EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – UTEP suffered a 24-13 loss to Middle Tennessee at the Sun Bowl on Saturday night.
“We made more mistakes than them,” said Dimel. “They held our production down. We could’ve done things a lot better. Tough loss for us.”
UTEP did not get off to a great start. The slow starts are something that UTEP head coach Dana Dimel and his squad have been trying to fix the last few games this season.
After taking a 3-0 lead after a field goal, Middle Tennessee jumped out to a 10-0 lead with 2:17 left in the first quarter when quarterback Cade Cunningham found a wide-open Jeremy Tate Jr. for a 17-yard touchdown pass.
The first quarter would end with UTEP not putting up a single point in the frame.
The Miners got on the board at the 11:12 mark of the 2nd quarter. A 12-play, 49-yard drive was capped off by a 47-yard field goal make from Gavin Baechle. At that point it was a one score game.
UTEP started one last drive in the 2nd quarter with 3:49 left. UTEP marched all the way down to MTSU’s four-yard line and that is when Gavin Hardison found Tyrin Smith for a short touchdown pass. After the extra point, UTEP and Middle Tennessee were now tied at 10 heading into halftime.
UTEP got off to another slow start in the second half. The Miners’ first drive of the half was a three and out. The next UTEP drive resulted in Hardison getting picked off by Jakob Thomas. The Blue Raiders would capitalize on the Miners’ turnover and go up 17-10 after Cunningham connected with Jaylin Lane on a 6-yard touchdown pass. The Blue Raiders headed into the final frame of the game with a 17-10 lead.
With 7:58 in the 4th quarter, it looked like UTEP was a step closer to tying the game, but a Hardison to Smith touchdown pass was taken back after officials called a questionable offensive pass interference on UTEP wide receiver Rey Flores which was something that did not sit well with the Miners.
Postgame, Dimel said that the offensive pass interference was the wrong call.
That would force UTEP to settle for three points. After a 47-yard field goal was made by Baechle, UTEP trailed 17-13.
Things took a turn for the worst for the Miners as momentum quickly shifted the Blue Raiders’ way. On the very first play of the ensuing drive, Cunningham connected with Jaylin Lane on a 75-yard touchdown pass. After the extra point, the Blue Raiders took control of the game with a 24-13 lead with 7:20 left to play.
The Blue Raider defense then forced UTEP to punt on their next drive. Middle Tennessee got the ball back and managed to run out the clock to secure a 24-13 win over UTEP.
Middle Tennessee secured its first win of Conference USA play and move onto 4-4, 1-3 Conference USA. UTEP now falls to 4-5, 2-3 Conference USA with three games remaining in the regular season.
UTEP will need to win two of their last three games of the season if they want to qualify for a bowl game. These are the remaining games on UTEP’s schedule is an away game at Rice (Nov. 3), a home game against FIU (Nov. 19), and the season finale is another away game against Conference USA powerhouse UTSA (Nov. 26.)
Up next, UTEP will have a quick turnaround as they will play at Rice on Thursday, Nov. 3.
“We need to respond. We have a good week planned,” said Dimel. “We need a win next week to make up for the disappointing loss tonight.”