UTEP Coach Mike Price spoke to thousands Friday night and guaranteed a victory over Buffalo the next day. However, his team did not respond mentally, as the Miners committed 12 penalties for 101 yards, including a holding call that brought back the tying score, in their 23-17 loss to Buffalo. The Bulls weren’t so innocent either, committing 10 penalties for 80 yards.
The Miners started off the game well, returning the opening kickoff outside their 30 yard line before fizzling out and missing a 48 yard field goal. The Bulls then went 3 and out before the Miners struck first. The Miners second drive took eight plays and 63 yards before junior Jason Williams ran in from a yard away to give the Miners a 7-0 lead.
That lead did not last because of a pivotal span of eight minutes in which the Bulls scored 16 points. That included a 13 play, 60 yard drive that ended in a two yard touchdown run by junior Brandon Thermilus. On the ensuing kickoff, senior Jeff Moturi misjudged the kickoff and was tackled at the one yard line. After three plays totaling four yards, the Miners’ senior punter Greg Hiett had the snap go over his head, and was recovered by the Miners in the end zone for a safety. Junior Dominic Cook then took the kickoff 62 yards inside the Miners 30 before senior running back Mario Henry put the Bulls up 16-7 with a six yard run.
Unfortunately, the woes for the Miners’ and bad snaps didn’t end with the punt. Twice, junior quarterback Trevor Vittatoe had the ball snapped over his head, resulting in a loss of yardage. Vittatoe did end up 27/45 for 233 yards and rushed for 19 on six carries.
The Bulls came out for the second half and padded their lead when sophomore quarterback Zach Maynard dumped the ball off to senior wide-out Namaan Roosevelt who ran 42 yards for the touchdown and with that became the Bulls all-time leader in touchdown receptions. Maynard went 12/19 for 159 and ran for 19 yards on five carries.
The Miners did respond though with a 17 yard run by junior James Thomas II and a 31 yard field goal by freshman Logan Barrett. That made the score 23-17 and the Bulls got the ball back with 5:32 to play. The Bulls tried to monopolize the clock but a key stop on third and two, gave the Miners hope.
The Miners received the ball at their own 20 yard line with 3:22 to go in the game. After short passes led the Miners deep into Bulls territory, Vittatoe found Thomas II in the corner of the end zone for what should have been the game tying score with under 30 seconds to go. However, junior Rod Huntley was called for holding on the play forcing the Miners back to the Bulls 42 with 14 seconds to go. Vittatoe’s two Hail Marys were unsuccessful and the Bulls squeaked out another victory.
For the Bulls, Thermilus ran 79 yards on 25 carries and a touchdown, Henry ran for 55 yards on 11 carries and a touchdown and Roosevelt caught five balls for 91 yards and a score. In the loss, junior Donald Buckram ran for 108 yards on 14 carries while junior Kris Adams caught nine balls for 98 yards and Moturi caught six for 38 yards.