Ray Lawry scored two touchdowns, part of a 21-0 Old Dominion run in the second half that carried the Monarchs past UTEP, 31-21, on Saturday night in the Sun Bowl.
The Miners (2-6, 1-4 C-USA) led 13-10 when Aaron Jones scored on a five-yard run with 6:24 remaining in the third quarter. Jay Mattox’s extra point attempt was blocked. After that, Old Dominion scored on three consecutive possessions to take a 31-13 advantage early in the fourth quarter. The three touchdown drives elapsed four minutes and 57 seconds and covered 216 yards.
The turning point came with Old Dominion leading 17-13 late in the third quarter. The Miners drove from their own 26 to the Monarch 32-yard line, but Ryan Metz’s pass to Eddie Sinegal on fourth and short fell incomplete.
“I thought we were in real good position there, driving down inside the red zone. We had the fourth and three and we thought we completed it,” UTEP coach Sean Kugler said. “They ruled it a drop on the field, which it was. The ball hit the ground. Then they had a big play after that and got ahead. It turned real quickly on us and we’ve got to respond better than that.”
Beforehand, it was a tight football game with Old Dominion (5-3, 2-1 C-USA) jumping out to a 10-0 lead, and UTEP scoring 13 consecutive points to surge ahead.
Jones rushed 25 times for 94 yards for the Miners. Metz completed 21-of-36 passes for 202 yards. Cole Freytag (seven catches, 84 yards) and Hayden Plinke (five catches, 53 yards) were UTEP’s top pass catchers. Each scored a touchdown.
Old Dominion had a 100-yard rusher (Lawry) and 100-yard receiver (Jonathan Duhart). Lawry gained 131 yards on 17 carries, and Duhart made five catches for 155 yards. Monarch quarterback David Washington completed 14-of-22 passes for 262 yards.
The Miners established season lows for penalties (two) and penalty yards (10). They were outgained 393 yards to 337 despite winning time of possession 34:01 to 25:59.
Old Dominion was limited to 132 yards in the first half. In the second half, the Monarchs gained 261 yards on 23 plays (11.3 avg.), as Lawry rushed 12 times for 110 yards and Duhart had two receptions for 103 yards. The Miners simply had a hard time bringing the Monarchs down.
“Missed tackles and we knew those backs ran hard,” Kugler said. “We talked about it before the game. They didn’t die easily. They are big, physical backs. They have been breaking tackles all year. We had to wrap up and gang tackle. One guy wasn’t going to do it. Many times we saw them in the backfield wrapping them up and didn’t get them down and they broke longer gains.”
UTEP dropped to 38-46-1 in Homecoming games. The Monarchs posted their second consecutive victory over UTEP and by the same score as the 2015 meeting in Norfolk, Va.
“I just told our team, we have put ourselves in this position,” Kugler said. “Our backs are against the wall. There is still a lot of season left to play. It’s still not out of the equation that we could go to a bowl game but we have no room for error. We have to win out. They understand that and we understand that. So we have one of two choices. We either fight back or we just lay down, and I don’t expect any of us to lay down.”
The Miners will return to the Sun Bowl next Saturday (Nov. 5) to tackle non-conference foe Houston Baptist at 6 p.m.