pittman finished the drive.
The Miners responded with a crisp drive that resulted in a 30-yard touchdown pass from Gavin Hardison to Jacob Cowing. It was a nine-play, 82 yard touchdown drive that also included a successful two-point conversion by Rey Flores.
UAB answered with a lengthy touchdown drive of their own. They went 12 plays down the field for 78 yards, including a key third down conversion that extended the drive. A 10-yard rushing score by Brown Jr. put the Blazers up 35-25.
On the next kickoff, UTEP failed to recover and the Blazers capitalized on another special teams turnover. They scored on their very next play, giving UAB the 42-25 edge and the eventual victory.
Up next: UTEP will await their bowl invitation at 7-5 (4-4 C-USA). The full bowl selections are expected to be announced next Sunday following the conference title games.