It only took the UTEP Miners seven Games to become Bowl Eligible for the first time since the 2014 Campaign. The Defensive domination of a Louisiana Tech offense who had no problem scoring on their previous outings was the story.
This is the most complete defensive performance in the Dana Dimmel Era as the Miners had stout play from the Defensive Line and Secondary. The Defense never seemed fluttered in spite of the Offense losing 3 Fumbles and a late Interception.
The Miners came out firing on all cylinders, taking the opening kick-off and starting the game off with a 13 play 75 yard drive punctuated by a 16 yard Deion Hankins Run to give the Miners a 7-0 lead.
Little did the Sunbowl Crowd of just over 18,000 loud Miners fans know is that would be all the Miners would need to secure the win and bowl-eligibility as the Defense took the field for the first Bulldog drive and began Tech Quarterback Austin Kendall’s long evening with a 3-and-out. The Miners would take the ensuing punt and go 45 yards in 4 plays with Deion Hankins touchdown run to give UTEP a 14-0 lead.
When the Miner Offense seemed to be rolling they would mysteriously get bit by the turnover bug on their third drive where UTEP Running Back Ronald Awat would lose the first of 3 UTEP Fumbles recovered by Louisiana Tech.
The Miner Defense would step up after the turnover bailing out the Offense, which would be a reoccuring theme of the night, snatching the momentum back after Miner Punter Josh Sloan would pin the Bulldogs at their own 1-yardline. On the first play following the punt, Tech Running Back Marcus Williams would be tackled in his own end-zone for a Safety that would put the Miners up 16-0.
The Miners would drive the ensuing kickoff deep into Bulldog territory but Deion Hankins would lose his first fumble. The Defense would force Louisiana Tech to settle for a 25 yard Jacob Barnes field goal for their only points of the game making the score 16-3. In the first half Miner Defensive would drop Kendall four times with UTEP Defensive End Jadrian Taylor would record 3.5 sacks.
In the second half the Miners would turn the ball over two additional times with a fumble by Deion Hankins and a Gavin Hardison Interception but the Miner Defense would not waiver, everytime the Bulldogs would reach the Red-Zone the Miners secondary would intercept Quarterback Austin Kendall, who came into tonight’s game with no incerptions. On three consecutive Tech drives Kendall would be picked by Tyson Wilson, Torey Richardson, and Tyrice Knight, the last of which sealed a 19-3 Miner Victory.
UTEP Head Coach Dana Dimmel would get a Gatorade shower at the end of the game, however in addressing his 6-1 team he would stress that there is a lot more work for this team to do in their Final 5 games.
The Miners who go into the by-week will begin to travel to Boca Raton Florida to face a tough Florida Atlantic Team. The Miners all-time are 0-25-1 in the Eastern Time Zone but given the defensive performances in the last 3 games this could be the team that breaks that streak.
The Miners are in the midst of a turnaround for the ages and one of the most special seasons in UTEP Football History.
Chris Gomez Reporting