Hardison gives UTEP offense a spark but Miners fall at UAB 37-10


BIRMINGHAM, ALA. Sophomore quarterback Gavin Hardison gave UTEP a lift against the nation’s sixth-ranked defense, but the Miners were unable to overcome a rough start and dropped a 37-10 decision at UAB on Saturday afternoon.

After Kai Locksley opened the game with four incompletions and an interception on the Miners’ first three drives he was replaced by Hardison, who saw his first action of the season.  Hardison came on for the final series of the first quarter with the Miners behind 17-0.

Two field goals later, UTEP trailed 23-0 and Hardison went to work.  He completed 3-of-5 passes for 60 yards on the next drive and led the Miners to their first touchdown.  He hooked up with Alan Busey for an eight-yard score with seven seconds remaining in the first half.  It was Hardison’s first TD pass as a Miner and Busey’s first TD reception.

After six fruitless possessions to open the game, Hardison led the Miners into Blazers territory on five consecutive series.  Following the touchdown drive, Hardison directed the Miners to the Blazer five-yard line, but his fourth-down pass to the right corner of the end zone was out of Tre’shon Wolf’s reach.  UTEP trailed 23-7 at the time.  The Miners’ next two drives stalled at the UAB 23 and 38, respectively, but produced a 41-yard field goal by Gavin Baechle.

Meanwhile, quarterback Dylan Hopkins spearheaded a Blazer rushing attack that put up 353 yards.  His 78-yard run set up Jermaine Brown Jr.’s six-yard TD, which increased UAB’s lead to 30-7 late in the third quarter.  Following Baechle’s field goal, Hopkins took to the air to connect with Myron Mitchell on a 40-yard TD pass, making the score 37-10.

Hardison got the Miners to the Blazer three-yard line in the final minutes, but his fourth-down pass intended for Justin Garrett in the end zone was incomplete.

Hopkins rushed 14 times for 163 yards for UAB (7-3, 4-2 C-USA), and Brown added 116 yards on 22 carries.

Hardison, the transfer from New Mexico Military Institute, finished 16-for-37 passing for 222 yards.  Five of his completions went to Jacob Cowing, who had 85 receiving yards.

With Denzel Chukwukelu serving a half-game suspension, senior Stephen Forester made his first career start at linebacker and was a star on defense for the Miners.  He posted career-highs across the board with 11 tackles (11 solo), two tackles for losses, a sack and a quarterback hurry. UTEP (1-9, 0-7 C-USA) will match up with NM State in the Battle of I-10 next Saturday (Nov. 23) at Aggie Memorial Stadium in Las Cruces.  Kickoff is at 2 p.m. MT.  The teams will meet for the 97th time overall.  It’s the latest Battle of I-10 since a Nov. 26, 1960 matchup in Las Cruces. 

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