WEST POINT, N.Y. – In a tight first half, UTEP tied the contest 14-14 with 35 seconds left after a Zack Greelee to David Lucero touchdown, but Army West Point used a 21-7 second half to get past the Miners, 35-21, on a brisk and misty Saturday afternoon at Michie Stadium.
“I thought in all phases, offense, defense and special teams, the kids went out and fought,” fifth-year UTEP head coach Sean Kugler said. “This is the same team that completely annihilated us. Our kids went out there today and competed for four quarters.”
Quardraiz Wadley was a bright spot for the Miners (0-5), as he gained a career-high 156 yards and his first career touchdown. The sophomore running back used patience and hit the holes to gain big yards, including long runs of 19, 18 and 13 yards.
Wadley also tallied his first career catch for 15 yards.
“[The offensive line] did a nice job,” Kugler said. “Quardraiz played in only his second game this season and he’ll only get better and better with experience and opportunities. But the offensive line opened up lots of holes.”
The Miners gained season-highs in rushing yards (152) and first downs (16).
Army West Point (3-2) was led by Andy Davidson’s 100 yards and quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw’s 93 yards. The Black Knights rushed for 353 yards on the day.
Wadley put UTEP on the board first on a one-yard rush in the first quarter. It was Wadley’s first career score and the first lead for the Miners in 2017. UTEP took the ball 81 yards on 15 plays (8:23), while Wadley accounted for 67 of those yards on nine carries.
Army answered with a five-play, 75-yard drive (2:32) that was capped by a Davidson 32-yard touchdown.
The Black Knights then took a 14-7 lead on a 92-yard, 12-play scoring drive that resulted in a Calen Holt 19-yard touchdown. It was Army’s second 90-plus yard scoring drive of the season.
The Miners tied the game right before the half as Greenlee, who replaced injured Ryan Metz in the first quarter, led the charge on an eight-pay, 73-yard drive (2:39) that resulted in Lucero’s first touchdown in a UTEP uniform – a two-yard reception. Lucero’s score was his first as a Division I football players as he found the end zone at Arizona Western Community College in 2016.
But Army gained momentum and used a pair of third-quarter drives to take a 28-14 lead. The first was a five-play, 73-yard drive and the second was a three-play, 55-yard drive that resulted in a rare Army passing score – Bradshaw to Jordan Asberry for 42 yards.
“That’s where the tide turned. We had two three-and-outs,” Kugler said. “Against a team like Army, you can’t afford to do that. You have to make every possession count. We got into some good positions on third downs, but we couldn’t convert. You get forced on back-to-back punts and they have two consecutive [scoring] drives.”
Kahani Smith highlighted the defense with a 52-yard pick-six late in the contest. UTEP’s first pick-six since 2015.
The UTEP defense had a chance give the ball back to their offense, but Army fought for a first down on a fourth-and-2 late in the game to seal the win; Bradshaw gained three yards on the play.
Alvin Jones and Treyvon Hughes each tallied eight tackles to lead the defense, while Devin Cockrell and Jamar Smith recorded six stops each. For Smith, it was a career high. Trace Mascorro, who scored a defensive touchdown last week at NM State, registered a career-best four tackles at the nose tackle position.
Tyler Batson hauled in five passes for a season-high 80 yards, while Lucero finished with 15 yards on a trio of receptions.
Up next for UTEP is WKU on Oct. 7 in the 86th Homecoming game. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. in the Sun Bowl. The Miners will host the Hilltoppers for the first time ever as the two schools initially met in Bowling Green, Ky. in 2014.