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Football season ends in dramatic fashion

Miners+lose+bowl+eligibility+after+game+against+UTSA%2C+34-31%2C+Nov.+26+at+the+Alamodome.+Photo+courtesy+of+UTEP+Athletics.
Miners lose bowl eligibility after game against UTSA, 34-31, Nov. 26 at the Alamodome. Photo courtesy of UTEP Athletics.

Fans, players and students all awaited the matchup between the UTEP Miners (5-7, 3-5 Conference USA) and the No. 25 University of Texas at San Antonio Roadrunners (10-2, 8-0 Conference USA). For the Miners, a win would have pushed the team over into bowl eligibility for the second year in a row, a feat that has not happened since the 2004 and 2005 seasons. For the UTSA Roadrunners, there was not much to play for except maintaining a perfect record in the conference. The Roadrunners have already clinched its ticket for the Conference USA (C-USA) Championship Game Dec. 2. 

In a shocking opening, the Miners dominated in the first half. Leading 24-10 at the end of the first half, UTEP managed to gain over 300 yards in total offense while keeping the UTSA offense at bay. Unfortunately for the Miners, UTSA came back early in the fourth quarter after an interception from junior quarterback Calvin Brownholtz on a third and 10 from the UTSA 14-yard line. 

Brownholtz, who has been starting in place of the injured junior quarterback Gavin Hardison, threw 11 of 24 for 189 yards for two touchdowns and two interceptions. He also rushed for 51 yards and had one rushing touchdown. Brownholtz’s second interception changed the trajectory of the game, allowing UTSA to box out the Miners late in the game. UTSA would go on to kick a 28-yard field goal to put the Roadrunners up 34-31 with only four seconds left. 

In a season full of ups and downs, UTEP managed to complete several accomplishments. The Miners won several key games throughout the football season including the Battle of I-10, the upset against Boise State and the near-shutout against Florida Interational University (FIU). 

After facing difficulties against the University of North Texas (UNT) and Oklahoma, the Miners delivered a much-needed win to the community of El Paso when they defeated the New Mexico State Aggies 20-13 Saturday, Sept. 10 at the Sun Bowl. In the game against NMSU, senior running back Ronald Awatt rushed for 120 yards and had one rushing touchdown. After this win, UTEP improved to 59-38-2 versus the Aggies all-time. 

In a game where the Miners had a very low percent chance of winning, Head Coach Dana Dimel helped lead his team to a 27-10 upset at home against the Boise State Broncos. In a very diverse game plan, four different UTEP players rushed for a total of 199 yards. Most notably, sophomore punt returner Marcus Bellon returned a punt 47 yards for a touchdown, the first one since Sept. 19, 2015. The punt return for a touchdown iced the game for the Broncos and secured the Miner victory. 

Prior to facing UTSA, the Miners had to beat the FIU Panthers to fight for bowl eligibility. UTEP went above and beyond, dropping 40 points in comparison to FIU’s six points. In this game, the Miners defense held the FIU offense to 76 yards. Meanwhile, UTEP combined for 525 total yards. Sophomore wide receiver Kelly Akharaiyi scored his first touchdown as a Miner after a 68-yard reception. 

Hardison threw for 2,044 yards this season, 11 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Hardison did not finish the season after injuring himself in the 37-30 loss to Rice in early November. Brownholtz finished the season with 512 yards, four touchdowns and four interceptions. 

Both Awatt and sophomore running back Deion Hankins finished the season with over 700 yards and combined for five rushing touchdowns. Senior wide receiver and running back Reynaldo Flores noted 276 yards and five touchdowns along with 534 yards and one touchdown over the air. 

Sophomore wide receiver Tyrin Smith ended the season with 1,039 yards. This is following former UTEP wide receiver Jacob Cowing’s 1,354-yard season in 2021. This is the first time in UTEP football history that the Miners had wide receivers go over 1,000 plus receiving yards in back-to-back seasons. 

On defense, senior defensive end Jadrian Taylor led the Miners with 9.5 sacks this season. Junior linebackers Cal Wallerstedt and Tyrice Knight tied for the team lead with 95 tackles this season. The defense allowed a total of 1,632 total yards on the ground this season and 2,598 yards through the air. 

Senior kicker Gavin Baechle completed 22 of 24 field goal attempts, only missing two against UNT and UTSA. Baechle did not miss a single point after attempt allowing him to score 97 points for the Miners in 2021 and 284 points in his career at UTEP. 

The future is quite uncertain for the Miners as they will sit out of the 2022 bowl season, but speculation of some 2023 opponents have surfaced. ESPN 600 AM-El Paso reports that UTEP will play at Northwestern for a profit of $1.2 million. Also reported are games versus Arizona, Incarnate Word and the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. Whatever opponents the Miners face, be sure that Dimel will try to help push his team forward through any adversity. 

Statistics provided by UTEP Athletics and utepminers.com. 

Emmanuel Rivas Valenzuela is the sports editor and may 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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Football season ends in dramatic fashion