El Paso, TX — UTEP pounded out a season-high 327 yards rushing in ending a seven-game losing streak and sending its 14 seniors out with a victory, 33-10 over FIU on Saturday night in the Sun Bowl.
Nathan Jeffery (130 yards) and Blaire Sullivan (104) both rushed for over 100 yards as the Miners posted their first home win under coach Sean Kugler.
The Miners (2-8, 1-5 C-USA) came out determined to run the ball down the Panthers’ throats. UTEP’s first two scoring drives featured 16 rushing plays and one pass attempt. The Miners instated a 10-0 lead on a four-yard touchdown run by Autrey Golden and a 34-yard field goal by Jay Mattox.
"We wanted to show trust in (the offensive line)," said coach Sean Kugler. They really struggled last week and had a tough game. We challenged them and they worked their tails off all last week. They almost had a perfect game up front. No sacks on Mack (Leftwich) and they rushed for over 300 yards. They were certainly the most physical unit out there tonight. My hats to them and I love when guys respond. You're going to get your tails whipped once in a while and we've had our tails whipped a few times. Just to see the guys bounce back was fun to see."
"The Miner fans were awesome. To look out there tonight and see a big crowd that was energized and loud; I can't say enough about the Miner fans. Having played
The Panthers (1-9, 1-5 C-USA) got on the board with 45 seconds left in the first period when Lamarq Caldwell threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to T.J. Lowder.
Golden immediately put the Miners in scoring position with a 60-yard kickoff return. But Mattox missed a 38-yard field goal and the score remained 10-7.
Neither team was able to get anything going offensively until Sullivan broke free for a 35-yard run late in the first quarter, setting up a one-yard touchdown run by Jeffery on fourth down with 38 seconds remaining in the half. The Miners took the 17-7 lead into the locker room.
UTEP added a safety in the third quarter when Horace Miller tackled Silas Spearman in the end zone. The Miners pushed the lead to 26-7 late in the third period when Mack Leftwich connected with Jordan Leslie for a 64-yard score.
Jeffery picked up his second rushing touchdown of the night on a 54-yard scamper with 7:05 to play.
The Miners posted 407 yards of offense and enjoyed their best game of the season on defense, yielding 200 yards. FIU rushed for 95 yards and completed just 9-of-24 pass attempts.
UTEP will close out the season with back-to-back road games at Tulane on Nov. 23 (1:30 p.m.) and at Middle Tennessee on Nov. 30 (1:45 p.m.).