Top ranked UAB Blazers burn UTEP for 20-straight loss

Daniel Mendez, Sports Editor

UTEP’s shortage on offense led to the Miners 20-consecutive loss, tying a Texas record held by the 1974-75 TCU Horned Frogs. UAB edged out the Miners 19-0, Saturday night, in front of an anemic home crowd at the Sun Bowl.

“I don’t think we took a step back because of the situation we were under,” said head coach Dana Dimel.“The defense we were facing and level of the team we were facing. I thought our guys really competed at a high level and didn’t give up. They really fought and battled to keep the game within striking distance.”

The Miners (0-8, 0-4 C-USA) defense was up to the challenge against the top-ranked Conference USA West foe the UAB Blazers (7-2,5-0 C-USA) but mishaps on the offensive side were once again the reason why UTEP saw itself trailing. UAB came into the game as the number one stop defense in the country at 83 percent.

UAB scored the lone touchdown of the first half on their second possession of the game. The Blazers scored on a six-play 87-yard drive when sophomore running back Spencer Brown found the end zone for a 15-yard touchdown rush.

The Blazers were able to add a field goal before the end of the first quarter. Junior kicker Nick Vogel nailed a 36-yard field goal capping off a 12 play 56-yard drive for the Blazers.

During the second quarter, Locksley completed a pass to junior running back Quardraiz Wadley for a positive gain but on that same play Locklsey went down with an apparent ankle injury, coach Dimel said postgame that Locksley reinjured the same injured ankle. Junior quarterback Brandon Jones came in for the Miners.

“Going into this game with his injury, I didn’t want to set him back and get him hurt, so I wasn’t going to run him as much near as much because of his injury,” Dimel said. “I was trying to get him established in the passing game, and he got hurt in a passing play. That was the plan because he wasn’t a 100 percent for this game.”

At the end of the first half, UTEP was outplayed on total offense amounting to 72 yards compared to UAB’s 205 yards of total offense. The Miners struggled to find a rhythm on offense in the first half. Jones was one-for-three for a negative of two yards, while the team rushed for 22 yards. Defensively UAB was able to run all over the Miners, amounting to 141 rush yards to end the first half.

After a three-and-out to start the second half, UAB looked like they were ready to put the icing on the cake. The Blazers drove 40 yards to the UTEP one. The Miners goal line defense played stout enough to force a fourth and goal. UAB on fourth and goal handed the ball off to Brown but Brown was met at the line of scrimmage by graduate transfer A.J. Hotchkins to force the turnover on downs.

UTEP on the following play attempted to hand the ball off to Wadley but the play resulted in a fumble. The play was called for a safety when Jones landed on top of the ball. Once again the Miners turnovers result in points for the opposing team.

On the next UAB possession, senior quarterback A.J. Erdely threw an interception to senior cornerback Nik Needham, the interception was Needham’s first interception on the season. But UTEP failed to score off the turnover resulting in a three-and-out.

With a minute left in the third quarter, UTEP found themselves deep in UAB territory. The Blazers were able to stop the Miners and force them to a field goal attempt. Senior Jason Filey attempted the 36-yard field goal, and the kick was good but the Miners were flagged for illegal formation. On his next attempt of 41 yards, the kick was short and the Blazers took over at their own 23-yard line.

UAB wouldn’t score till the fourth quarter at the 4:10 mark, when freshman backup quarterback Tyler Johnston III scored on a four-yard quarterback keeper capping off a 12 play 63-yard drive for the Blazers.

UTEP finished the game with 10 first downs, Jones threw for 49 yards and was five-for-nine passing. UTEP had two players finished with double-digit tackles. Hotchkins had 15, and senior linebacker Jamar Smith finished the game with 10 tackles. The Miners racked up 120 total yards on offense, 101 through the air and 19 on the ground. The Miners also struggled on third down converting two out of the 11 attempts.

“I think this team deserves a win, we’ve played close every week and I think we definitely deserve a win,” Hotchkins said.

 

UTEP will look to snap its losing streak on the road next week when they face the Rice Owls on Saturday, Nov. 3, at 1:30 p.m. MT.