Big plays derail Miners football


Priscilla Gomez

File Photo

Michael Cuviello, Sports Editor

Six minutes into the first quarter, the UTEP Miners looked like they were going to be blown out of the stadium by the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles.  

The Golden Eagles’ De’ Michael Harris took a pass just beyond the line of scrimmage 74 yards downfield as he outran the entire UTEP defense for the first score of the game.    

A false start on the first play of the Miner’s second possession pushed them back deep in their own territory. The Miners were forced to punt, and Southern Miss penetrated the line, blocking the punt and getting the ball at the team’s two-yard line. Two plays later, the Golden Eagles were once again on the scoreboard with a two-yard run by De’ Michael Harris, his second of the day.  

After senior quarterback Brandon Jones proceeded to go three and out, UTEP Football Head Coach Dana Dimel rotated senior quarterback Kai Locksley in as the starter. Up this point, UTEP had 10 total yards of offense in three possessions.  

Locksley came into the game and passed for UTEP’s initial conversion of the game, leading the Miners to its first points of the day on an 11-play scoring drive, which culminated with a short-field goal.  

Southern Miss then proceeded to drive deep into Miner territory, but junior defensive back Michael Lewis pried loose a fumble that was recovered by senior defensive back Justin Rogers.  

On his third possession, Locksley drove the team down into the Golden Eagles’ red zone, but out of timeouts, the team took a delay of game on a fourth down and short. The Miners took a second consecutive delay of game and forced a difficult 46-yard field goal by freshman kicker Gavin Baechle, a career-best.  

With the score 21-6, the Miners had a disastrous squib kickoff attempt that went only 10 yards hitting a Southern Miss player at midfield with 14 seconds left on the clock. A quick 29-yard pass set up a Golden Eagle field goal to give them the halftime lead of 24-6.   

UTEP had a strong defensive stand to open the second half as Locksley took the field once again as a starter. Showing off the athleticism and speed that made Locksley a highly-touted prospect out of high school, he took the next play 83 yards for a touchdown for his biggest play as a Miner, cutting the lead to 11 points.  

The Miner defense had Southern Miss in a long third and eight yards to go when Golden Eagle quarterback Jack Abraham located an open wide receiver Jaylond Adams for a 22-yard gain, which also included an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against UTEP. The drive was capped off with another Golden Eagle score by Jaylon Adams to make the score 31-13.  

Locksley once again led the Miners into Southern Miss territory to the 34-yard line. Following a 13-yard loss on a sack, Locksley was banged up on a 10-yard scramble, forcing Jones to make his first appearance since the first quarter in the game. Unable to convert, the Miners had to punt with eight minutes left in the third quarter. That would be the end of the night for Locksley as a precaution, not to risk further injury.  

There would be no more scoring from either team for the last 23 minutes of the game as the Miners could only muster one first down the rest of the game.  

“Eliminating our mistakes is going to get us a win,” Dimel said. “We have proven we can play with anybody in conference, but execution must be better.”

Dimel stressed that unforced errors must be eliminated by the team to improve. 

Overall, on the night the Miner defense made some solid plays and was seldom beat deep. But short plays underneath breaking for big gains were a major weakness. Southern Miss had more than 500 yards of total offense with 352 of them coming in the passing game.  

For the Miners, Locksley was the offense, as he was responsible for 223 yards of the team’s 294-yard total. Locksley completed eight of 15 passes for 109 yards and had 114 yards in the rushing game with the long 63-yard touchdown. Once Locksley left the game, the offense seemed to leave with him.  

The Miners could not stop Southern Miss quarterback, Jack Abraham, as he completed 19 of 28 passes for 351 yards and three touchdowns especially with the struggles in the passing game. In the second quarter, UTEP lost a key member of their defense with sophomore defensive back Justin Prince going down with a possible long-term injury.  

The Miners (1-3) on the season come home to play versus the University of Texas at San Antonio (1-3), 6 p.m. Oct. 5 at the Sun Bowl.  

Michael Cuviello may be reached at