Thomas' Career Day Leads Miners Past SMU, 48-45, In Overtime
Sept. 29, 2007
DALLAS, TEXAS - Marcus Thomas rushed for a career-high 207 yards and three touchdowns, including a 10-yard score in overtime, to lead UTEP to a dramatic 48-45 victory against SMU in the Conference USA opener on Saturday at Gerald J. Ford Stadium.
The triumph equals the second-largest comeback in program history, as the Miners had trailed by as many as 21 points (28-7 with 2:55 to play in the second quarter).
UTEP (3-2, 1-0 C-USA) improved to 3-0 in conference openers under head coach Mike Price. Additionally, UTEP is now 3-1 in overtime under Price. SMU, which was led by a season-high 149 rushing yards from James Mapps, falls to 1-4 on the campaign.
Thomas becomes the seventh Miner to rush for 200-plus yards in a game and the first since Elzie Johnson ran for 203 yards against Tulsa in 1996. It was the most yards by a UTEP player in a game in 12 years.
The Miners displayed plenty of heart and determination on the day, rallying to tie the contest at 28 in the third quarter. SMU answered with 14 straight points on a one-yard run by Mapps and a 38-yard completion from Justin Willis to Zack Sledge to build a 14-point cushion early in the fourth period.
After a UTEP three and out, the Miners' defense did its job by forcing the Mustangs into a three and out of their own.
Vittatoe and UTEP's offense took to the field with 3:34 to go. The freshman calmly marched UTEP down the field, setting the Miners up deep in SMU territory.
Vittaoe found Jake Sears at the two-yard line, and the senior dove to break the goal line for the game-tying score with seven seconds left. The dramatic TD capped the 10-play, 66-yard drive in 3:27.
In overtime, the Miners won the toss and elected to play defense. UTEP's defense rose to the occasion, holding the Mustangs to a field goal to set the stage for Thomas' heroics.
The Mustangs drove 92 yards on eight plays on their second offensive possession to take a 7-0 lead, as Mapps punched it in for a two-yard score.
SMU increased its margin to 14-0 on a four-yard pass from Willis to Vincent Chase with 12:01 remaining in the second quarter.
With Thomas leading the way, the Miners put together a nine-play, 77-yard drive to slice their deficit in half. Thomas gained 59 yards on the drive. Thomas had 119 yards rushing in the first half, including 77 in the second quarter.
SMU reinstated a 14-point lead on a 50-yard rush by Cedrick Dorsey with 3:01 left in the half. On UTEP's next offensive play, Vittatoe was picked off by the Mustangs' Wilton McCray, who ran 23 yards for a TD. It was only Vittatoe's second interception in five games this season.
The Miners closed the gap to 28-14 at the break on Thomas' second rushing touchdown of the game, this one for 11 yards.
UTEP recovered an onside kick to start the second half and capitalized with a 31-yard rushing touchdown by Lorne Sam.
The Miners knotted the score on another scoring run by Sam, this one for 12 yards, with 6:49 to go in the third quarter.
UTEP will return home for three straight games - all against 2006 bowl teams - beginning on Saturday when it hosts Tulsa at 7:05 p.m. MST.