UTEP’S Going Bowling
With an opportunity to clinch their first winning season since 2005, and the chance to secure a bowl game, the Miners knocked off Middle Tennessee 24-21 in a thrilling contest on senior night. With everything on the line, UTEP played their best game at home all season in what turned out to be a classic battle between two teams that had to win in order to go bowling.
The game was a seesaw match that featured a low scoring first half. The Miners took a10-7 lead in the second quarter when Showers found Aaron Jones for a 72 touchdown reception, the longest of his career. Middle Tennessee took a 14-10 halftime lead when running back Shane Tucker scored on a one yard touchdown. Aaron Jones gave the Miners a 17-14 lead in the third quarter when he scored on a seven yard touchdown run. Jones added another superior performance to his resume by tailing 147 yards on 29 carries, and scored two touchdowns.
Trailing 21-17 with 11:44 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Miners played the remainder of the game poised, determined, and finished the Blue Raiders off in an incredible fashion. Jameill Showers led the team on a clutch nine play, 75 yard drive where he scored on a five yard QB keeper, which ultimately was the game winning touchdown. Showers finished the game 7-13 for 106 yards, 10 carries for 62 yards, and two touchdowns.
The game was in the bag and the Miners were finally going to win one of the most meaningful games in recent memory, right? Not so fast as Middle Tennessee didn't go quietly as they marched down the field and ate up the majority of the 6:19 that remained in the game. The Blue Raiders trailed by three and had a second and goal at the Miner's 7 yard line with a little more than one minute left. It was then that the Miners most important defensive play of the season occurred.
Senior DB Jameel Erving made an incredible play by jumping up and batting down Middle Tennessee quarterback Austin Grammar's pass attempt and was able to miraculously intercept the ball. Ironically enough it was Erving's first career interception with the Miners. UTEP failed to run out the clock and gave the Blue Raiders one more opportunity to tie or win the game. Middle Tennessee got the ball back at the 50 yard line with :17 left; the smallest increment of time that turned out to be the most exhilarating and nerve-racking part of the game for players and fans alike.
A penalty and some confusion occurred on their next play before the Miner's defense prevailed as senior Wes Miller intercepted one last pass attempt from Middle Tennessee. Miller led the defense with11 tackles. The Miners finished the 2014 campaign 7-5, 5-3 C-USA, and will be invited to a bowl game for only the fifth time since 1988. More than likely they will make another appearance in the Gildan's New Mexico Bowl on December 20 in Albuquerque.
It goes without saying that this team's accomplishments are nothing short of spectacular, and they have improved vastly since last season. Confidence is something that Coach Kugler has instilled in his team, and that can take you so far in life. This is a special team, one that will forever be remembered for having the heart of a champion.
Sophomore running back Aaron Jones, who now has nine career 100 plus yard games had this to say following the win.