The Mean Green came into this game favored by 27 points (!!), and took this Miners team about as seriously. That turned out to be a huge mistake.
Dana Dimel has been improving UTEP by inches all season, inheriting a team that went 0-12 a year ago and somehow inspiring confidence and productivity in El Paso through his first six weeks. As we pointed out in our preview of this game, this Miners team gave NMSU and UTSA all they could handle over the last two weeks, and this game was no different— when all was said and done, the teams played just about even, North Texas finishing with 425 yards of total offense, to UTEP’s 417.
Nothing about this game made sense. In spite of improvements by the home team, UNT was supposed to run away with the West division. After playing neck-and-neck with a very good Louisiana Tech team last week, the Mean Green offense looked asleep for most of this game, connecting on some routine plays from dropping easy passes or missing easy reads. In spite of a thoroughly uninspiring performance by the offense, the defense held its own and the score was only 10-10 at halftime.
Mason Fine finished 23/34 with 294 yards, with two touchdowns and no interceptions. On UTEP’s side of the ball, usual starter Kai Locksley did not play, with that pressure falling on Ryan Metz, who completed big plays all day and managed to put up big points, in spite of a 57 percent completion percentage and throwing two interceptions. In the end, Metz was 19/33 with 313 yards with two touchdowns and those two INT’s. This was the first time a UTEP passer threw for over 300 yards since Jameill Showers in 2013.
On the ground, the two teams proved to be just as evenly matched. For the Mean Green, previous top rusher Loren Easly is out for the season, so DeAndre Torrey led all UNT rushers, with 70 yards on 19 carries. On the Miner side, Quardraiz Wadley had 65 yards on 11 carries.
But look down to the next spot on that depth chart. Second-leading rusher for UNT was Nic Smith (12 carries, 59 yards), and for UTEP it was (wait for it) Ryan Metz, (37 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries). That’s not exactly carrying the team on your back, but the addition made it close, and for the Mean Green, a little too close.
In the end, the game was decided on two plays: with 2:45 left in the 4th, UNT came up to 4th and inches on their own 27, and could’ve perhaps closed the game out with a first down. Instead, they opted to punt. A few plays later, UNT came up with a big sack and UTEP decided to go for it from their own territory on 4th and 17. Metz threw it into the hands of David Lucero for what would have been a first down, but the pass was dropped.
This game was no doubt very encouraging for the Miners, who enter a bye week after the homecoming loss, before playing at Louisiana Tech on October 20th, in what may turn out to be an interesting game indeed.
North Texas will no doubt look at film to figure out what the heck happened, before hosting Southern Miss next week.