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Late FG, costly penalties doom UTEP 20-17 at North Texas

DENTON, Texas - After squandering an early lead, it looked for a moment as if UTEP would survive a second half collapse at North Texas.

But it was a collapse in defensive coverage that sealed the Miners fate, when Mean Green QB Austin Aune connected with Detraveon Brown for 58 yards with 10 seconds to play to set up a game-winning 27-yard North Texas Field Goal.

The loss is UTEP's (6-4, 3-3 C-USA) third in a row and gives North Texas (4-6, 3-3 C-USA) their third victory in as many tries.

Saturday's game is one that the Miners could have had.

UTEP held a 7-3 lead at halftime behind a 76-yard TD pass from Gavin Hardison to Jacob Cowing, the Miners' longest play from scrimmage this season.

But North Texas scored on both of their opening possessions of the second half, sandwiched by a UTEP interception, to take a 17-7 lead.

It appeared as if the Mean Green would put the game away midway through the 4th Quarter, driving 98-yards down the field to set up a potential dagger with six minutes to play.

But the Miners defense stopped the Mean Green at the goal line on four plays to turn it back over, and UTEP subsequently scored a touchdown on their own in seven plays. Ronald Awatt's four-yard run cut the deficit to 17-14 with 4:26 to play.

The Miners then forced a quick three and out to retain possession, and had a chance to score a touchdown to take the lead.

But conservative play-calling inside the 25-yard line forced a Miners' field goal to tie it at 17 with 55 seconds to play.

Again, it looked like UTEP would take momentum into overtime following a defensive stop on 2nd down. With North Texas out of timeouts on their own 32-yard, it appeared as though the teams would head to an extra period.

But Aune, who had completed just 14/32 passes prior, stepped up in the pocket and found a streaking Brown inside the ten-yard-line to set up Ethan Mooney's chip-shot game-winner.

UTEP's loss puts even more urgency on the team to win one of their final two games. UTEP is technically bowl-eligible with six wins, but their is a chance they could be left out of the bowl picture if they lose both of their final two.

A winnable game presents itself next Saturday at home vs. Rice. Senior Day kickoff is set for 2pm.

Nate Ryan

Nate Ryan is an ABC-7 sports anchor/reporter.

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