EL PASO, Texas (AP) — Smoke Harris returned a punt 67 yards for a touchdown, Louisiana used several breaks en route to a key score on the first play of the fourth quarter and the Bulldogs defeated UTEP 24-10 on Friday night, in front of just 9,101 people at the Sun Bowl.
Louisiana Tech went 65 yards in five plays to open the game, going up 7-0 as Tyre Shelton scored on a one-yard run. An 85-yard catch-and-run by Cyrus Allen set up the score.
“It’s kind of surreal because you ask yourself, ‘what just happened?’ We need to get healthy and we need to get better,” UTEP head coach Dana Dimel said after the loss.
It was 17-7 at halftime and 17-10 in the third quarter when the Bulldogs started a drive on their 35. They were promptly stopped on third down but a facemask penalty kept the drive alive. A 37-yard run by Shelton helped La Tech get in the red zone but again they were stymied only to have a Miners player get a personal foul for taking his helmet off after a tackle for a loss. With renewed downs, on the next play Tru Edwards made a nice catch of a Jack Turner pass for a touchdown.
Shelton finished with 104 yards for La Tech (3-3, 2-0 Conference USA) and Turner was 9 of 20 for 152 yards in his second start.
UTEP (1-5, 0-2) used three different quarterbacks after starter Gavin Hardison couldn’t go after warming up and they were a combined 9 for 28 for 101 yards. Jake McNamara had the touchdown on a two-yard run at the end of a 95-yard drive late in the first half, but got hurt on the Miners’ next drive and didn’t return.
“It would’ve been nice to play to both (McNamara and Hurley) of their strengths,” Dimel said. “It’s hard for first time starters and they blink and it’s 14-0. We were fighting from behind with two new quarterbacks. That affected their performance.”
The Miners finished with 321 yards to 294 for La Tech but the teams combined for 22 penalties for 201 yards.
UTEP is now off until Oct. 11 when they go on the road at FIU.