EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – UTEP picked up its fourth win of the season on Saturday, 24-21, over FAU on a walk-off field goal by Gavin Baechle, but Dana Dimel revealed on Monday that they shouldn’t have even needed his heroics.
That’s because Conference USA’s officials incorrectly gave Florida Atlantic a second chance at a game-tying extra point with 4:36 left in the 4th quarter, after N’Kosi Perry found Austin Evans for a 17-yard touchdown pass to get the Owls within 21-20.
UTEP’s Praise Amaewhule initially blocked the extra point, but lost his helmet in the process, as the ball knocked his helmet off of his head. According to the NCAA rulebook, Amaewhule can’t be a part of the play after that. The defensive end ran after the ball for about 15 yards, before realizing that he couldn’t do so and leaving the play, but it was too late and incurred the penalty.
UTEP’s LaTrez Shelton picked up the ball and returned it for what would have been two points, but the officials got together and ruled that not only would the two points be wiped out because of the penalty on Amaewhule, FAU would get to re-kick the extra point.
That’s where the officials incorrectly interpreted the rule; the play should’ve just been ruled dead and UTEP’s two points wiped off the board. FAU never should have been allowed to re-kick the extra point.
Instead, the Owls were able to tie the game; On Monday, Dimel talked with Conference USA’s Head of Officials about the gaff.
“He was frantically trying to get to the phone to make sure those guys knew what the right ruling was. He said, ‘I’m never one to hide from mistakes that were made and we made a mistake. You guys should’ve had the lead.’ Thankfully, it didn’t cost us the ballgame,” Dimel said. “I’m not judging or being judgmental. It’s just something that none of us have come across.”
As Dimel said, thankfully for UTEP, the play didn’t end up mattering in the end, because the Miners embarked on a 13-play, 65-yard drive that ended in Baechle’s game-winning, 27-yard field goal as time expired.
That game-winner earned Baechle Conference USA Special Teams Player of the Week for the third time this year. Baechle also broke the UTEP career record for field goals with the kick and was 3-3 on the day.
Elsewhere in UTEP football news on Monday, FBS Schedules is reporting that the Miners will face Big Ten foe Northwestern on Sept. 9, 2023. UTEP will reportedly receive a $1.2 million payout for the game.
The game is a replacement for UTEP’s previously scheduled nonconference game vs. New Mexico State; the Battle of I-10 will be a league game in 2023, with the Aggies joining Conference USA.
NMSU will also play at Northwestern next season, on Oct. 28, 2023.
UTEP will face Middle Tennessee on Saturday at the Sun Bowl at 7 p.m., looking to get above .500 for the first time all season.