Friday night. Under the lights. Nationally televised. Rush playing in the background. Couldn’t get any better. A battle in the desert between the Arizona Wildcats and the UTEP Miners. Both teams coming off a loss the previous week and hoping to bounce back. The Miners have lost 33 straight games to Power 5 conference opponents while Arizona visits the Sun City following a 40-year absence, when both teams were members of the Western Athletic Conference.
UTEP started the first half with the ball and came out aggressive with a pass to receiver Keynan Foster on the outside, converting a quick first down. The Miners continued to move the chains before a penalty halted their progress, killing their strong drive.
Following a quick paced first quarter, the score was knotted at 0-0.
Much like the first quarter, the second quarter started with a bang when Arizona went for it on fourth down on the Miners 2-yard line. A Brandon Dawkins play action pass to freshman running back J.J. Taylor lead to the first score of the game. UTEP ended up in a three and out on the following possession, setting up a touchdown reception for Arizona’s Shun Brown – thanks to an extensive effort reaching across the endzone.
Lightning strikes in the distance…
Quarterback-turned-receiver Kavika Johnson comes in for the Miners on a gadget play and fumbles the ball on a run up the middle. Arizona safety Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles recovers the ball, giving Dawkins and the Arizona offense good field position. The drive is capped off with a score by the junior quarterback, who rushed in on a second and goal from 5 yards out.
The Wildcats kept on firing after a punt return touchdown by Brown, showing off his agility and speed, giving Arizona the 28-0 lead with 5:34 left in the half. How will the Miners respond now?
With a five-play 66-yard drive of course, capped off by a touchdown reception and a great demonstration of body control by Tyler Batson from Zack Greenlee off of play action. The missed extra point puts UTEP down 28-6.
With 2:50 left in the second quarter, UTEP’s defense doesn’t back down and forces the three and out. Linebacker Alvin Jones made his presence felt on the drive reacting to a screen pass to set up a 3rd and 13. Flying in all directions, Jones recorded a whopping 12 total tackles in the first half. A 20-yard punt puts UTEP at the Arizona 43-yard line, but the Wildcat defense responds, getting pressure off the edge leading to an overthrown ball by Greenlee. Picked off by freshman linebacker Colin Schooler, he is tackled from behind at the UTEP 5-yard line thanks to a Walter Dawn Jr. touchdown-saving tackle. Arizona gets in the endzone anyway with a razzle-dazzle run by Dawkins that puts Arizona up 35-6.
With 29 seconds left in the second quarter, the Miners offense sends in Mark Torrez under center to finish the half. Nice back-to-back plays by receiver Terry Juniel to get out of bounds puts UTEP at the Arizona 35-yard line, just about field goal range. The Arizona defense stays firm forcing three straight incomplete passes. Brady Viles nails the 53-yard field goal to end the first half 35-9.
Arizona starts the half with the ball with J.J. Taylor getting the bulk of the work, putting the Miners back on their heels. Now in the red zone, Dawkins follows his blockers on an outside run to the left for the score. He finished the game with 155 passing yards, 133 rushing yards, and 6 total touchdowns (3 passing and 3 rushing). On UTEP’s first drive of the second half, the coaching staff pulls a rabbit out of their hat with a lateral trick play to Dawn from Kavika Johnson, receiving Torrez’s pass while lined up as the receiver before launching the ball to the open running back down the field. The big play puts UTEP at the Wildcats 6-yard line and they get in the endzone with a QB run by Torres, thanks to the blocking effort in space by second-team All-American guard Will Hernandez. 42-16 Arizona. It was the only points UTEP could muster for the rest of the half, as a couple of touchdown runs by freshman RB Nathan Tilford closed it out for Arizona, who won 63-16.