KNOXVILLE, TN. – Ty Chandler rushed for 158 yards, including an 81-yard touchdown burst in the third quarter, as Tennessee topped UTEP, 24-0, on Saturday at Neyland Stadium.
Jarrett Guarantano completed 12-of-16 passes for 168 yards for the Vols (2-1) in the first matchup between the teams in 28 years.
The defense kept the Miners (0-3) in the game until early in the fourth quarter, when Guarantano capped an 11-play, 71-yard drive with a four-yard TD pass to Jauan Jennings.
UTEP wasn’t able to get its offense untracked. The Miners finished with seven first downs and 134 yards, including 39 passing. Kai Locksley completed 9-of-22 passes for 39 yards, and rushed nine times for 24 yards.
UTEP fell just shy of 100 yards rushing (95) as Treyvon Hughes and Quardraiz Wadley tied for the team lead with 33 yards apiece.
“We had a really tough time moving the football,” UTEP coach Dana Dimel said. “We really struggled offensively. Our execution wasn’t very good. I’m very disappointed with that. We had shown signs of improvement last week with our offense, and we just didn’t have anything today. The passing game wasn’t good. Third down conversions were bad. Our production was bad. It was just a bad offensive day for us.”
Tennessee picked up 345 yards on the ground and 512 total, but the Vols weren’t able to gain separation on the scoreboard until deep into the second half. The Miners registered four tackles for losses, a couple of sacks and recovered a pair of fumbles to stall Tennessee drives.
The Vols amassed 259 yards at the break but led just 10-0. A 38-yard field goal by Brent Cimaglia with 2:39 remaining in the first quarter opened the scoring. Early in the second quarter, the Vols took advantage of a short field and moved 36 yards on three plays, capped by a three-yard rushing TD by Tim Jordan.
The Miners got the ball to start the second half, but went three and out and on the next play, Chandler broke free for the 81-yard TD and a 17-0 lead.
UTEP senior DB Nik Needham recorded the 25th pass break-up of his career to tie Jahmal Fenner’s school standard. A.J. Hotchkins registered a game-high 10 tackles for UTEP.
With the offense ineffective, the Miners were forced to punt 12 times.
“We’ve just got to execute better and handle the environment better,” Dimel said. “We had some procedure penalties, but that just played a minor part in it. There were a lot of assignment busts, and that’s the thing we need to improve moving forward. We did lose a third offensive lineman [Jerrod Brooks] this week in practice, so we’re down three starters on the offensive line and I think that really showed up today for us big-time. Any team that takes three losses on their offensive line is going to have some improvement to make. We lost two, we meshed together pretty good last week and we lost a third one this week. So we’ve got to shore up those spots right now.”
UTEP and NM State will face off in the FirstLight Federal Credit Union Battle of I-10 next Saturday (Sept. 22) at 5:30 p.m. in the Sun Bowl. The first 1,000 fans will receive free rally flags, plus all fans receive first down cards compliments of FirstLight Federal Credit Union. The halftime show will feature performances by both the UTEP and NMSU marching bands, plus the 2018 UTEP Athletics Hall of Fame induction class will be recognized. Tickets are available by calling (915) 747-5234.