Miners come up short in New Mexico Bowl, losing 31-24 to the Fresno State Bulldogs

Albuquerque New Mexico, The UTEP Miners fell to the Fresno State Bulldogs by a Final Score of 31-24 in their First Bowl Game in 7 Seasons. The Miners had their opportunities to end their 54 year bowl victory drought but ultimately 2 turnovers and the inability to come up with 3rd down plays on both sides of the ball would give the Bulldogs the victory. 

Fresno State took the opening kickoff right down the field going 75 yards on 5 plays with Bulldog Running Back Jordan Mims scoring on a 2 yard run, after a mixed extra point the Bulldogs would lead 6-0. The Miners quickly answered with a 80 yard 7 play drive punctuated by a 1 yard Gavin Hardison Touchdown Pass to Tight End Trent Thompson giving the Miners a 7-6 lead.

The teams would trade field goals and UTEP’s defense would tighten up giving the offense the opportunity to take the ball 70 yards in 10 plays capped off by a 1 yard Ronald Awatt Touchdown run giving the Miners their biggest lead of the game at 17-9. 

Fresno State would answer the Miners scoring a Touchdown on a 10 play drive on a 1 yard Jordan Mims run cutting the Miner Lead to 17-16. On the ensuing UTEP procession the Miners would get to midfield with 3:00 left in the half and a chance to score before halftime and receive the 2nd half kickoff but where unable to capitalize and punt the ball back to the Bulldogs with :57 left in the half.

What has been a reoccurring theme on the season of Miner opponents scoring on quick drives in the last 2 minutes before halftime and the Bulldogs where able to drive the ball into Miner Territory and Fresno State Kicker Ceaser Silva hit a 43 yard Field Goal to give the Bulldogs a 19-17 lead at the half.

UTEP struggled to score in the 3rd Quarter missing a 53 yard field attempt and punting and Fresno State would have the lone score of the quarter at 22 yard Touchdown pass from Jake Haener to Jordan Mims giving Fresno State a 26 to 17 lead.

UTEP would drive the ball to midfield and bring in their jumbo package with Calvin Brownholtz at Quarterback on 3rd and 1. Brownholtz would face the sneak and hit a wide open Trent Thompson for a 51 yard Touchdown cutting the score to 26-24. 

That’s as close as the Miners would come as Fresno State would add another Field Goal making the score 29-24. On back to back UTEP possessions  to  close the game out the Miners would be forced to start inside the 12 yard line, the first of which Gavin Hardison would be sacked in the end zone for a safety making the score 31 to 24 in favor of the Bulldogs.

UTEP’s final possession would see Gavin Hardison keep the ball on a read option but fumble the ball on the tackle and the Bulldogs would get two first downs to seal their victory. 

It was a disappointing end to one of the better seasons of UTEP football that saw the Miners take big strides in becoming a better more competitive program. UTEP finished with a stellar home record of 5-1, had one of the most impressive defensive improvements and gradually improved against the higher tier group of 5 programs as the season progressed.

Looking forward continuity will be key to their future success. With the changing landscape of college football including realignment, NIL, a turbulent college coaching carrousel, and the ever so dubious transfer portal, Coach Dimel must keep his young roster in tact, and hang on to key coordinators. 

Chris Gomez Reporting