HATTIESBURG, Miss. (KTSM) — UTEP’s defense forced two turnovers, scored a defensive touchdown and a safety, while tallying five sacks in the Miners’ 26-13 win over Southern Miss at M.M. Roberts Stadium on Saturday night. With the win, UTEP improves to 5-1 (2-0) for the first time since 2010.
The Golden Eagles were forced to start their fourth string quarterback, Jake Lange, and he was harassed all game long. The play of the game came in the third quarter when Praise Amaewhule got to Lange for a strip-sack, forcing a fumble that was recorded by Breon Hayward who returned it 53 yards the other way for a touchdown. The Miners would not look back from there, holding Southern Miss to 254 total yards of offense.
“We’re playing great [defense], and that’s what we needed — to be disruptive,” said UTEP head coach Dana Dimel who was also celebrating his birthday on Saturday. “Scoring points [on defense], that was gigantic for us. We need to continue to have that happen because that can turn a game around so quickly, getting turnovers and getting points off the defense.”
The Miners also tallied 14 tackles for loss, and recorded their third straight game giving up 21 points or less.
“All 11 guys are doing their job and playing phenomenal,” said Amaewhule. “We went out there and stopped the run. We made them feel the heat, and coming in we knew he [Lange] was their fourth string quarterback. We played a great game against him.”
UTEP’s offense finally got the ground game going, rushing for for 265 yards in the win. Ronald Awatt recorded 159 yards and a touchdown on the ground, and Jacob Cowing broke free on a 53-yard touchdown run in the first half. Deion Hankins added 46 rushing yards in the win.
“Being 5-1 is all we could hope for at the start of the season,” said Dimel. “To start the season like that is huge, and I just liked the way we played today. We played well on defense and ran the football.”
UTEP is now one win away from becoming bowl eligible with half their season still to play. The Miners will host La Tech at Sun Bowl Stadium next Saturday night.