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Miners Drop Heartbreaker to LA Tech, 17-15

he UTEP football team dropped a heartbreaker at the Sun Bowl Saturday afternoon to LA Tech by a tally of 17-15. The loss drops the Miners to 4-7 (2-5 C-USA) on the year while the Bulldogs improve to 8-3 (6-1 C-USA).

“I’m pleased with how our guys have fought all year long,” UTEP head coach Sean Kugler said. “I told them how proud of them I was. I love this team and the whole team fought.”

UTEP was able to hold a potent LA Tech offense to its lowest point total of the year and had a chance to secure the victory with 1:49 left in the game. Wind, which played a huge factor all day long, may have influenced Jay Mattox’s 32-yard field goal that sailed wide left. If the kick was converted, it would have given the Miners a 18-17 lead with less than two minutes to play.

Freshman running back TK Powell was an instrumental cog in the UTEP time of possession domination; the Miners possessed the ball for 37:49. Powell rushed for a career-high 124 yards and had gains of 37, 36 and 14 yards. The 124 yards by Powell and 226 yards by the team were the most yards the vaunted LA Tech defense has conceded all year. Powell’s 37-yard rush in the second quarter was the longest rushing play allowed by the Bulldogs this season.

The 226 yards rushing by UTEP was the most since they rambled for 269 yards against NM State on week three (Sept. 19). Powell becomes the second player for UTEP to run for 100-plus yards this year (Aaron Jones-Texas Tech, Sept. 12).

The defense came out with a vengeance on “Senior Day.” The Miners limited the prolific LA Tech attack to only 307 total yards, which was a season low for the UTEP defense and season low for the LA Tech offense. The defense also forced its second safety of the year when Alvin Jones dropped LA Tech running back Kenneth Dixon in the endzone in the third quarter. It was the first safety that LA Tech has allowed since 2011.

LA Tech started the game with a 13 play, 73-yard drive that resulted in a 19-yard field goal by Jonathan Barnes. The Miners began their scoring regimen in the second quarter with a 12 play, 87-yard touchdown drive that ended with an 11-yard touchdown pass from Kavika Johnson to Cole Freytag.

Mattox added a 37-yard field goal just before the half that pushed the UTEP lead to 10-3, but the Bulldogs didn’t go quietly into halftime. LA Tech went 82 yards on six plays to even up the score when Jeff Driskel connected with Carlos Henderson for a 16-yard touchdown.

LA Tech struck quick in the third quarter on its first drive of the second half when Driskel hooked up with Henderson (54-yard TD) for his second score of the game.

The UTEP defense was the beneficiary of excellent special teams play by Alan Luna. The freshman punter was able to drop three punts inside the 20 and two were downed inside the 10-yard line. After UTEP downed a punt at the seven-yard line midway through the third quarter, Gino Bresolin and Jones combined for back-to-back tackle for losses, the second of which Jones dropped the Dixon in the endzone for a safety.

Mattox knocked in his second field goal of the game early in the fourth quarter to cut the lead 17-15 in favor of LA Tech. Mattox has now made 15 field goals this year, which is a career high.

Gino Bresolin then caused some havoc on the defensive line when Dixon fumbled a ball with 9:20 left in the game. Bresolin pounced on the ball and gave UTEP an unbelievable opportunity, but the offense was unable to cash it in.

The defense held Dixon to his lowest rushing total of the year with 39 yards on 19 carries.

The Miners had one last offensive attempt left with 44 seconds to play in the game, but the LA Tech defense proved stingy, and didn’t allow UTEP to get in field-goal range.

UTEP will head to North Texas next weekend to play the Mean Green on Nov. 28.

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