It took 707 days to do it, but the UTEP Miners snapped the nation's longest losing streak at 20 games with a 34-26 triumphant win over Rice on Saturday afternoon.
The streak, which tied TCU (1974-75) for the longest losing streak in Texas FBS college football history, was the longest that the program has ever endured. It took a hot start, consistent defense and holding a late resurgence by the Owls for UTEP to hang onto a win.
Miners start off 34-3
The one-point favorite Miners started off with the ball in this one, as junior Kai Locksley took the reigns at quarterback despite an ankle injury he suffered last week against UAB. Locksley and the offense moved the ball 75 yards on six plays, capped off by a 12-yard rushing touchdown by junior tailback Quadriaz Wadley to give the Miners an early 7-0 lead.
As both teams exchanged numerous punts in the first quarter, the Miners completely dominated in the second quarter. It started early in the second when Locksley moved the ball through the air on an eight-play, 58-yard touchdown drive, finished by a one-yard rushing touchdown by Locksley. After Rice punted the ball on the next possession, Locksley again connected with Warren Redix and Erik brown on the following drive, which set up a 12-yard rushing touchdown by Wadley.
Again the Miners held the Owls on the ensuing drive and scored on a 15-play, 80-yard drive, ending by another one-yard touchdown run for Locksley. With a field goal by the Owls to cap off the first half, the Miners scored out of the gates on Treyvon Hughes 19-yard rushing touchdown to lift the Miners to a 34-3 lead.
The Miners were at one point outgaining the Owls 310-45 yards of total offense in the first half, ran more than twice the amount of plays that Rice did (42-18) and had 16 first downs, compared to Rice's two.
Defense makes huge stops for the Miners
Defensively, the Miners were outstanding all day and got out of various ruts that the team was put in. They held Rice to scoring just three points through the majority of three quarters until Rice's offense broke free in the fourth. The Owls were 0-for-5 in the first half on third down conversions and had just 73 total yards of offense.
After Kai Locksley threw an interception in the fourth quarter when the Miners led 34-18, linebacker Jamar Smith stole an interception off the Owls to regain the ball for the Miners. Despite three late touchdowns pouring into the fourth quarter, Justin Rodgers took the team's second interception to seal the deal for the Miners with under three minutes to play in the game, up 34-26.
UTEP escapes tight fourth quarter
With just over three minutes in the game, Rice had the ball, down eight points with still time on the clock to score and tie the game. However, UTEP's defense was able to create back-to-back sacks by linebacker A.J. Hotckins and defensive end Trace Mascorro to put Rice in a 4th-and-26 situation. Rice quarterback Wiley Green's pass was intercepted by Rodgers on the next play, leaving the Miners to run the clock out and hold onto the win.
Locksley finished the day completing 13-of-21 passes for 193 yards and had two touchdowns on the ground. Wadley led the rushing attack for UTEP, finishing the day with 20 carries for 91 yards and a pair of scores. UTEP out-gained Rice 410-383 in total offense, and held the Owls to just 73 yards on the ground. Although the Miners had a pair of turnovers, they were able to create two of their own. Also, the Miners had just three penalties on the day for 13 yards, where they average seven per game.
Next up, the Miners will host Middle Tennessee on Saturday, Nov. 10 at the Sun Bowl.