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Program Record Comeback Propels UTSA to 34-31 Victory Over UTEP

The win secured the Roadrunners a perfect conference record and denied the Miners bowl eligibility.

UTEP v UTSA Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images

The UTEP Miners (5-7, 3-5 CUSA) were 17-point underdogs coming into this game. The UTSA Roadrunners (10-2, 8-0 CUSA) only gave up 7 points in the last two games and were playing at home in the final game for departing seniors.

And yet, it took until the final 3 seconds for UTSA to take the lead on a Jared Sackett field goal and steal victory from the visiting Miners. In between that field goal and the opening kickoff fans were treated to a wild and exhilarating regular season finale that saw UTEP jump out to a 24-0 lead and put on an offensive clinic before UTSA mounted its largest deficit comeback in program history to secure a perfect conference record.

The Miners were playing for bowl eligibility, and it showed on the field. UTEP scored on their initial four offensive drives—3 touchdowns and 1 field goal—and held UTSA’s offense to just 92 total yards, 0 points, and stopped the Roadrunners on 4th down. The result was a 24-0 score in UTEP’s favor with 7:03 left in the 1st half with the Miners in firm control of the game.

Calvin Brownholtz started his second game in place of Gavin Hardison and worked UTSA’s defense for most of the game. He passed for 189 yards and 2 touchdowns, ran for 51 yards and 1 touchdown, and generally looked comfortable with managing the Miner offense. His decision making and poise in the pocket was particularly noteworthy. During UTEP’s early offensive onslaught Brownholtz patiently baited UTSA’s defense on a pass play before sprinting untouched through the line for 23 yards to score.

Meanwhile, senior running backs Ronald Awatt and Reynaldo Flores paced UTEP’s running game and both were efficient running the ball, averaging over 6 yards per attempt. Awatt ran the ball 13 times for 79 yards while Flores ran the ball 11 times for 74 yards and one touchdown, and caught two passes for 23 yards. Wide receiver Tyrin Smith also paced the passing game, catching four passes for 99 yards and a touchdown.

The Miners were simply clicking for the majority of the first half. By halftime, UTEP had already amassed 341 yards of total offense—split relatively evenly with 190 yards passing and 151 yards rushing—had 18 first downs and held a 24-14 score advantage. Meanwhile, the Miners defense held UTSA to just 162 total yards, with only 22 of those yards coming on the ground.

The cracks began to show towards the end of the half and unfortunately for UTEP, the Miners could not adjust in the second half to prevent UTSA from storming back.

It started with a 65-yard touchdown pass from UTSA’s Frank Harris to wide receiver Joshua Cephus with 5:15 remaining in the second quarter. The Roadrunners then picked off Brownholtz for a 73-yard touchdown return on UTEP’s ensuing offensive drive to cut into the Miner’s lead to just 10 and took that deficit into halftime. From there, the Roadrunners would outscore UTEP 20-7 in the second half.

The turning point began after tight end Gavin Sharp went down with a massive leg injury and was carted off the field. Senior running back Brendan Brady also went down with an arm injury the previous drive while Harris briefly left the field on a non-contact ankle injury. It was a game most Roadrunner fans feared that likely made head coach Jeff Traylor consider pulling the starters to avoid more injuries before next week’s conference championship game.

But Harris stayed in the game and then mounted UTSA’s largest comeback in school history. He threw for 382 yards and 3 touchdowns, and ran for an additional 14 yards. Harris connected with three different wide receivers—Zakhari Franklin, Joshua Cephus, and Tykee Ogle-Kellogg—for touchdown scores and committed no turnovers. Included in those scores was a 70-yard throw to Ogle-Kellogg, who had his best game of his career as a Roadrunner.

Ogle-Kellog ended the day with four catches for 142 yards and a touchdown while Franklin added 126 yards and a touchdown on seven catches to his season total. Franklin now needs only 44 yards to break 1,000 yards receiving on the year. Meanwhile, freshman running back Kevorian Barnes had 15 carries for 55 yards and took over the majority of rushing attempts after Brady’s injury.

The Roadrunner defense also stepped up in the second half to propel UTSA to victory. Junior linebacker Jamal Ligon had 11 tackles while senior Clifford Chattman intercepted a batted pass in UTSA’s red zone to deny UTEP another scoring opportunity. It was Chattman’s third interception in as many games and kept the game tied in the fourth quarter. From there, the defense would force a punt and the Roadrunners would march down the field and score on a 28-yard field goal from Sackett to win the game.

In the end, it was a hard-fought game where both teams threw all they had into the contest. Ultimately, the Miners were unable to maintain their sizeable lead and failed to qualify for a bowl game, a disappointing result after UTEP’s strong efforts. The win solidifies a perfect conference record for the Roadrunners, a possible Top-25 ranking, and momentum heading into the conference championship against North Texas.