Aaron Jones rushed for 228 yards in about two and a half quarters of action as UTEP throttled FCS squad Houston Baptist, 42-10, on Saturday night in the Sun Bowl.
“I thought it was a good team win in all phases,” UTEP coach Sean Kugler said. “I thought the kids worked extremely hard this week in practice. They really believe their destiny is in their own hands if they work at it and take it one game at a time. That was the first one of four [games].”
The Miners (3-6), playing their final non-conference game, made quick work of the Huskies (3-6), scoring the game’s first 28 points. UTEP led 28-3 at halftime behind Jones, who compiled 181 of the team’s 300 total yards.
Jones had touchdown rushes of 39 and 62 yards in the first half. He tied Donald Buckram and John Harvey for the second-most 200-yard rushing games in school history (three) behind Fred Wendt (four).
Jones had only 14 carries on the night, averaging 16.3 yards per attempt. UTEP gained a season-high 323 yards rushing, and the Miners’ 514 yards of offense were their second-most of 2016 behind the 518 in the opener versus NM State.
“We challenged the offensive line,” Kugler said. “They have taken a little bit of heat. They have been a little bit up and down this year. We had had some injuries. We have had to shuffle some guys around. But they’re healthy now and I thought they went out and played an outstanding game. Anytime you rush for 300 yards, your offensive line is getting the job done.”
Complimenting Jones in the ground game were freshmen Kevin Dove (10 carries, 59 yards) and Quadraiz Wadley (11 carries, 35 yards).
Ryan Metz was efficient for UTEP under center, completing 16-of-21 passes for 191 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. His favorite targets were tight end Hayden Plinke (seven catches, 77 yards) and wide receiver Eddie Sinegal (four catches, 53 yards).
Plinke reached the end zone twice, first on a nine-yard pass from Metz late in the first quarter, and later on an 11-yard TD grab early in the fourth period.
“I think our offense really clicks when we get the tight end involved, Hayden and Kent Taylor,” Kugler said. “Both those guys are doing a nice job and Ryan Metz is doing a really nice job of finding them. Our whole offense stems off the run game, and I thought all the backs were outstanding tonight.”
The UTEP defense stifled the Huskies, holding them to 227 yards, as quarterbacks Tony Dawson and Max Staver were a combined 8-for-27 passing for 90 yards. Houston Baptist had a little more success running the football with 137 yards on 32 carries (4.3 avg.), with 59 of the yards coming from Dawson.
Dante Lovilette led the Miner stop troops with eight tackles, while Dashone Smith and Nick Usher chipped in with six apiece.
“[The defense] did a good job,” Kugler said. “The main thing I was concerned about going into the game was keeping their quarterback contained. He can really run.”
It was a clean game with the teams combining for zero turnovers and only three penalties totaling 33 yards.
The Miners will play back-to-back road games against Florida Atlantic (Nov. 12, 4 p.m. MT) and Rice (Nov. 19, 10 a.m. MT) the next two weeks and they seek a season-ending four-game win streak that would make them bowl eligible.
To view pictures from the game, click HERE.