The biggest win of the night was not UTSA dominating a hapless Rice 45-0, or UAB blanking USM 34-0, it was undoubtedly UTEP beating Tech 19-3 at home. Why, you might ask, weren’t those other wins more of a demonstration of dominance? Sure, but that is relatively uninteresting. UTSA and UAB were double-digit favorites against a couple of teams with glaring flaws. Southern Miss got a student coach to be their third string QB. This is the second time Rice has been blanked this year.
The Miners have been godawful for most of the last decade — one 0-12, and two 1-11 seasons — and Dana Dimel was going all-in on this season. If you have been watching the Miners closely — and bless you for doing so — you have seen a grind, a tough little team that does not impress on the stat sheet. This weekend was a chance to impress. Coming back to the Sun Bowl as a 5-1 team was a chance to get fans in there and have a little fun against a good opponent. It was loud.
The stat sheet said 18K, which is fewer than the 27K that were reported in San Antonio, but the meaning of it was more. UTEP has been cast aside in every realignment rumor because of the location and culture differences with every possible destination conference. This game was an opportunity and the Miners stepped up to meet the challenge. The skill plays, Jacob Cowing in particular, ran harder, faster, and with more effort than Tech was ready to muster. They played like they needed to win.
Dana Dimel said he wanted to use the lessons he learned at K-State to build a program at UTEP. Tonight, this looked very much like those Bill Snyder teams, with the grinding win, the tough-minded players, and the upset win. It was ugly by nearly every measure — just the two early scores, a safety, and then a field goal for UTEP and there were points left on the floor because of mistakes. However, the defense bothered Austin Kendall and Tech all night and held a powerful offense to just three points.
UTEP is 6-1, 3-0 in conference play and has earned the right to be taken seriously.
Marshall 49 NT 21 (Friday)
Marshall did whatever they wanted in this game. The halftime score was 42-7. North Texas’ performance had national writers speculating on the next coach in Denton. Seth Littrell has little to no excuses about this outside of “injuries” but this 1-5 season is the third straight losing season for him, and the first started with the all-time program passer.
Meanwhile the Herd still turned the ball over, but it was late and when it didn’t matter. They were gashed for a 75-yarder, which will make the stats look bad and the defensive coaches upset, but this was a nice return to form for Charles Huff’s squad after a rough couple of games.
Eye-popping stat: NT’s Deandre Torrey had 20 carries for 179, and two runs covered 75, and 51.
UAB 34 Southern Miss 0
This game sparked some conversation about USM as the conference realignment loser. Peep Matt Hinton’s article from 2015. UAB thoroughly dominated. An offense-averse team like USM is never going to fare well against a good defense like UAB, but the thinking was a home game could boost things a bit. That did not happen.
The Blazers handled their business in a dominating fashion until UTSA did them just slightly better later.
Eye-popping stat: 107 total yards for USM
WKU 43 ODU 20
The Tops had the talent to beat up on ODU, but there was a slight chance that they could have messed up and lost focus. They took care of business, but ODU made it a little closer later in the second half. No surprises in this one.
Eye-popping stat: 5 more TDs for Zappe, 221 yards for Sterns on 13 grabs.
UTSA 45 Rice 0
The Roadrunners came out strong and dominated from start to finish. There were two interceptions run back for scores. Head coach Traylor called it a “complete” game. It was over by the second quarter and Rice did not threaten even late.
Eye-popping stat: 102 total yards for Rice
UTEP 19 Tech 3
Again, UTEP dominated the first quarter and strangled the game the rest of the way. Tech came out unready for the momentum and what little fight they were ready to put up in the mid-second quarter was killed by an interception. UTEP simply made plays to kill any and ever opportunity for Tech, and I imagine the frustration for Bulldog fans was palpable. This was not the Tech we had seen all season, but give UTEP a ton of credit.
Eye popping stat: Austin Kendall 3 interceptions on 13 of 27 passing and 164 yards.