Oklahoma's Eric Gray (0) runs after catching the ball during a college football game between the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) and the UTEP Miners at Gaylord Family - Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Okla., Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022.

Ou Vs Utep

No. 9 Oklahoma routs UTEP in Brent Venables’ debut

Dillon Gabriel threw for 233 yards and two touchdowns to help No. 9 Oklahoma notch a 45-13 victory over UTEP on Saturday in Norman, Oklahoma.

The Sooners, in Brent Venables’ first game as a head coach, got off to a quick start, leading 21-0 in the first quarter.

Oklahoma overhauled things on both sides of the ball in the offseason after Venables was hired following the departure of Lincoln Riley to Southern California.

Venables brought aboard Jeff Lebby, known for fast-paced offenses at Central Florida and Ole Miss, to run the Sooners’ offense.

Lebby’s quick tempo was evident from the start.

Oklahoma needed only 13 plays — taking just 3:35 — to rack up 223 yards and build the early lead.

UTEP (0-2) settled in a bit through the air after that, cutting the deficit to 21-10 in the second quarter before Sooners got going offensively once again with Gabriel hitting tight end Brayden Willis for a 28-yard touchdown pass in the final minute of the first half to make it 28-10 at the break.

It was Willis’ second touchdown of the half, the first time in his career with multiple touchdowns in a game.

The Sooners scored touchdowns on each of their first two drives of the second half — both on Marcus Major runs — to build a 42-10 lead by late in the third quarter.

Oklahoma’s third touchdown of the game came on a 46-yard run by freshman walk-on Gavin Freeman, who took an end-around for a score.

UTEP quarterback Gavin Hardison finished 26 of 43 for 244 yards.

While Hardison helped the Miners get back into the game in the second quarter, leading a pair of long drives, UTEP struggled to get much going on the ground.

The Sooners held the Miners to minus-19 rushing yards in the first half and 28 yards for the game.

Eric Gray rushed for 102 yards on 16 carries and added two catches for 33 yards. Marvin Mims added three catches for 81 yards.

Oklahoma finished with 492 total yards

Tyrin Smith had eight catches for 71 yards to lead the Miners.

–Field Level Media

Dec 18, 2021; Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA; Fresno State Bulldogs Jordan Mims (7) runs the ball in for a touchdown against the UTEP Miners defense in the first half at the 2021 New Mexico Bowl at Dreamstyle Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ivan Pierre Aguirre-USA TODAY Sports

Jordan Mims’ three TDs lead Fresno State over UTEP in New Mexico Bowl

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

Nov 21, 2020; Hattiesburg, Mississippi, USA; UTSA Roadrunners running back Sincere McCormick (3) celebrates a touchdown run in the third quarter against the Southern Miss Golden Eagles at M.M. Roberts Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

No. 16 UTSA remains focused on extending win streak at UTEP

Contract extension in hand, UTSA coach Jeff Traylor says he can focus on guiding his team through the best season in program history.

The 16th-ranked Roadrunners (8-0, 4-0 Conference USA) will aim to continue their ascent when they visit UTEP on Saturday.

Traylor was rumored to be on Texas Tech’s radar after Red Raiders athletic director Kirby Hocutt canned Matt Wells last week, but UTSA’s second-year coach cashed in on Sunday, landing a 10-year extension and an average yearly salary of $2.8 million.

“This is a huge relief for me,” Traylor said. “I thought it had become a distraction. I was worried about my players having to answer questions so much. We can’t predict the future, but I thought it was very important that we get this thing done for my players’ sake.”

While the lengthy extension might not keep other athletic directors from putting Traylor on short lists, it does indicate the rapid rise the Roadrunners have made up the food chain this year. Not only have they posted impressive road wins over Illinois and Memphis, but they have performed as they’ve gotten more attention.

Case in point: Their last game two weeks ago at Louisiana Tech, their first as a ranked team. Against an opponent that nearly won its season opener at Mississippi State, UTSA exhibited its usual balance on offense, sacked dangerous quarterback Austin Kendall six times and pulled away in the second half for a 45-16 victory.

Running back Sincere McCormick rushed for 113 yards and three touchdowns, marking his third straight 100-yard performance. Quarterback Frank Harris was an efficient 12 of 19 for 193 yards and two scores, and Zakhari Franklin caught five passes for 118 yards and two TDs.

With a bye week in the rearview mirror, the Roadrunners are now focused on the Miners (6-2, 3-1). Although UTEP took its first conference loss last week at Florida Atlantic, 28-25, Traylor still sees a lot to like about it.

“They are an old-fashioned football team,” he said. “They execute. They move the chains on third down. They run the football. They are really good on defense. It is going to be a hornet’s nest out there.”

It’s been awhile since the Sun Bowl stadium has seen a regular-season game with this kind of meaning. There were low expectations for the Miners outside the locker room, but fourth-year coach Dana Dimel has applied some of the magic from the guy he once worked for, former Kansas State coach Bill Snyder.

Dimel said of the impact of the Florida Atlantic defeat on the UTSA matchup, “The loss does not make this game less important. It makes it more important. If we want a chance to contend for a conference championship, this game becomes really important for us to do that. It’s a huge challenge.”

The Miners’ most explosive player is wide receiver Jacob Cowing, who has 41 catches for 811 yards and has enjoyed five 100-yard games. Cowing was held to six receptions for 36 yards last week.

UTSA owns a 6-2 lead in the all-time series, including a 52-21 victory last November in San Antonio.

–Field Level Media

Sep 1, 2018; Miami, FL, USA;  FIU Golden Panthers place kicker Jose Borregales (30) wears a decal on back of helmet to honor Conference USA commissioner Mike Slive, who passed away in May 2018 at the age of 77 of prostate cancer, during the game against the FIU Golden Panthers  at Riccardo Silva Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

FIU cancels game at UTEP due to COVID-19 outbreak

The Florida International and UTEP football teams both will not play for the second week in a row as a COVID-19 outbreak at FIU caused the school to cancel the scheduled Saturday game in El Paso.

The FIU athletic department issued a statement that read, “In an abundance of caution, due to the number of healthy scholarship football student-athletes available for this game, and to ensure a sufficient number moving forward, we regret to announce that we will not be playing the football game this weekend.”

The Panthers (0-3, 0-1 Conference USA) previously postponed four games this season, including their scheduled Oct. 30 contest against then-No. 19 Marshall.

The Miners (3-3, 0-2) didn’t play their scheduled game against North Texas last week with the Mean Green deciding they didn’t want to go to El Paso, where COVID-19 cases were on the rise. UTEP’s scheduled Oct. 17 game against Southern Mississippi also was postponed due to an outbreak involving the Golden Eagles.

–Field Level Media

Sep 26, 2020; Hattiesburg, Mississippi, USA; Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles head coach Scotty Walden yells to his players in the third quarter against the Tulane Green Wave at M. M. Roberts Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Southern Miss-UTEP the sixth Saturday game postponed

Saturday’s scheduled game between Southern Miss and UTEP was postponed on Friday — the sixth college football game called off this weekend because of COVID-19.

Southern Miss said the Golden Eagles have seen an increase in COVID-19 cases in the football program and are unable to travel to Texas.

“The health and safety of everyone involved continues to be our guiding force which made this decision to postpone the game the appropriate one,” Southern Miss athletic director Jeremy McClain said in a statement. “We are disappointed for our student-athletes who will not get a chance to participate for a second straight weekend, however, we will work with UTEP, in conjunction with Conference USA, to reschedule this game for later this season.”

Southern Miss (1-3, 1-1 C-USA) also had last weekend’s game against Florida Atlantic postponed amid a COVID-19 uptick among the Owls.

A new date for the Southern Miss-UTEP game was not announced.

Southern Miss is scheduled to play at Liberty next Saturday, with UTEP scheduled to meet Charlotte that day.

Charlotte also won’t play on Saturday. On Thursday night, FIU announced its game with the 49ers was postponed because of COVID-19 cases within its program.

This is the third game called off for Charlotte (1-2, 1-1 C-USA). The 49ers’ game against North Carolina was canceled, with a postponement against Georgia State.

FIU (0-2, 0-1) has lost games against Jacksonville State and UCF.

Other games postponed this weekend: Vanderbilt vs. Missouri and Florida vs. LSU in the Southeastern Conference; Cincinnati and Tulsa in the American Athletic Conference; and Baylor vs. Oklahoma State in the Big 12.

–Field Level Media

Oct 5, 2019; Morgantown, WV, USA; Texas Longhorns quarterback Sam Ehlinger (11) throws a pass during the first quarter against the West Virginia Mountaineers at Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

No. 14 Texas meets UTEP with high expectations

No. 14 Texas finally gets its first chance to showcase a squad that is expected to compete for the Big 12 Conference title, and perhaps a lot more, when the Longhorns host Texas-El Paso on Saturday at Austin.

Attendance will be capped at 25 percent in Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium (about 25,000 fans) for the Longhorns’ lone non-conference game in a schedule that was revamped because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This might be Tom Herman’s best team in the coach’s four years at Texas. To start the year, Texas faces a UTEP team that’s considered just a warm-up to the nine-game Big 12 Conference regular-season campaign.

UTEP does enter the game with one advantage: The Miners already have a game under their belt after a 24-14 victory over Stephen F. Austin last Saturday.

The Longhorns are fresh off an 8-5 season in 2019 that concluded with a dominating Alamo Bowl win over Utah followed by a challenging offseason because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Expectations are high in Austin. Texas has a deep team led by a senior quarterback Sam Ehlinger, rush linebacker Joseph Ossai, and a defensive backfield stocked with players who could be fixtures in the NFL when they are done with college football.

Then there is athletic offensive tackle Samuel Cosmi, a likely early-round pick at the next level, and talented playmakers galore on either side of the ball.

Texas does have questions. Who will emerge as Ehlinger’s go to target receiver? Can the Longhorns’ find a capable linebacking corps beyond Ossai? What about depth at quarterback behind Ehlinger?

“I feel great about our starting quarterback, and I feel great about our veteran offensive lineman in three guys that have a lot of snaps under their belt,” Herman said Monday. “And I feel really good about our defensive front. It’s going to be a tremendous asset for us. But we lost our two leading receivers by a wide margin and replacing that production is certainly something that we’ve got to make sure happens.”

Texas is a 43-point favorite, but they will face a UTEP team that gained some belief in itself and thinks it can improve this Saturday in Austin. The Miners have lost 18 straight games against teams that are currently in the Big 12 and has never beaten Texas in the five contests between the two programs.

“That’s going to be the big thing for our guys, to play within ourselves and don’t get intimidated by the atmosphere and understand we’re playing against a really good football team, a football team that could get themselves in the playoff picture,” UTEP coach Dana Dimel said Monday.

“It will be really important that we don’t make silly mistakes that would take us out of our game plan and play as consistent and precise as we can play in that type of atmosphere.”

UTEP’s Deion Hankins will get the start at running back after 113-yard, two-touchdown performance against the Lumberjacks last week.

“Deion is going to have a test this week, but I think he’s is physical enough to run against anybody,” Dimel said. “We have to get him started, we have to get him moving and establish a line of scrimmage against a team like that, that will be the big challenge.”

–Field Level Media