Fans, players and students were all waiting for the duel between the UTEP Miners (5-7, 3-5 Conference USA) and the 25th University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) (10-2, 8-0 Conference USA) . For the Miners, a win would have propelled the team into bowl eligibility for the second straight year. A feat that hadn’t happened since the 2004 and 2005 seasons. For the UTSA Roadrunners, there wasn’t much to play for except pride. The Roadrunners have already clinched their ticket to the Conference USA (C-USA) championship game on December 2.
In a shocking opener, the Miners dominated in the first half. Leading 24-10 at the end of the first half, UTEP managed to gain over 300 yards on total offense while keeping the UTSA offense at bay. Unfortunately for the Miners, UTSA came back early in the fourth quarter after an interception by junior quarterback Calvin Brownholtz on a third-and-10 from the UTSA 14-yard line.
Brownholtz, who started in place of injured junior quarterback Gavin Hardison, threw 11 of 24 for 189 yards for two touchdowns and two interceptions. He also rushed for 51 yards and had a rushing touchdown. Brownholtz’s second interception changed the trajectory of the game allowing UTSA to eliminate the minors late in the game. UTSA would go on to throw a 28-yard field goal to put the Roadrunners up 34-31 with just four seconds left.
In a season full of ups and downs, UTEP managed to accomplish several accomplishments. The Miners have won several key games throughout the 2022 football season, including the Battle of I-10, the upset against Boise State, and the near shutout of Florida Interational (FIU).
After facing challenges against the University of North Texas (UNT) and Oklahoma, the Miners earned a well-deserved victory in the community of El Paso after defeating the New State Aggies. Mexico 20-13 on Saturday, September 10 at the Sun Bowl. There, senior running back Ronald Awatt rushed for 120 yards, giving the Miners a rushing touchdown. After that win, UTEP improved to 59-38-2 against the Aggies all-time.
In a game the Miners had a 10% chance of winning, head coach Dana Dimel rallied his team to a 27-10 upset at home against the Boise State Broncos. In a very diverse game plan, four different UTEP players rushed for a total of 199 yards. Most notably, second punt returner Marcus Bellon returned a punt 47 yards for a touchdown, the first since Sept. 19, 2015. The punt return for a touchdown froze the game for the Broncos and ensured Miner’s victory.
Prior to facing UTSA, the Miners needed to beat the FIU Panthers to reach bowl eligibility. UTEP went above and beyond, dropping 40 points to CRF’s six points. In this match, the Miners’ defense held the FIU attack to 76 yards. Meanwhile, UTEP combined for 525 total yards. Sophomore wide receiver Kelly Acharaiyi scored his first touchdown as a minor after a 68-yard reception.
Hardison has thrown for 2,044 yards this season and 11 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Hardison did not finish the season after being injured in the 37-30 loss to Rice in early November. Brownholtz finished the season with 512 yards and four touchdowns with four interceptions.
Awatt and second-year running back Deion Hankins finished the season with over 700 yards and combined for five rushing touchdowns. Senior wide receiver and running back Reynaldo Flores scored 276 yards and five touchdowns as well as 534 yards and a touchdown over the air.
Sophomore receiver Tyrin Smith finished the season with 1,039 yards. This follows former UTEP wide receiver Jacob Cowings’ 1,354-yard season in 2021. It’s the first time in UTEP football history that the Minors had wide receivers passing the 1,000 receiving yards in consecutive seasons.
On defense, senior defensive end Jadrian Taylor has led the Miners with 9.5 sacks this season. Junior linebacker Cal Wallerstedt and junior linebacker Tyrice Knight tied for the team lead with 95 tackles this season. The defense has allowed a total of 1,632 yards rushing this season and 2,598 yards through the air.
Senior kicker Gavin Baechle completed 22 of 24 field goal attempts, missing just two against UNT and UTSA. Baechle hasn’t missed a single point after attempting to score 97 points for the Miners in 2021 and 284 points in his UTEP career.
The future is quite uncertain for the Minors as they will not be participating in the 2021 bowl season, but speculation about some 2023 opponents has surfaced. ESPN 600 AM-El Paso reports that UTEP will play Northwestern for a profit of $1.2 million. Matches against Arizona, Incarnate Word and the University of Nevada-Las Vegas are also reported. Whatever opponents the miners face, be sure that Dimel will push his team forward through any adversity.
Statistics provided by UTEP Athletics and utepminers.com.
Emmanuel Rivas Valenzuela is the sports editor and can be contacted at [email protected]: @rivasemmanuel2 on Instagram
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