EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – In order to keep their hopes of punching a ticket to a bowl game this season, UTEP needs to win the last two games of the regular season. The Miners completed the first step and grabbed a 40-6 win over Florida International at the Sun Bowl on Saturday afternoon.
It was pure domination from UTEP all game. The Miners offense recorded 525 total yards, a season-high, on 79 plays in the game. Calvin Brownholtz got the start at quarterback due to Gavin Hardison still healing from an ankle injury he suffered in the Rice game.
Brownholtz threw for 190 yards on a career-high 12 completions. He connected on 66.7 percent (12-18) of his passes and tied his career best with two touchdown passes.
“I had the confidence in myself and in the team,” said Brownholtz. “I prepare like I am going to start and play. It was nice to have two weeks of preparation. Team did really well running the ball and the air game too.”
“Calvin played a tremendous game running the offense,” UTEP head coach Dana Dimel said. “I was pleased with what he was able to do to move the offense. In the two games he’s started, we’ve scored 40 or more points.”
UTEP led 38-0 at the half, its most point scored in the first half since leading Texas Southern 38-0 going into the locker room in 2007. The Miners’ 38-first half points is a modern-day school record in a conference game.
The run game was also clicking. The Miners rushed for 335 yards. UTEP senior wide receiver Rey Flores led all rushers with 128 yards and two rushing touchdowns. It was quite the game for Flores, the El Paso native, to have in his final game at the Sun Bowl.
“It is just so much time, ups and downs, the good and the bad, the stuff I’ve been through to get to where I am at, it just all comes together in full circle,” said Flores. “I am just so thankful that this is the way I went out on this field, and I couldn’t ask for anything better than this.”
Ronald Awatt tacked on 84 yards on 17 carries and Deion Hankins recorded 81 yards on 14 carries. UTEP’s 335 yards on the ground were the most in a game in the Dimel era since the 2016 finale against North Texas (384).
Defensively, the Miners were just as good if not better. The defense held FIU to 71 total yards of offense. It was the least number of yards allowed since 2014 when UTSA only gained 70 yards. Cal Wallerstedt led the way with seven tackles, while Kelton Moss recorded his first sack of the season. Jadrian Taylor and Keenan Stewart each tallied half a sack. UTEP was so close to a shutout until a Brownholtz fumble was returned for a touchdown at the start of the fourth quarter.
Regardless of just coming short of a shutout, the Miners put together a complete performance in a game they knew they needed to win.
“The way we came out and played early was really important for us,” Dimel said. “When we can do what we did today, which is run the ball and not turn the ball over we’re a good football team. We played really good football throughout the first half and was really pleased with how we fed into each other. I thought special teams played solidly, the offense did what it needed to do to finish drives with touchdowns, and defense did some great things especially on third downs. We played good control football. It was fun for us to watch.”
Now, UTEP will play for bowl game eligibility in the final week of the regular season. UTEP (5-6, 3-4 Conference USA) will take on the Conference USA regular season champions, UTSA (9-2, 7-0 Conference USA).
“We got a 24-hour rule, we have to enjoy this win for 24-hours and then on Monday we are right back to it. We have to get locked on to UTSA.” said UTEP redshirt junior linebacker Cal Wallerstedt.
“It gives us a momentum, but the momentum starts and ends with the way we prepare,” said Dimel. “We are going to play a really good football team, but we’ve proven that when we pay good football, we can play with really good football teams. That is our big challenge. Can we go to San Antonio, and can we play to our level and our potential?”
The Miners will have another week of preparation before they play UTSA on Saturday, Nov. 26 at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas.