Western Kentucky 40, UTEP 16: Hilltoppers use hot first half to blow through Miners

By Matthew Metz

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Western Kentucky forced four first quarter turnovers and out-scored UTEP 40-0 at the half, to win their first C-USA game of the season, 40-16, on Saturday night in Bowling Green, Kentucky. 

UTEP junior quarterback Brandon Jones helped the Miners attempt to rally in the second half, scoring the lone two touchdowns and passing for 340 yards with two interceptions. 

“We didn’t start as well as we needed to start and had a lot of turnovers,” first-year UTEP head coach Dana Dimel said. “Five turnovers in the first half all by interception were critical mistakes and led to some great field position and great momentum from [WKU] allowed them to take some chances and they executed. We obviously didn’t play well in the first half.”

The Hilltoppers dominated offensively, totaling 422 yards of offense under sophomore quarterback Steven Duncan, who threw for 214 yards and had two touchdowns. They had a run-by-committee approach, finishing with 208 yards on the ground and two rushing touchdowns. 

To open up the scoreboard for the Miners, UTEP scored on a seven-play, 75-yard drive that was capped off by a Jones touchdown to Terry Juniel. UTEP later scored on an 88-yard shot from Jones to tight end David Lucero, which was the team's longest play from scrimmage since Aaron Jones' 91-yard rushing touchdown against Texas Tech (2015). 

Jones' 340 passing yards was the most by a UTEP quarterback this season, surpassing Ryan Metz's 313 passing yards against North Texas earlier this season. Lucero led all UTEP receivers with two receptions for 118 yards. 

After allowing 277 yards of offense in the first half, UTEP held the Hilltoppers to 145 yards in the second half. The Miners had 336 of their 392 total yards of offense in the second half. 

“During the second half, I was really proud of the effort we put out and coming back and keeping our fight,” Dimel said. “We tried to get to a two-score game at the end if we could’ve got in [the end zone]. So, I was proud of that part. Now we’re moving forward with this last game for our seniors who have been incredible this year.”

Junior Kai Locksley was pulled for the game, completing just 1-for-9 with three interceptions. Defensively, linebacker A.J. Hotchkins led UTEP in total tackles (12) and had two sacks for the Miners. Safety Kalon Beverly intercepted his second pass of the year during the fourth quarter. 

Next up, the Miners will host Southern Miss for "Senior Night" on Saturday, Nov. 24, in the Sun Bowl. 

 

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