Yet again, the Miners played better than their record but came up short.
It was homecoming in Ruston, and fans were treated to a closer game than they may have expected. The UTEP Miners were up for the task, but were unable to close the deal against the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs.
The Bulldog defense got on the board first, as a Ryan Metz pass was tipped by running back Quardraiz Wadley. L’Jarius Sneed caught the tip and took it in for the pick six.
UTEP would respond on their next drive, however. Metz found Keynan Foster for a 25 yard touchdown to tie the game. Tech, however, took the lead right back in just three plays as Adrian Hardy made a highlight reel catch on a J’Mar Smith touchdown pass.
The next seven drives were much less eventful, as the teams combined for seven straight punts. Tech would then kick a field goal to end the half with a 17-7 lead.
On the opening drive of the second half, Ryan Metz drove the Miners deep into Tech territory. He kept the ball for a 10 yard gain to set UTEP up 1st and goal from the Bulldog six. However, Metz was injured on the play, and had to be helped to the locker room where he underwent concussion protocol.
Brandon Jones came in to take his place, and took the ball into the end zone on his first snap.
After the teams traded punts, they traded touchdowns. After a Tech three and out, Jason Filley kicked a field goal to tie the game at 24.
Tech then marched down the field before facing a 4th and 1 from the UTEP 43. J’Mar Smith then fooled the entire Miner defense and basically walked into the end zone for the go-ahead score.
After trading punts, UTEP drove down the field and reached the red zone, but the Bulldog defense held on 4th and goal, allowing Tech to win 31-24.
Tech’s passing offense has been inconsistent, and today wasn’t a good day. Smith only had 156 passing yards, but he had a touchdown and no picks. The rushing offense was much better, however. Tech had 169 rushing yards, with Jaqwis Dancy leading the way with 93.
UTEP aired it out for 284 yards, but the rushing attack was shut down. The Miners only recorded 72 yards on the ground, and quarterback Ryan Metz led the way with 28 yards. That’s not good.
The man of the game, however, may have been Jaylon Ferguson. Ferguson recorded 3.5 sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss. His last sack forced UTEP to face a 4th and goal from the 20, which UTEP would not convert, allowing Tech to win.
Earlier in the week, UTEP head coach Dana Dimel indicated he planned to play both Ryan Metz and Kai Locksley. However, Metz was the lone quarterback used until his injury. After that, Brandon Jones came in rather than Locksley. An interesting decision, and Jones threw 7/15 for 98 yards. To his credit, however, he led UTEP down the field with the game on the line. If not for Ferguson’s sack, he may have been able to force overtime.
After falling to North Texas by just three, UTEP again showed they are better than their record. They have played well enough to win a few games, they just haven’t been able to finish the job. If they continue to improve, it’s very possible they could win a game or two by season’s end.
Louisiana Tech had some good plays, but also some bad ones. Tech’s defensive backs are normally great, but they had an off day against UTEP, giving up some passes they shouldn’t have. Tech played well enough to win this game, but they’ll need to play better to beat some of the other teams remaining on the schedule.
UTEP (0-7, 0-3) has now clinched a losing record and no bowl game for the fourth straight year. Their next game will be at home against UAB. It’s doubtful their first win would come against the Blazers, but the Sun Bowl can be a strange place at times.
La Tech (5-2, 3-1) is now one win away from clinching bowl eligibility for the fifth straight year. Their hopes of winning their third west division title are basically gone with UAB’s win over North Texas, but a successful season could still be on tap for the Bulldogs. They have a tough stretch coming up, however, with three of their next four on the road. Next up is a Friday night game at Florida Atlantic.