EL PASO, Texas – UTEP, following a pair of road contests at Power Five programs, will return to the Sun Bowl to host UNLV on Saturday night with a 7 p.m. kickoff. The Miners are hosting the Rebels for the first time since the 1993 season.
The Miners (1-3) are coming off their second straight loss at Arizona on Sept. 16. Highlighting the late-night contest was Buzz Flabiano hitting his first career field goal, a 25-yard make during the second quarter, while Kevin Hurley tossed his first career touchdown pass, a 25-yard strike to transfer Javoni Gardere during the fourth quarter. For Gardere, it was his first reception since joining the Miners.
Defensively, UTEP was led by McKel Broussard’s career-high 10 tackles, while Tyrice Knight (eight tackles, fumble recovery), Bryton Thompson and Maurice Westmoreland each recorded a sack. Josiah Allen tallied a career-best eight tackles, while Kobe Hylton registered nine tackles and a forced fumble in his return after missing the last two games.
The Rebels (2-1) beat SEC program Vanderbilt 40-37 in the final seconds on Sept. 16 in Vegas. Vandy took a 10-0 lead after the first quarter, but UNLV used a 20-7 second quarter to take a 20-17 lead into the locker room at the half.
Jayden Maiava used a 24-yard run to the end zone to give UNLV a 30-17 advantage at the end of the third quarter. However, Vanderbilt came back to tie the contest at 30 with a touchdown and back-to-back field goals. Jacob De Jesus gave UNLV a 37-30 lead on a 48-yard touchdown reception from Maiava with just over two minutes remaining in the game but the Commadores would tie at with 1:12 remaining on a 34-yard scoring pass.
Pizano lifted UNLV to a three-point lead with five seconds remaining in the game to pull out the victory. The Rebels are averaging over 30 points per game and yielding 28.7 points per contest. UNLV averages 342.0 yards per game on offense and gives up over 440 yards defensively.
“We know [UNLV] is a very athletic, talented team because they compete well in the Mountain West Conference,” UTEP Head Coach Dana Dimel said. “They have very good schemes that they do on both offense and defense. They’re coached very well, got plenty of talent and got some really good players across the board on both sides of the football. It will be a difficult test for us of course, but I’m looking forward to getting a little continuity with a couple home games in a row. Obviously, they’ve had some success. They’ve got the ability to put points on the board offensively with what they’re doing. Defensively, they’re a difficult preparation just because of the different type of looks that they’ll give you defensively. But more than anything, it’s just their size and athleticism that they have on the defensive side of the football.”
The Miners are in the same position they were in last year, heading into a home game versus a MWC opponent following a 1-3 start. Last season, UTEP responded with a 27-10 win over heavily-favored Boise State.
“We’re back at home, and now we’re back for one more non-conference game against a Mountain West opponent now,” Dimel said. “It’s a difficult test, again. So, our non-conference opponents (included) one Big Ten, another Power five and then a Mountain West team. So, that was not an easy test for us, but (it’s good we’re) back at home now to play against a really good team.”