DENTON, Texas (KTSM) – The first 29 seconds of the game spelled doom for UTEP as the Miners fell to North Texas, 52-26, on Saturday in front of an announced attendance of 22,548 at Apogee Stadium in Denton, Texas.
North Texas improved to 4-5 on the season, including a 3-2 mark in league play, while the Miners dropped to 1-7 overall.
The Mean Green found themselves up by a pair of touchdowns just 29 seconds into the game after a 63-yard kick return led to a UNT score, followed by a UTEP fumble on the ensuing kickoff resulted in another touchdown for the home team.
Treyvon Hughes was a bright spot for the Miners with three rushing touchdowns and 97 yards on the ground. His three touchdowns give him 10 on the season, making him the first UTEP player to rushing for 10 or more touchdowns in a season since Aaron Jones had 17 in 2016.
UTEP totaled 285 yards of offense on Saturday with 166 of those coming on the ground, while North Texas racked up 479 yards of total offense with 332 of those coming through the air.
Down 14-0 before the offense took the field, the Miners rallied to put together a 65-yard scoring drive that was capped off by a 1-yard touchdown run by Treyvon Hughes, his eighth of the season, to cut the lead in half.
North Texas extended the lead to 21-7 later in the first half when Mason Fine found Jyaire Shorter for a 48-yard strike to make it a two-score game with just over four minutes left in the first quarter.
After nearly an hour-long first quarter, North Texas opened the scoring in the second quarter with a 44-yard field goal by Ethan Mooney, but the Miners responded in a big way on the ensuing kickoff.
UTEP received a spark of energy early in the second quarter when Duron Lowe returned a kickoff exactly 100 yards to cut the North Texas lead to 10, while becoming the first Miner since Autrey Golden in 2014 to return a kickoff for a touchdown.
North Texas resumed the scoring three minutes later after an 11-play, 72-yard scoring drive was capped off by a 6-yard touchdown pass from Fine to Jaelon Darden. Those two connected once again later in the quarter for another 6-yard score to put the Mean Green on top, 38-14, at the half.
Both teams held each other scoreless for most of the third quarter, but with just over a minute left in the period, Hughes broke away for a career-long 42-yard rushing touchdown, his second of the day and ninth of the season. It marked the third game this season Hughes has rushed for multiple scores.
UNT added a 20-yard touchdown pass from Fine midway through the fourth quarter, while UTEP wrapped up the scoring late in the game with a 3-yard rushing touchdown by Hughes, his third and final of the day.
Hughes’ touchdown made it an 18-deficit for the Miners, but North Texas responded almost immediately with a 71-yard kickoff return, which set up Fine’s six touchdown pass of the day to extend the North Texas lead to 45-20.
In addition to Hughes’ big day on the ground, the Miners were led by Justin Garrett, who had a career-high 11 catches for 77 yards. His 11 catches tied him for ninth in program history for most catches in a single game by a Miner.
Duron Lowe’s 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown was just one of many impressive returns by him on the day. Lowe had five kick returns for 204 yards, which gives him the second-most return yards in UTEP history.
Kai Locksley was 17-for-29 passing for 119 yards, while he also rushed for 37 yards on 14 carries. For North Texas, Mason Fine completed 24 passes on 39 attempts, while he totaled 332 passing yards and seven touchdowns for the Mean Green. Darden was on the receiving end of three of Fine’s touchdown passes.
The Miners return to action next Saturday when Charlotte comes to town for the first ever meeting between the two programs. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. MT on Saturday, Nov. 9 at the Sun Bowl in El Paso.