Aggies Unable To Get Untracked at Sun Bowl
EL PASO – The UTEP Miners put a Texas-size, first-quarter whuppin’ on I-10 football rival New Mexico State on Saturday night.
UTEP scored early, often and with remarkable ease early on its way to a 41-28 victory in front of 32,933 fans at the Sun Bowl. The Miners scored touchdowns on each of their first four possessions, led 27-0 five minutes into the second quarter and never really looked back.
As a result, the Silver Spade and Golden Spittoon traveling trophies will remain in West Texas for a fourth straight year. El Paso’s city flag will also fly over Las Cruces’ City Hall this week, payoff for a bet between the cities’ mayors.
New Mexico at New Mexico State, 6 p.m.
Unlike last season, when a key NMSU fumble and a UTEP fake punt proved decisive in a 16-10 Miners win, this one was all but decided after 20 minutes of play. The orange-clad Miners (1-2) simply knocked the Aggies (1-2) off the ball throughout that span and built a comfortable lead.
“We’re just not a very good football team for four quarters,” New Mexico State coach DeWayne Walker said. “First it was the third quarter giving us problems; tonight it’s the first half. We’ve got work to do. We’ve got to become a better four-quarter team.”
The Aggies outgained the Miners in the second half and outscored them for the final 40 minutes, but those positives did little to compensate for a miserable start. UTEP outgained NMSU 327 yards to 120 in the first half – and it was worse until the Ags put together a late scoring drive.
“We knew they were going to bring pressure,” NMSU quarterback Andrew Manley said of the Miners, “but they got to me. They got their hands on a lot of balls, kept us out of rhythm. They just got to me.”
Manley finished 20-of-47 for 290 yards and three touchdowns, with one interception, and was sacked three times.
Manley’s lone pick got the Aggies into an immediate hole. The redshirt-sophomore’s first pass was intercepted by UTEP’s Richard Spencer at the Aggies’ 47. Seven plays later, Miner running back Josh Bell scored on a 1-yard run. The extra point was blocked.
As promised, the Aggies tried to established a rushing attack against UTEP’s aggressive defensive front. The key word is “tried.” New Mexico State rushed 11 times for 4 yards in the first half, keeping Manley under steady pressure and leading to four punts.
Meanwhile, UTEP’s offense clicked on the ground and through the air. Quarterback Nick Lamaison was 16-of-22 for 204 yards and two touchdowns before intermission. The Miners also rushed 22 times for 113 yards and two scores while building the 27-point bulge.
NMSU used a safety in run support through much of the half, leaving its cornerbacks in soft zone coverage. UTEP torched that game plan.
“Their four-wide receiver set had us off balance,” Walker said. “It was pitch-and-catch, which didn’t kill us, but they kept moving the sticks.”
NMSU ultimately tightened its coverage and briefly threatened to make a game of it. Manley hit Austin Franklin with a 37-yard touchdown pass late in the second quarter to make the score 27-7.
After the Miners botched a field-goal attempt before halftime, NMSU scored again on a Tiger Powell 1-yard run to make it 27-14 with 6:03 left in the third quarter.
Lamaison answered with a 17-yard scoring strike to Craig Wenrick, and later put the game out of reach with a 36-yard TD pass to Michael Edwards. Lamaison finished 21-of-32 for 300 yards and four touchdowns.
NMSU did finally get its running game started after halftime, as Germi Morrison and Powell combined for 136 yards. Still, it was too little, too late.
— This article appeared on page D1 of the Albuquerque Journal