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Fresno State Beats UTEP With Gritty Performance

Fresno State Beat UTEP

UTEP was looking to snap a 54-year bowl losing streak. And they certainly gave the Bulldogs all they could handle. But Fresno State beat UTEP in the New Mexico Bowl by a score of  31-24 thanks to a tenacious comeback.

Very Even Game

Fresno State and UTEP’s first three possessions of the game mirrored each other (touchdown, punt, field goal). And yet UTEP was still winning by a score of 10-9. The game stayed fairly balanced throughout. Fresno State finished with 467 yards of offense to UTEP’s 401 yards. Both teams’ penalty yard totals were within eight yards of each other (58 and 50). But there was one player who stood out.

Coming into the game, there was uncertainty surrounding Fresno State’s starting quarterback position. Jake Haener spent roughly a week in the transfer portal before returning to the team. It turned out Haener resumed his normal starting duties, going 26-41 for 286 yards and a touchdown. But it was running back Jordan Mims that proved to be the difference-maker for the Bulldogs. Mims rushed for 165 yards and two touchdowns. He also added five receptions for 71 yards and one touchdown.

Fourth Quarter Drama

Fresno State led 26-17 at the start of the fourth quarter. But the Miners cut the lead to 26-24 early in the fourth quarter. UTEP back-up quarterback Calvin Brownholtz faked a quarterback sneak in a heavy, goaline formation that UTEP had utilized multiple times throughout the game. The fake was executed beautifully as Trent Thompson slipped past the defense and secured a 51-yard touchdown. It would be Brownholtz’s only pass attempt of the game.

UTEP would get one last opportunity to take the lead with 5:12 remaining in the game from their own 16-yard line. The Miners were faced with a fourth and five from their own 21-yard line. Starting quarterback Gavin Hardison did not have the most efficient game. He only went 12-25 for 252 yards. But one of those 12 completions kept the game alive. Hardison’s 27-yard completion got the Miners to their 48-yard line.

Fresno State Beat UTEP Thanks To Turnovers

The very next play would be the final offensive play for the Miners. Hardison actually scrambled for ten yards before Fresno State forced a fumble. The Bulldogs would be able to run the clock out with a few first downs. Fresno State Beat UTEP because of the two timely turnovers. The other turnover occurred in the second quarter as UTEP took a deep shot for a potential touchdown, but was intercepted by Elijah Gates. Fresno State reached the 10-win mark for the third time in the past five years.

UTEP does not have any reason to hang its head. While the bowl losing streak now extends to 55 years, UTEP won seven games for the first time since 2014. Head Coach Dana Dimel appears poised to keep the Miners competitive heading into next season. Hardison has at least two seasons of eligibility remaining. They also have their best running back Ronald Awatt and receiver Jacob Cowing scheduled to return.

 

Main Image courtesy AP Photo/Andres Leighton

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