UTEP running back Aaron Jones made his return a stellar one Saturday night, leading the Miners with a career-high 249 rushing yards en route to a 38 to 22 victory over their I-10 rival, New Mexico State.
Jones was making his first in-game appearance since suffering a season-ending ankle injury on Sept. 12, 2015 against Texas Tech.
He would not disappoint in his return scoring his second touchdown of the night on the first play of the fourth quarter, going 75 yards down the sideline crossing the end zone as he stiff armed an Aggie defender.
“I didn’t know what to expect, I was just happy to be back on the field for the first time,” Jones said. “He (head coach Sean Kugler) didn’t give me a certain number of plays.”
The 31 carries for Jones were also a career high for him, something he said he’s build his body for entering UTEP at 165-pounds as a Freshman to a now 215-pound redshirt Junior.
“I’ve grown into that role, my Freshmen year I wasn’t really the workhorse, splitting carries,” Jones said. “So I’ve worked myself into that role. I definitely pride myself in that.”
Three El Pasoans would go on to score the Miners’ first three touchdowns.
It all started with Jones, a Burges graduate, who broke free for a 37-yard touchdown run on his second carry of the game. The next two touchdowns for the Miners would be credited to Coronado’s Cole Freytag and Warren Redix of Montwood.
“I definitely did not think about that. That’s pretty cool, it definitely shows El Paso has talent,” Jones said. “Anybody who looks at the game will see that.”
Jones did it all, in addition to his rushing performance, he caught three passes for 43 yards and fielded two punts inside NMSU’s five-yard line.
“I called coach (Brian) Natkin and requested to be on punt,” Jones said. “He said, you better make some plays if you request to be on punt. I feel like anywhere I can get on the field, I’m going to try and make a play.”
Jones performance has him leading the nation in rushing after Saturday’s slate of games, edging out Georgia’s, Nick Chubb.
“I did not envision that, but I definitely wanted to come back and make a statement and show that I’m back 100 percent and healthy,” Jones said.
Kugler plans to share the workload with the rest of the running backs, but said this was a welcome back present for Jones.
“Unbelievable performance. He was just so happy to be back out there and I was just so happy for him,” Kugler said. “Probably 31 is a little bit too many, today was kind of a reward for him. He’s been out for a year.”
Jones 2016 debut was one that pleased Kugler, as the Miners now prepare to take on the Texas Longhorns as they travel to Austin Sept. 10.
“I think now, what we’re looking at is we have a capable replacement that can give him some spells in Quadraiz (Wadley) once he learns the value of ball security,” Kugler said. “We have some other capable backs in Tyrone Nelson and Kevin Dove.”