Hometown boy, comeback king and the new starting quarterback. These are all the perks that freshman quarterback Ryan Metz used in his come-from-behind 27-17 victory over Incarnate Word in the Miners’ first game in the Sun Bowl this season.
Last week the Miners’ offense scored 50 points to defeat the NMSU Aggies. That same offensive attack wouldn’t transition to the play they did in their 10-point victory over the FCS Cardinal squad.
Finishing their non-conference schedule in the Sun Bowl, the Miners’ primary goal going into the game was to reach .500 and gain momentum before their Conference USA games.
The Cardinals kicked off the game with a drive resulting in a field goal. After a Miner three-and-out, Incarnate Word’s starting quarterback Trent Brittain threw an interception to Kalon Beverly for a 24-yard touchdown. However, after those seven points, the Miners wouldn’t find the goal line until 2:35 in the third quarter.
At the half, the Miners only had 96-total yards of offense and only led one drive resulting in a 50-yard Jay Mattox field goal. Head coach Sean Kugler blames the apparent offensive struggle to the loss of running back Darrin Laufasa.
“I didn’t think we played real well, in particular the first half,” said Kugler. “We really got in disarray in our run game after we lost Darrin Laufasa on the second play of the game.”
But the Miners problems weren’t solely on the offensive side. The defense allowed 227-yards in the first half against the Cardinals. Also, receiver Jamari Gilbert caught two touchdowns, on for 34-yards and one for 90-yards, in the second and third quarter respectively.
“I told the team at halftime, I felt [Incarnate Word] was outplaying us at that point,” Kugler said. “We were in a dogfight and I wanted to see how they responded. I was very pleased with how they responded in the second half on offense and defense.”
After halftime, the clipboard seemed to trigger Metz’s arm. On a long, 5:39 75-yard drive, Metz connected with Autrey Golden for a 10-yard touchdown to tie the game 17-17.
After a go-ahead field goal by Jay Mattox with 10:01 left in the fourth quarter, the Miners’ defense had the stop of what could have saved the game. They forced the Cardinals to punt after they nearly crossed into UTEP territory.
Following the punt, Metz led his offense on a 80-yard touchdown drive, which ended in a 46-yard receiving touchdown by Jacquan White.
In the end, it was the diverse set of receivers who aided the come-behind win. Tight end Hayden Plinke led the Miners with four catches for 80 yards, followed by White, who had 73-yards, and Tyler Batson, who recorded 69-yards of receiving.
In the air, Metz finished the night completing 20 for 28 with 275 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Continuing to praise his team’s relentlessness and fight to win, Metz reflected on his squad’s comeback victory in a praiseful fashion. The offense ended the night with 356 total yards of offense.
“There’s not a single person on this team who will pack up his things and say ‘we’re done’,” Metz said. “This team – they rally together – and keep fighting. That was the turning point of the game. We come together as a team in those situations.”
Metz’s first start began what Kugler describes as being a “different look for our team.”
“With the ball in his [Metz’] hands, he makes good decisions and he’s got that will to move the team,” Kugler said.
Onto Conference USA play, the Miners host the UTSA Roadrunners next Saturday, who are currently 0-4; but, as Kugler describes, had the “toughest schedule in the country.”
“[UTSA] has a really good team,” Kugler said. “We’re going to evaluate this win, put it to bed. We have to get healthy as we can and we have to go out and fight. We are a beat up team who is going to have to scrap to get the win.”
The Miners kick off the game against the Roadrunners at 6 p.m. Oct. 3 in the Sun Bowl.
Adrian Broaddus may be reached at [email protected]