Jordan Mims ran for 165 yards and two short touchdowns and added a 22-yard scoring reception as Fresno State did just enough to beat Texas-El Paso 31-24 on Saturday afternoon in the New Mexico Bowl in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Fresno State quarterback Jake Haener, who weeks ago put his name in the transfer portal but reversed his tack when Jeff Tedford was hired as the next coach of the Bulldogs, started the game and passed for 286 yards and a score in the victory.
The Bulldogs (10-3) earned their first double-digit victory campaign since 2018 when they went 12-2 and won the Mountain West Conference championship.
Gavin Hardison passed for 252 yards and a touchdown but had two crucial fumbles in the fourth quarter for the Miners (7-6) in the loss. UTEP was denied its first bowl win since the 1967 Sun Bowl, extending the longest postseason victory drought in FBS that includes seven straight defeats in bowl games.
Fresno State drove the field on its opening possession, which culminated in Mims’ 2-yard TD run. Cesar Silva missed the PAT, keeping the score at 6-0 with 12:44 to play in the first quarter. UTEP answered on its first drive, with Trent Thompson hauling in a 1-yard scoring pass from Hardison that, after Gavin Baechle’s extra-point kick, granted the Miners a 7-6 lead.
Silva and Baechle added field goals for their teams from 42 and 38 yards, respectively — the latter of which put UTEP back in the lead at 10-9 with 14:49 to play in the second quarter.
Ronald Awatt’s 1-yard TD run extended the Miners lead to 17-9. But the Bulldogs were strongest over the final two minutes of the half, getting a 1-yard scoring plunge from Mims with 1:52 to play and a 45-yard field goal by Silva with 4 seconds left to take a 19-17 advantage into halftime.
Fresno State added to its lead on a 22-yard TD pass from Haener to Mims with 1:17 to play in the third quarter. But UTEP responded with a 51-yard touchdown pass from Calvin Brownholtz to Thompson to pull back to within 26-24 with 14:10 remaining.
Silva made it a five-point game with his third field goal of the game, a 21 yarder with 9:04 left. Then the Bulldogs added a safety, as Hardison fumbled while being sacked in his own end zone and the loose ball was recovered by UTEP lineman Elijah Klein.
–Field Level Media