UTEP scored the game’s first three points on a Jay Mattox 37-yard field goal. But Rice followed with 34 unanswered points in the first half on its way to a 44-24 victory at Rice Stadium on a brisk Saturday afternoon.
The Owls [3-8, 2-6 Conference USA] outgained the Miners [3-8, 1-6 C-USA], 482 yards to 232 during the dominant afternoon, as UTEP had only gained 42 yards in the first half.
It started well for UTEP, as Mattox gave the Miners 3-0 lead on the field goal at the 9:10 mark of the first quarter. The points followed after a Gene Hopkins sack-and-strip of backup quarterback Jackson Tyner on Rice’s first offensive series. The fumble was recovered by Sky Logan and returned 26 yards to the Rice 25-yard line.
But the Owls answered with five scoring drives in the first half, including an 84-yard push on four plays that resulted in a Tyner scoring reception from wide receiver Temi Alaka.
UTEP’s bright performance came from Alvin Jones, as the junior racked up 16 tackles, tying his career high from earlier this season [vs. FIU on Oct. 8]. Jones chipped in with a sack as well. His brother, Aaron, ran for 75 yards and hauled in a touchdown on a 42-yard reception.
UTEP scored its first touchdown on a nine-play, 75-yard drive during the third quarter that ended with a Warren Redix 11-yard scoring pass from Ryan Metz [5-for-6 on the drive].
Jones recorded his third receiving touchdown and 16th overall in 2016 after he out jumped the defender in the end zone and scored on a 42-yard reception to make the score 44-17.
Kalon Beverly put the Miners on the board again when a Haden Tobola field goal attempt was blocked. Beverly dashed 80 yards to the end zone, but it was a little too late with Rice up 44-24 with 1:47 remaining in the contest.
Rice’s starting quarterback Tyler Stehling left the contest with an injury during the first series, as Tyner threw for 196 yards [18-25] with a pair of scores and an interception. Jowan Davis led the Owls with 84 rushing yards with a score and Kylen Granson led the way with five receptions [45 yards], while Cameron Decell led the Owls with 53 yards on four receptions.
Metz threw for 169 yards on 19-of-34 passing and a pair of scores with an interception that was taken back by Destri White for a 23-yard pick-six. Kavika Johnson and Hayden Plinke each tallied a trio of receptions for 32 yards, while Cole Freytag caught three passes for 26 yards. Eddie Sinegal added 20 yards on three receptions. Defensively, Dante Lovilette added nine stops and Hopkins, a freshman, recorded his first career sack.
The Owls gained 27 first downs, as they were only forced to punt twice. Alan Luna averaged 39.9 yards on seven boots [279 yards], with a long of 49 yards.
UTEP will close out the 2016 season when it hosts North Texas on Nov. 26. The Miners and Mean Green will kickoff at 2 p.m. in the Sun Bowl. Last season, UTEP edged North Texas 20-17 in Denton to conclude the 2015 campaign.