It's safe to say that the 2024 spring football game—the first one under new head coach Scotty Walden—will be remembered by fans for years to come. It was a special day, highlighted by the spring game, coached by Miner football alumni and wrapped up by a garage sale that saw the line wrapped around the Sun Bowl concourse.

How much of the spring hype will translate to wins in the fall? It's way to early to forecast the wins and losses, let alone a roster/depth chart. But there were notable takeaways from Saturday's spring finale, which drew over 3,000 fans at the Sun Bowl on Saturday morning.

Check out our spring football reactions on a special edition of MinerTalk, presented by the Oscar Arrieta Agency:


Blue Team rallies to win at the buzzer, 39-35

The Blue Team, led by quarterback Cade McConnell, maintained a high spirit of competitiveness, culminating in a 33-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Odum on the last play of the game to win, 39-35.

In the first half, the Blue Team got off to a 10-0 start early in the first quarter. Linebacker Dillion Williams intercepted a Skyler Locklear pass on the opening drive for the Orange Team, which set up a swift touchdown drive by the Blue Team. The first touchdown of the morning came via a 26-yard touchdown pass from McConnell to receiver Emari White. Buzz Flabiano nailed a 28-yard field goal on the next drive for the Blue Team to put them up, 10-0.

Under Locklear for the third drive, the Orange Team was able to pace the run game and mix in some passes. Austin Peay transfer running back Jevon Jackson scored a 12-yard rushing touchdown to make the score, 10-7.

Following the alumni games at halftime, which boosted the scoring on both sides (28-27), we saw a mix of young faces and starters play in the second half. Freshman quarterbacks JP Pickles and Seth Mouser both had chances to lead their respective units.

The first score out of halftime came off a pick-6, thrown by McConnell and intercepted by safety Jaleal Williams-Evans. The Orange Team took the lead, 35-27, entering the fourth quarter.

Photo by Zay Galindo
Photo by Zay Galindo

Immediately following the interception, McConnell marched his unit downfield with a few catches by Eastern Kentucky transfer Jaden Smith. McConnell and Smith were able to hook up on a nine-yard touchdown to cap off the drive, however, the two-point conversion was no good.

Thanks to a defensive stop by the Blue Team, McConnell and his unit had one final chance at scoring to try and win it. It was the 33-yard bomb to Kenny Odum that sealed the game for the Blue Team as time expired.

McConnell finished with over 200 passing yards, three touchdowns and one interception in the game. Locklear was under 100 yards passing with an interception, but he also used his dual-threat ability to be effective on the ground.

Smith was by far the notable surprise of the offense during the spring game. Over his three seasons at Eastern Kentucky, the receiver totaled 1,922 career yards on 173 career receptions and 14 touchdowns. Though he's 5-foot-10, he's speedy and has sharp ball-tracking ability to extend his catch radius when he's in space.

Some defensive standouts from Saturday include linebacker Williams and safety Williams-Evans for grabbing the two turnovers. The defensive line shined for me on Saturday, including returning veterans like Bryton Thompson, Sione Tonga'uiha, Dimitri Madden and Tevita Tafuna.

The alumni return to the Sun Bowl 

Will Hernandez (Orange Team) and Quintin Demps (Blue Team) were the honorary coaches for the spring game and the two NFL representatives/UTEP alumni were honored during the opening coin toss. Both Hernandez and Demps had a group of about 10-12 alumni coaches join them on the sidelines. Aaron and Alvin Jones Jr. surprised fans with an appearance on the sidelines.

The alumni competed in games at the half, including a long throw (won by Trevor Vittatoe), 40-yard dash (won by Jadrian Taylor), tug of war and other games that incorporated the alumni in the different games.

Football recruiting heats up 

The Miners had over 30 recruits in attendance over the weekend. Head coach Scotty Walden explained before the spring game that there's a good balance between official and unofficial visits for the Miners, many of whom were class of 2025 representatives.

Here are some of the names on site this weekend:

  • ATH Grant Stewart (Manvel TX)
  • OLB Caydan Slater (Hightower High, TX)
  • RB/WR Manny Fuller (Del Valle, El Paso TX)
  • OLB Justin Lee (Round Rock, TX)
  • S Kyle Peterson (Shadow Creek High, TX)
  • ATH Jaquise Martin (Bryan Rudder High, TX)
  • RB Broderick Taylor (Corpus Christi, TX)
  • RB Kaden Butler (Harker Heights, TX)

Aside from football, how about some basketball recruiting news?

The UTEP men's basketball team hosted a priority recruit over the weekend in Tarleton State transfer guard Davon Barnes. The 6-foot guard averaged 13 points per game and shot 38% from 3-point range.


More From KLAQ El Paso