BOCA RATON, FLA. – UTEP junior running back Aaron Jones became the program’s all-time leading rusher and the Miners scored 17 points off three turnovers; but the Orange and Blue lost a heartbreaker to Florida Atlantic 35-31 at FAU Stadium on Saturday night.
The Owls [3-7, 2-4] ended the Miners [3-7, 1-5] bowl hopes when Jason Driskel connected with Nate Terry on a seven-yard scoring pass with 25 seconds remaining in the contest to give his squad a 35-31 lead and eventual victory. UTEP also came up short of winning its first ever game in the Eastern Time Zone [0-21-1] after Ryan Metz threw an interception to essentially end the contest.
In a back-and-forth game, UTEP took a 31-20 lead with just over seven minutes remaining in the contest when Hayden Plinke hauled in his seventh touchdown of 2016 on an 11-yard pass from Metz. But Florida Atlantic took the ball 75 yards on eight plays as Greg Howell scored on a two-yard rush. The Owls converted on the two-point attempt to make the score 31-28.
Jones became UTEP’s all-time leading rusher in the second quarter when he gained nine yards on his carry as he was at 66 yards at that point of the game. Jones now has 3,738 yards in his career after he rushed for 229 yards on 27 carries [8.5 avg.]. Jones also rushed for a pair of touchdowns; giving him 29 in his career to rank number two on the program’s all-time list.
The Miners had a chance to either score a touchdown or get his team within field goal range with the score 31-28. Jones broke a big play down the middle of the field for a big gain, but couldn’t break a tackle that resulted in a 36-yard rush to the 50-yard line. The Owls defense came up with a huge stop that found Walter Dawn behind the line of scrimmage for a seven-yard loss on a third-and-four and forced the Miners to punt with 2:46 left in the game. Driskel on the following possession found Terry for the go-ahead score.
Florida Atlantic put points on the board first, as the Owls took the opening drive 77 yards on seven plays that resulted in a Devin Singletary four-yard touchdown.
UTEP punted on its first possession, but when the Owls got the ball back, Brendan Royal tallied his first career interception. The Miners converted the turnover into seven points to tie the game 7-7, as Jones scored on a two-yard touchdown rush. Metz hooked up with Cole Freytag on an 18-yard reception, while Jones tallied an 18-yard run and nine-yard dash on the six-play, 47-yard drive.
After the Owls turned the ball over again, this time on true freshman Kolbi McGary’s first career interception. The Miners then took the ball 40 yards on eight plays that resulted in tight end Sterling Napier’s first career touchdown – a four-yard scoring reception that gave UTEP a 14-7 advantage in the second quarter.
Singletary tied the contest 14-14 with a 36-yard rushing play late in the second quarter. After a third Florida Atlantic turnover – a fumble on a punt that was recovered by Lawrence Montegut, Jay Mattox gave his squad the lead back 17-14 after he connected on a 20-yard field goal. But the Owls answered with a field goal of their own to tie the game as Greg Joseph hit a 43-yard connection with 30 seconds remaining in the first half.
The Miners took the opening second half kickoff six plays for 75 yards to take a 24-17 lead. Jones, in the Wild ‘Miner’ formation dashed past defenders for a gain of 49 yards to the Owl’s one-yard line. Jones then punched the ball in the end zone for his second score of the evening.
Florida Atlantic got within four points [24-20] after Joseph connected on a 25-yard field goal at the 6:28 mark of the third quarter.
Metz completed 13-of-19 passes for 118 yards and a pair of touchdowns, while Freytag hauled in five receptions for 53 yards. Plinke tallied 23 yards on a three catches. Alvin Jones led the defense with eight tackles, while Nick Usher tallied a sack with six stops. Usher has 5.5 sacks on the season. Nik Needham chipped in with eight tackles and Mike Sota recorded seven stops.
The Owls outgained the Miners 476 yards to 355. Singletary led with 145 yards on 20 carries [7.3 avg.]. Driskel threw for 233 yards on 20-of-25 passing.
UTEP will travel to Rice for a Nov. 19 contest in Houston. The Miners will then host North Texas on Nov. 26 to close out the regular season.