Following a sluggish start, the UTEP Miners displayed moments of brilliance on both sides of football over the final three quarters in a 45-13 loss at no. 9 Oklahoma on Saturday.
UTEP (0-2) trailed 21-0 at the end of the first quarter, but got within 11 points in the second period and was outscored just 24-13 over the final three frames.
“I thought after we handled the first onslaught – the 21-0 run, I thought we played better. From that point on it was 24-13 and we executed and did some things well. Our football team is not going to be in a more hostile environment than this,” UTEP Head Coach Dana Dimel said. “I said earlier, if we can get through and not get beat up, we’d be a better team after leaving this field. We played a really good football team today. [Oklahoma] executed at a high level and did some good things. But I feel comfortable about our football team.”
Gavin Hardison completed 26-of-43 passes for 244 yards for the Miners. The 26 completions were a career high. Ten UTEP players made a catch — the most for UTEP in a game under coach Dana Dimel — led by Reynaldo Flores (7-76) and Tyrin Smith (8-71).
Dillon Gabriel finished 15-of-23 passing for 233 yards and two TD’s for Oklahoma (1-0). Gabriel completed 6-of-7 passes for 128 yards over the opening 15 minutes in leading the Sooners to the 21-0 lead.
The Miners answered with 10 unanswered points. Gavin Baechle’s 48-yard field goal put UTEP on the board. Following a three-and-out by the OU offense, Flores keyed the Miners’ 10-play, 85-yard drive by making three catches for 44 yards. Hardison was 5-for-6 for 63 yards on the drive, which ended with a two-yard rushing TD by Ronald Await. The Miners were only down 11 at 21-10.
Oklahoma extended its lead to 28-10 on a 28-yard pass from Gabriel to Brayden Willis right before halftime. It was Willis’ second touchdown of the half.
The Sooners scored 14 points in the third quarter to put the game out of reach. Marcus Major scored twice in the period on runs of one and six yards.
Baechle nailed a 54-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter, the longest of his career.
The Miners amassed 316 yards of offense while keeping the Sooners under the 500-yard mark (492). UTEP also played turnover-free football until Calvin Brownholtz’s pass was picked off by OU’s Gentry Williams late in the fourth quarter.
Eric Gray rushed 16 times for 102 yards for Oklahoma, and Marvin Mims had three catches for 81 yards.
Justin Prince was the Miners’ leading tackler with 10 stops despite playing only in the second half while serving out a suspension from last week’s game against North Texas.