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UTEP loses the crown on homecoming night

Joel Molina
UTEP football fans cheer on the Miners during the game against Middle Tennessee on Oct. 29.

UTEP football (4-5, 2-3 Conference USA) hosted Middle Tennessee State University (4-4, 1-3 C-USA) for homecoming night Saturday, Oct. 29 at the Sun Bowl. The night honored various alumni, UTEP’s legendary coaches and the 2022 homecoming court. The Miners lost to Middle Tennessee 13-24 in a penalty filled game for the Miners.

Middle Tennesse struck first with a 23-yard field goal made by sophomore kicker Zeke Rankin with 12:14 left in the game. The first quarter was where the flags began to fly for UTEP with a pass interference penalty on UTEP freshman cornerback Ilijah Johnson, which allowed for the Blue Raiders to get down field.

After the field goal, UTEP received the ball but were unable to convert. Junior quarterback Gavin Hardison was sacked on two back-to-back plays. On the first sack, Hardison received a penalty for intentional grounding. In the next possession, the Miners began to gain momentum, but a dropped pass by senior tight end Trent Thompson, that would have resulted in a 75-yard touchdown, slowed the Miners down.

Nearing the end of the first quarter, Middle Tennessee continued to make plays as it was able to convert on a fourth and one. Middle Tennessee was able to keep the lead after a 17-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Jermey Tate Jr., which brought the score to 10-0.

The second quarter was when the Miners began to pick up slightly. Despite a few incomplete passes by Hardison and another sack, UTEP was able to set up senior kicker Gavin Baechle for a 47-yard field goal, bringing the score to 10-3. Baechle set a new school record for consecutive field goals made in a season (17).

The Miners defense was able to put a stop to the Middle Tennessee offense with a fumble recovery by junior defensive tackle Tevita Tafuna, his first career fumble recovery of the season. Towards the end of the second quarter, Hardison found sophomore wide receiver Tyrin Smith for various first downs. Due to an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Middle Tennessee, Hardison found Smith in the endzone for a touchdown. At the half, the score was tied 10-10.

Hardison finished the game 19-of-34 for 177 yards and an interception in the third quarter. Sophomore running back Deion Hankins led the run game with 68 yards. Smith recorded a career best of 10 receptions for 117 yards, including a touchdown.

On the defensive side, junior linebacker Cal Wallerstedt led with a game-high of 14 tackles and a total of 5.5 tackles. Senior defensive end Jadrian Taylor recorded eight sacks; he currently leads C-USA in quarterback sacks. Senior linebacker Tyrice Knight recorded 11 tackles, a forced fumble, a pass breakup and a quarterback hurry.

Middle Tennessee led the Miners 17-10 after the interception. The Miners continued to push as it was able to convert for multiple first downs. Going into the fourth quarter, UTEP decided to go for it on fourth and 10 with Hardison rushing for the first down, but he was unable to reach the marker being just a few yards short. With one of the longest plays in the game, UTEP was able to set Baechle up for another 47-yard field goal, bringing the score to 17-13.

With 7:20 left in the game, Middle Tennessee quarterback senior Chase Cunningham completed a 75-yard touchdown pass to sophomore wide receiver Jaylin Lane. UTEP tried to put more points on the board but were unsuccessful.

The final score was 17-24.

“It was one of those games that was really a hard-fought game that we didn’t make enough plays or do the things well enough that we needed to do to win a football game,” UTEP Head Coach Dana Dimel said in a press conference after the game. “They’re a team that’s No. 7 in the country in turnovers and some of the things that we talked about all week came to fruition.”

UTEP will be traveling to Houston, Texas to take on Rice University for a Thursday night showdown at 5 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 3 at Rice Stadium.

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About the Contributors
Katrina Villarreal, Multimedia Editor
Katrina Villarreal is senior multimedia journalism major with a minor in theatre at UTEP. She is going into her second year at The Prospector and is currently the Multimedia Editor. Once she graduates, she plans on becoming a sideline reporter for the NFL or ESPN.  
Joel Molina, Photo Editor
Joel is a graduate creative writing student at the University of Texas at El Paso. He is the photo editor who began his career at The Prospector in 2022. He hopes to continue providing the world and its people with different forms of storytelling that will hopefully make their day to day lives better.
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UTEP loses the crown on homecoming night