Three Plays That Swung UTEP’s 37-34 Win at Sam Houston
It wasn't pretty by far, but the UTEP football program rallied back on the road to upend winless Sam Houston, 37-34, on Wednesday night.
The Miners (3-6, 2-3 Conference USA) will now turn the page on Wednesday October matchups and look ahead to their homecoming game against Western Kentucky (4-4, 2-2 CUSA) next Saturday, Nov. 4.
Here are the three plays that swung the 37-34 win at Sam Houston, along with MinerTalk podcast, sponsored by the Oscar Arrieta Agency.
3. Hankins 29-yard gain on 3rd down
The Miners had their backs against the wall more than halfway through the third quarter. The Bearkats led 27-13 at the 6:14 mark in the third, having scored on five consecutive possessions up to that point. UTEP's offense had struggled by this point, only scoring a touchdown drive in the second quarter via a two-yard run by Deion Hankins.
On this particular drive, the Miners finally got going offensively thanks to a fourth down conversion pass from Cade McConnell to Kelly Akharaiyi. On third and five inside Bearkat territory, Hankins picked up a massive 29-yard gain down to the two yard line. It set up a swift Mike Franklin two-yard rushing score on the next play for the touchdown drive to put the Miners within a touchdown, trailing 27-20, with a minute and change left in the third.
This was Hankins' eighth game rushing for over 100 yards and his first consecutive games with 100+ rushing. He ended the night with 15 carries for 117 yards and a touchdown (7.8 yards per carry).
2. Neal's near pick-6
While UTEP's defense faced challenges stopping the Bearkats in the first half, they adjusted in the second half and made significant plays to help the team rally back. After the Hankins touchdown, the Miners forced a Sam Houston punt. Defensive end Praise Amaewhule was credited with a pass breakup on a key third down, his 22th pass block at the school which catapulted him into the top-10 all-time pass breakup list in program history.
Following the defensive stop, UTEP tied the game (27-27) off a McConnell 25-yard touchdown strike to Akharaiyi on a third down play.
On the ensuing Bearkat drive, defensive end Maurice Westmoreland sacked the quarterback and rattled quarterback Keegan Shoemaker. On the next play, Shoemaker's pass was intercepted by UTEP linebacker James Neal, who returned the pick nearly for a score. Miner change-of-pace quarterback Kevin Hurley stepped in the jumbo package and scored a one-yard rushing touchdown on the next play to take the lead, 34-27.
1. McConnell's 37-yard shot to Akharaiyi to set up chip shot
Despite an untimely interception by McConnell that led to a Sam Houston game-tying touchdown, the Miner quarterback, who made just his third career start, cooked up a pass that set up the eventual game-winning field goal.
With just over a minute left in the game and no timeouts, McConnell hit receiver Jeremiah Ballard for a 37-yard pass to the Sam Houston 19. After a quick run, the special teams unit trotted onto the field and freshman Buzz Flabiano was up.
Flabiano's 32-yard chip shot was good and the Miners were able to squeeze past the winless Bearkats, 37-34.