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Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Sports

Miners stun Cougars, destroy BCS aspirations


EL PASO -- For the second consecutive weekend, the Cougars were treated to a scene of fans rushing the field after the game.’

But this time, UH fans weren’t storming the gridiron.

Associated Press No. 12 UH was roughed up in all phases and eventually sent packing by the UTEP Miners in a shocking 58-41 loss before an energetic crowd Saturday night at the Sun Bowl.

The loss means the Cougars’ days in the top 25 could be finished. If so, they’ll have mostly their defense to thank for the tumble.

UH’s defense was burned for 582 yards. A good chunk of that came from Miners running back Donald Buckram, who rushed for 262′ yards and four touchdowns. He became the eighth running back in UTEP history to rush for more than 200 yards in a game.

Miners quarterback Trevor Vittatoe threw for two touchdowns, and wide receiver Jeff Moturi had 127 receiving yards and a touchdown.

‘They outplayed us,’ UH head coach Kevin Sumlin said. ‘They had a great plan, executed it and played with a lot of energy. They (played well) in all phases of the game.’

UH’s high-powered offense racked up’ 664 yards, but was largely held in check.

The Cougars (3-1, 0-1 Conference USA) were limited to just three points in the third quarter. Quarterback Case Keenum threw three touchdown passes in the fourth quarter, but those came too late to save UH’s perfect record.

The Miners (2-3, 1-0 C-USA) never had much trouble finding the endzone in either half. They outscored the Cougars 20-3 in the third quarter, with Buckram burning the UH defense for touchdown runs of 8 and 22 yards. The last’ of those put’ UTEP ahead 37-20 with 39 seconds left in that period.

Vittatoe also torched the UH secondary with a 74-yard touchdown bomb to Moturi with 5:53 left in the second quarter.

Buckram scored on an 8-yard run at the start of the fourth quarter and added a’ 27-yard sprint with 5:38 remaining to give the Miners a 51-34 lead and put the game away.

For good measure, UTEP linebacker Roddray Walker recovered a fumble from Keenum and returned it 70 yards for a touchdown that made it 58-34 with 3:25 remaining.

The Cougars looked pathetic in the second half. Their first-half performance, however, wasn’t much better.

Keenum threw a touchdown pass and Jordan Mannisto hit a 31-yard field goal on’ UH’s’ first two drives to give the Cougars an early 10-0 lead, but their play went downhill from there.

UH drove to the Miners’ 16-yard line on its third possession, but the next three plays yielded only 9 yards. Sumlin opted to go for it on fourth-and-1 from the UTEP 7, but Keenum was stuffed on a sneak and the ball went over on downs with 1:36 left in the first quarter.

The Miners, who got a 22-yard field goal from Logan Barrett in the first quarter, took off from there.

UTEP’s defense recovered a fumble from UH wide receiver Patrick Edwards near the beginning of the second quarter, and the Miners took over at their 49. Four plays later, Vittatoe hit Tufick Shadrawy for a 4-yard touchdown pass that tied the game at 10 with 10:13 left before halftime.

The Cougars responded on the next drive. Keenum led a 10-play, 90-yard drive that ended with a 7-yard touchdown pass to L.J. Castile on a fade route to the left side of the endzone.

But the Miners weren’t done.

Vittatoe orchestrated a 12-play, 63-yard drive, capped’ by Jason Williams’ 5-yard touchdown run, to tie the’ game at 17.

The Cougars’ received a break on their next drive when UTEP was penalized for roughing punter Chase Turner on a fourth-and-6 play at the UH 40. Five plays later, the Cougars had a first-and-goal at the UTEP 2.

The drive, however, fell apart after that. Running back Bryce Beall was dropped for a 1-yard loss on the next play. Keenum threw a touchdown pass to James Cleveland on the ensuing play, but the score was negated because of a holding penalty.

Keenum’s next’ toss was dropped by Castile in the endzone, and a’ pass on third-down fell incomplete.

The Cougars lined up for a 30-yard field goal attempt, but Mannisto missed wide left with less than a minute remaining before the break.

That miss set the tone for the rest of the night.


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