Ryan Metz threw for three touchdowns and rushed for another in his first extensive action at quarterback for UTEP, rallying the Miners from 14 points down late to a 50-47 overtime win at NM State on Saturday night.
“I just told the team in there, I have been around a lot of football, that’s as good of a team win as I have ever seen because they never, ever quit, they never gave up and they showed their mettle until the last whistle blew,” UTEP coach Sean Kugler said.
Metz connected with Cedrick Lang for the game-winning six-yard touchdown pass after Parker Davidson put the Aggies ahead for the last time, 47-44, on a 44-yard field goal in the extra session.
The Miners (1-2) beat the I-10 rival Aggies (0-3) for the seventh straight time, matching their longest winning streak in the series. UTEP also topped NM State on seven consecutive occasions from 1927-33. It also ties the most wins in a row by either team in the 93-game series.
The 97 points were the second-most scored by the two teams in the history of the rivalry. A total of 99 points were scored in the 1948 matchup, won 92-7 by the Miners.
Metz, who replaced injured starter Mack Leftwich midway through the third quarter, completed 15-of-19 passes for 218 yards. He twice rallied UTEP from two-touchdown deficits at 30-16 and 44-30.
“The last one was a 98-yard drive with no timeouts,” Kugler said. “The kid was calling his own plays. You saw in the third quarter, when we had the change, Mack got hurt, he goes in and there was some confusion getting personnel in and all that stuff, he overcome all that and he just willed the team down the field twice. He did an unbelievable job.”
The Miners were down 44-30 with a little over four minutes remaining in regulation. But Metz orchestrated a three-play, 75-yard drive, capped by a 48-yard TD pass to fellow El Pasoan Cole Freytag, then led UTEP on an eight-play, 98-yard march, taking it into the end zone himself with an eight-yard scamper.
“It was a two-minute situation and we needed to score,” Kugler said. “We threw the ball and like we said during the week, we’re going to do whatever we’ve got to do to win the game. This game wasn’t about scheme or anything like that. That game was about a group of kids that just refused to quit and refused to lose.”
Of Metz’s performance, Kugler said “Unbelievable for a freshman. Again, he got in there early and there were some things where he got rattled a little bit with personnel and all that. But he overcame it, he fought, he called his own plays during both of those drives and took the offense right down the field, conserved time, called plays that he was comfortable with. The play at the end of [regulation], that was a beauty, because I probably would’ve never called that but he did. It took a lot of [guts] on his part to do it.”
UTEP had a balanced attack with 273 yards passing and 269 rushing. The Miners’ top two rushers, Darrin Laufasa and LaQuintus Dowell, both established career-bests with 85 and 76 yards respectively. Laufasa has scored five touchdowns in three games against NM State, including a career-long 66-yard run in the third quarter Saturday.
The teams traded touchdowns to open the game. NM State moved seven plays on 75 yards and took a 6-0 lead on a four-yard run by Larry Rose III. The extra point was no good. Rose III rushed five times for 40 yards on the drive.
The Miners pulled into the lead, 7-6, as Dowell broke free for a 40-yard scoring run in his first game at tailback since the 2013 season. Dowell was moved from safety earlier in the week.
The Aggies regained the lead, 13-7, when Tyler Rogers rushed for a 10-yard touchdown with 5:51 remaining in the first quarter. Rogers beat the Miners with both his arm and his feet on the drive, throwing for 54 yards and rushing for 24.
The Miners scored their first safety since 2013 when, following a pooch punt by Leftwich, Rogers was called for intentional grounding under heavy pressure in the end zone. That cut the lead to 13-9.
The Aggies pushed the margin to seven (16-9) when Davidson converted a 38-yard field goal with 3:12 remaining in the half.
Metz threw an interception on third and long deep in Miner territory and Jacob Nwangwa returned it 41 yards for a score midway through the third quarter. That put the Aggies ahead 23-9.
UTEP had the quick answer as Laufasa busted loose for the 66-yard TD that pulled the Miners to within a touchdown. NMSU temporarily quelled the comeback attempt with a short scoring drive of its own, as Rogers hit Teldrick Morgan for a 78-yard catch and followed it up with an eight-yard pass to Gregory Hogan in the end zone.
Down two touchdowns (30-16), the Miners mounted the first of two spirited rallies. They scored 14 straight points in the fourth quarter to pull even at 30.
First, Metz connected with Autrey Golden for a 26-yard touchdown, then Jaquan White registered UTEP’s first punt return for a touchdown since 2006, good for 64 yards.
NMSU broke the deadlock behind Rogers, who capped two long touchdown drives by hitting Tyrain Taylor and Morgan for 13 and 19 yards respectively.
The Miners scored 20 of the game’s final 23 points to surge to their fourth consecutive triumph in Las Cruces. Leftwich, before exiting following a hit to the head, completed 7-of-11 passes for 52 yards.
Rogers completed 14-of-28 passes for 285 yards for the Aggies. Rose III rushed for 196 yards on 20 carries, and Morgan snared four balls for 151 yards.
Alvin Jones was the standout for the Miners on defense with a career-high 11 tackles and five tackles for losses, most by a UTEP player since 2000.
A key defensive play was also made by the Miners’ Jimmy Musgrave, who tackled Rose III a yard shy of the first down on third and four in a 44-37 game.
It was the first overtime game in the history of the rivalry and the first for UTEP since the 2011 season opener.
UTEP will play its first home game of the season next Saturday, entertaining Incarnate Word (2-1) on Sept. 26 at 6 p.m. Season tickets, starting at $55, are on sale by calling 747-6150.
Author: UTEP Athletics