UTEP Football one step closer to Bowl eligibility after win against Southern Miss


Photo credit: Christopher Aguilar

Katrina Villarreal, Contributor

UTEP football (5-1, 2-0) secured a win against Southern Miss (1-5, 0-2) on Oct. 9 with a final score of 26-13. This is the first time in 13 years the Miners are now 2-0 in conference play.
The Miners offense was able to put up a total of 392 yards, with redshirt sophomore quarterback Gavin Hardison passing for 127 yards and seven completions. Redshirt junior running back Ronald Awatt had a career-high of 159 rushing yards. Sophomore wide receiver Tyrin Smith recorded a career-high catch of 55 yards, breaking his past record of 52 yards which was against Bethune-Cookman. Sophomore wide receiver Jacob Cowing got in on the action and recorded his first career rushing attempt which resulted in a 53-yard touchdown and allowed the Miners to jump ahead 14-7. Junior wide receiver Reynaldo Flores also registered a career-high in receiving with 48 yards.
UTEP’s defense played a huge role in the win against Southern Miss, holding the Golden Eagles offense to 254 yards with five sacks and 14 tackles for loss, which is the most tackles under head coach Dana Dimel. Towards the beginning of the third quarter, the Miners scored their first defensive touchdown of the season. UTEP defense sacked Southern Miss quarterback Jake Lange, which resulted in a fumble recovered by junior linebacker Breon Hayward; he ran for 55 yards which resulted in a touchdown to increase the Miners lead.
“We’re playing great, that’s what we needed, to be disruptive,” coach Dimel said. “Scoring points, that was gigantic for us. We need to continue to have that happen because that can turn a game around so quickly, getting turnovers and getting points off the defense.”
The Miners continued to dominate on defense as they were able to keep the Southern Miss offense out of the end zone when they were first and goal on the three-yard line. The offense was unable to move the ball in four attempts for a score thanks to UTEP’s strong defense. In the fourth quarter senior defensive end Josh Ortega sacked Lange in the end zone which resulted in a safety for the Miners, putting them up 23-7.
Junior defensive back Dennis Barnes recorded his second interception of the season. The Miners now have two players with multiple interceptions thanks to Barnes and senior defensive back Dy’vonne Inyang. Hayward led the Miners defense with eight tackles and an added 1.5 tackles for loss. Sophomore defensive end Praise Amaewhule and junior defensive end Jadrian Taylor each tallied two tackles for losses, with Taylor adding two sacks.
UTEP special teams were also very effective in the game against Southern Miss. Junior kicker Gavin Baechle helped the Miners keep their lead with a 38-yard field goal with 4:55 to go in the game, despite missing a 32-yard field goal attempt in the second quarter. Freshman punter Josh Sloan also averaged 42.2 yards on six punts with a long of 55 yards.
The Miners are 5-1 for the first time since 2010, which makes them one win away from bowl eligibility for the first time since 2014. This is the first victory for the Miners against Southern Miss since 2012, snapping a five-game losing streak and their first Conference USA Road win since 2018, snapping a nine-game losing streak.
UTEP is set to host Louisiana Tech University Saturday Oct. 16 at 7 p.m. at the Sun Bowl Stadium.
All stats and quotes for UTEP found on UTEP Athletics official website, utepminers.com.
Katrina Villarreal may be reached at [email protected].