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Miners continue to build momentum in win against Charlotte

The UTEP Miners football team defeats the University of North Carolina at Charlotte 41-35 Oct. 1. Photo courtesy UTEP Strategic Communications.

Following their massive win over Boise State, UTEP (3-3, Conference USA 1-1) trekked to North Carolina to face Charlotte (1-5, Conference USA 0-2). In their previous two matchups, UTEP fell to the 49ers 38-28 and 28-21. This matchup presented a different outcome with the Miners pulling off a crucial win. 

First Quarter 

The 49ers started the game with the ball at the Charlotte 25-yard line. The 49ers would drive the ball to the UTEP 23-yard line when 49ers senior quarterback Chris Reynolds connected with junior wide receiver Grant DuBose for the first touchdown of the evening, bringing the score to 7-0 for Charlotte. 

With 9:48 left in the first quarter, the Miners started their drive at the UTEP 25-yard line. In this drive, the Miners passed the ball only four times while running the ball nine times for a total of 75 yards. The drive ended on a successful 17-yard pass from junior quarterback Gavin Hardison to sophomore wide receiver Tyin Smith, tying the game at 7-7. 

Second Quarter 

After receiving the ball at the 49ers 47-yard line late in the first quarter, the Miners drove the ball down to Charlotte’s 11-yard line. There, UTEP senior running back Ronald Awatt was stuffed at the line of scrimmage. The Miners offense was called for a holding penalty, pushing the Miners back to the Charlotte 21-yard line. This penalty led to a field goal attempt at the Charlotte 4-yard line. Senior kicker Gavin Baechle booted a 22-yard field goal, pushing the score to 10-7 in favor of the Miners. 

On the next drive, Charlotte failed to find any momentum, forcing 49ers sophomore punter Bailey Rice to send the ball 44 yards deep into Miner territory. The Miners would start this drive at their own 18-yard line.  

With 3:28 left in the half, the Miners rushed for 42 yards before a personal foul call on junior offensive lineman Andrew Myer sent the offense back to the UTEP 45-yard line. The offense would, once again, commit a penalty. This time, it was a false start on the offensive line that would push the Miners to the UTEP 40-yard line with :54 left on the clock. The Miners would recover soon after a 34-yard run by sophomore running back Deion Hankins and a 26-yard pass to senior tight end Trent Thompson for a Miners touchdown. 

Charlotte would start their drive at their own 27-yard line with :29 seconds left. The 49ers decided not to kneel into the half, opting to run a play that led to a scoop-and-score fumble for the Miners. UTEP senior linebacker Tyrice Knight picked up a fumble and ran 19 yards for the Miners third touchdown of the game. 

At the end of the half, UTEP was up 24-7. 

Third Quarter 

The Miners would come out of halftime struggling after a four-and-out drive that gave Charlotte the ball at their own 30-yard line. The 49ers would go on to score in three plays, totaling 70 yards after a Reynolds touchdown pass to sophomore wide receiver Elijah Spencer. This closed the Miners lead to 24-14. 

UTEP would continue to struggle on offense, fumbling the ball at their own 40-yard line. The defense would struggle to stop the 49ers momentum, allowing Charlotte to score once again. This time, the 49ers scored on a 38-yard pass to senior tight end Eugene Minter Jr. and a two-yard pass to DuBose. The score was 24-21, Miners. 

UTEP finally found that first half momentum after scoring in five plays for 75 yards. After rushing for 17 yards, Hardison passed the ball on third-and-six to Smith for a 58-yard touchdown leaving the score at 31-21 and 8:34 in the quarter. 

The Miners defense forced another 49ers punt, placing the ball at the UTEP 30-yard line. After an erased touchdown, thanks to an ineligible receiver call, the Miners settled for a 29-yard field goal. The Miners led at the end of the third quarter 34-21. 

Fourth Quarter 

The Miners defense would open the fourth quarter by giving up 75 yards thanks to two pass interference penalties. The 49ers would set up on the UTEP two-yard line on second-and-goal. 49ers sophomore running back Chavon McEachern ran up the gut for a presumed 49ers touchdown. On a hustle play, senior defensive end Jadrian Taylor recovered a McEachern fumble for a 100-yard touchdown. This expanded the Miners’ lead to 41-21. 

The 49ers would come back out and score a touchdown after driving the ball 69 yards. At the UTEP 6-yard line, Reynolds would pass the ball to senior wide receiver Victor Tucker. This brought the score to 41-28.  

The 49ers would score once again before the game was over. This time, sophomore running back Shadrick Byrd would rush for 13 yards, providing the 49ers with their fifth touchdown.  

The Miners would leave Jerry Richardson Stadium with a win and a final score of 41-35. 

Game Summary 

After finding success in the run game last week against Bosie State, the Miners continued to rely on the rushing attack. UTEP ran for a total of 252 yards, where Hankins contributed a season high 112 yards, Hardison rushed for a career high 50 yards, and Awatt rushed for 88 yards. 

The passing game did what it needed after passing for 173 yards. Hardison posted a 92-quarterback rating after throwing 10 for 14 and averaging 12.4 yards per attempt. Hardison also threw three touchdowns to Smith and Thompson. Smith had a total of four receptions totaling 106 yards, averaging 26.5 yards per reception. 

The UTEP defense held Charlotte to 96 rushing yards while boasting 62 tackles, five sacks, 10 quarterback hurries and six tackles for loss. Sophomore safety Kobe Hylton led the team with nine total tackles and six solo tackles. The secondary did struggle after allowing 349 passing yards, the most this season. 

It is becoming quite clear that UTEP is a rushing team. In their past two wins, the Miners rushed for a total of 451 yards. In each game that the Miners score 20 or more points this season, the offense runs an average of 186 yards per game. In every game when the Miners score less than 20 points, the offense only averages 63 yards per game. 

The Miners now head to Ruston, Louisiana to face the LA Tech Bulldogs at 5 p.m. Saturday Oct. 8 at Joe Aillet Stadium. 

Emmanuel Rivas Valenzuela is the sports editor and can be reached at [email protected]: @rivasemmanuel2 on Instagram. 

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About the Contributor
Emmanuel Rivas Valenzuela
Emmanuel Rivas Valenzuela, Contributor/Writer
Emmanuel Rivas Valenzuela is a contributor for The Prospector. He is a senior majoring in multimedia journalism with minors in political science and Chicano studies. Emmanuel served as sports editor at The Prospector and as a writer with Minero Magazine. Now, Emmanuel is interning at El Paso Matters and is a contributor at The Prospector.
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Miners continue to build momentum in win against Charlotte