EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – It was one of UTEP’s most impressive performances of the season so far, at the perfect time.
UTEP dominated Louisiana Tech 19-3 on Saturday night at the Sun Bowl for its sixth win of the 2021 season, officially clinching bowl eligibility for the first time since 2014. The Miners (6-1, 3-0 Conference USA) are off to their best start since 2005 when UTEP opened the year 8-1 and riding a four-game winning streak.
The Miners defeated the Bulldogs for the first time since 2004 and the first win at home vs. LA Tech since 1939, as the UTEP defense once again put together a banner performance. UTEP forced three interceptions, had four sacks, a safety and two turnovers on downs, holding a LA Tech team that came in averaging over 33 points per game to just 278 total yards of offense.
It was jubilation on the field postgame, as head coach Dana Dimel was drenched in a Gatorade bath as the Miners stormed the field to celebrate the win.
“That might be the best defensive performance that I’ve ever been a part of as a coach. Unbelievable. Crazy to see this happen,” said Dimel postgame.
18,468 fans filed into the Sun Bowl to see the victory, after a week-long campaign by UTEP to fill the stadium and the fans no doubt made a difference.
UTEP once again got off to a fantastic start, as Deion Hankins capped off an impressive opening drive with a 16-yard touchdown run. After a Bulldogs 3-and-out, Justin Garrett had a 36- yard punt return and Hankins once again punched in a score from four yards out for a 14-0 UTEP lead after one quarter.
In the second quarter, the Miners’ defense took control. After a Josh Sloan punt pinned the Bulldogs inside the one-yard line, UTEP forced a LA Tech safety on the very next play, ultimately leading 16-3 at halftime. Defensive end Jadrian Taylor recorded 3.5 sacks in the first half to help lead the way.
The Miners offense would stall for portions of the second half, only managing a field goal late in the third quarter to make it a 16-point game. However, once again it was the UTEP defense that showed up every time after half, intercepting Bulldogs quarterback Austin Kendall three times- one by Tyson Wilson, one by Tyrice Knight and one by Torey Richardson to keep the Bulldogs out of the end zone.
UTEP quarterback Gavin Hardison managed the game well, going 19-29 for 283 yards, with one interception. One of the rough spots for the Miners was the four turnovers in the game, but ultimately it didn’t end up hurting the Miners.
Wide receiver Jacob Cowing once again went over 100 yards, catching nine passes for 166 yards in the victory for UTEP.
The Miners will now have a bye week Oct. 23, before hitting the road to face Florida Atlantic on Oct. 30, looking to extend their winning streak to five games.
After that, it will be a home game vs. Conference USA West-leading UTSA (7-0, 3-0 C-USA) on Nov. 6. If UTEP wins at FAU, that could be a game that might end up deciding the C-USA West champion.
UTEP won’t look ahead to that yet, though. Instead, they’ll bask in the glory of becoming bowl eligible for the first time in seven years.