Not one, not two, but three missed field goals for UTEP kicker, Brady Viles, in the Miners’ 15-14 loss to Western Kentucky University on Saturday night as they fell to 0-6 on the season.
Mike Price returned to the UTEP sidelines as interim head coach after Sean Kugler stepped down, in an attempt to salvage a winless season and the Miners held their own against the C-USA foe, but in the end it wasn’t enough.
“No. I thought he’d make it,” Price said. “I believed in him one hundred percent that he’d make it.”
UTEP had its old coach back, but in some ways it felt like a new team, playing with more energy and showing the type of effort not common for a winless team.
The team played its best game thus far this season in the losing effort, the Hilltoppers’ two point conversion after their first touchdown proved to be the difference in the final score.
Price returned to the Miners after coaching the team to 48 wins, 61 losses and three bowl appearances between 2004 and 2012.
“It was fun, it was exciting,” Price said. “I’m proud of the kids, it’s their team, it’s the seniors’ team. I want them to win for themselves and we will, we’ll win–we keep playing like this, we’ll win. It’s just a matter of time.”
The game began with a scoreless first quarter before the Hilltoppers marched down the field to a 8-0 lead after a Mike White quarterback keeper and the successful two-point conversion.
The Miners would go on to score 14 unanswered points with under five minutes left in the first half to take a 14-8 halftime lead. Quarterback, Zack Greenlee, would account for both scores–finding Kavika Johnson in the end zone for a 15-yard touchdown pass and running for the second score from 5-yards out.
The Hilltoppers would again take the lead, 15-14, in the third quarter after White scored his second rushing touchdown of the game.
Both teams would exchange scoreless possessions in the fourth quarter. UTEP would have an opportunity with 5:03 left in the game still trailing by one point.
The Miners drove down the field to give Viles an opportunity for the go ahead field goal attempt from 40-yards out. Viles missed his third attempt low and away from the goal posts with 2 minutes left in the game.
UTEP had three time outs left after turning the ball over to the Hilltoppers, but failed to stop them for one last opportunity.
“We wanted to get the ball back as bad as we could,” Greenlee said. “We were ready on the sideline. We knew we were down by one, all we needed was that field goal to win at the end…they ended up making one more play than we did tonight.”
Greenlee finished the night with 124-passing yards on 22 attempts with one touchdown and added 52 more yards an a score on the ground.
The Miners defense held the Hilltoppers to 282 total yards while forcing six punts and winning the time of possession battle.
“It’s not over. We still have a long season, lots of games left,” running back, Kevin Dove, said. “We’re going to come out and we’re going to fight every last game until the season is over. We’re not going to give up on the city of El Paso, just like they haven’t given up on us.
Defensive captain, Alvin Jones, said the team would not take any moral victories because of the team’s improved performance despite the loss.
“People in there mad, everybody’s mad,” Jones said. “Especially when you’re that close. That’s the worst way to lose. I rather get blown out than lose by one point.”
UTEP will travel to Southern Miss to begin their second half of the season with four of the six renaming games being played away from El Paso.
UTEP loses 15-14 to Western Kentucky in Mike Price’s return as interim head coach. Miners fall to 0-6 on the season.
Posted by El Paso Herald-Post on Saturday, October 7, 2017