Aston Walter rushed for 149 yards, including a 64-yard scamper in the fourth quarter that set up Rice’s final touchdown, and the Owls topped UTEP in the season finale for both teams, 30-16, on Saturday.
Rice (3-9, 3-5 C-USA) ended the campaign on a three-game win streak, while denying UTEP (1-11, 0-8 C-USA) a shot at its second victory. Twenty-two seniors played their final game for the Miners.
The Miners led 16-14 at halftime but were held scoreless over the final 30 minutes after quarterback Kai Locksley exited with an apparent hand injury.
Jovoni Johnson chipped in with 62 yards rushing for Rice and two touchdowns. The Owls finished with 371 total yards, including 256 on the ground.
Locksley, playing in his final game for the Miners, completed 8-of-12 passes for 100 yards and a TD, and rushed 12 times for 63 yards in a little less than two quarters of action.
The Owls had great field position to start their initial drive, as the Miners went three-and-out on their first series and Mitchell Crawford’s punt was returned to the UTEP 28-yard line. Three plays later, Rice had a 7-0 lead as Tom Stewart completed a three-yard TD pass to Austin Trammell.
Crawford was more successful on his second punt as it was downed at the Owl two-yard line. On third and nine, Stewart fumbled in the end zone and the ball was recovered by Praise Amaewhule for the Miners’ first defensive touchdown of 2019. The extra point was no good and the score was 7-6.
The Owls extended their lead to 14-6 on a 30-yard rushing TD by Walter late in the first quarter. The Miners pulled within one once again early in the second period when Locksley completed a 12-yard TD pass to Justin Garrett.
The Miners lost Locksley late in the second quarter, but not before he once again led UTEP deep into Owl territory. Gavin Hardison took over at quarterback, and the Miners finished off the drive with a 45-yard field goal by Gavin Baechle to take a 16-14 edge to the locker room.
The Owls went back on top, 17-16, on a 21-yard field goal by Chris Barnes with 7:16 left in the third quarter. And on their next drive, they moved 67 yards on six plays and finished it off with an eight-yard rushing TD by Johnson for a 24-16 lead.
The Miners’ best scoring chance in the second half ended on a 50-yard field goal attempt by Baechle that was wide left late in the third quarter.
Rice put the game away with 4:27 remaining on Johnson’s 11-yard rushing touchdown. Three plays earlier, Walter set up the score with his 64-yard run.
Hardison was 11-of-24 passing for 113 yards. As a team, the Miners gained 312 yards, including 117 in the second half.
Two Rice defenders posted double-digit tackles, as linebackers Blaze Alldredge and Antonio Montero were credited with 14 and 11 stops respectively. Alldredge was responsible for 3.5 of the Owls’ eight tackles for losses.
Gallery by Andres ‘Ace’ Acosta & Ruben R. Ramirez – El Paso Herald Post