UTEP Takes Down Pirates in 22-17 Thriller
Nov. 12, 2011
EL PASO, Texas (AP) - After wasting an opportunity to get closer to bowl eligibility last week with a loss to Rice, UTEP desperately needed a win Saturday night to keep any kind of bowl hope alive.
The Miner's savior came in the form of senior running back Joe Banyard, who ran for a game winning 77-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter to help put UTEP (5-5, 2-4 C-USA) in the lead for good as they won over East Carolina (4-6, 3-3 C-USA), 22-17, Saturday night in the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas.
Banyard finished the game with 140 yards on the night and the Miners as a whole accumulated 241 rushing yards. Celebrating a birthday Saturday, he had no problem making his way down the field for the score.
"The hole was tremendous," Banyard said. "The offensive line did an awesome job and I just ran through it like I did in practice. It was a great birthday gift and that was for the team."
UTEP head coach Mike Price knew that it was an important game for his team and echoed those statements afterwards.
"I think our kids just decided that it wasn't going to happen like it did last week (at Rice) and they were ready emotionally, intense," Price said. "Their enthusiasm was maybe a little too much as had some stupid penalties in the first half but I thought our defense played great and our offensive line did a nice job."
Sophomore Carson Meger, who came in for the injured Nick Lamaison who went down with a groin injury in the middle of the first quarter, went 18 for 27 and threw for 155 yards. UTEP had a total of 429 yards of offense on the night.
"You know, you have to prepare all week," Meger said of his sudden entrance into the game in first quarter. "Everybody from starters from the backups, they prepare like they are going to get to play and this was a prime example of making it worth it. You have to prepare and it helps when you prepare and everything is a lot more comfortable."
East Carolina quarterback Dominique Davis was 18 for 34 on the night and threw for 133 yards with one touchdown. Torrance Hunt was the Pirates' leading rusher with 54 yards while Michael Dobson ran for 43 yards and a touchdown.
East Carolina's loss hurt their chances to become closer to bowl eligibility and head coach Ruffin McNeil felt the Pirates felt early mistakes plagued the team once again.
"It was a tough loss and mistakes again ... we talk about understanding the situation in the game, but we didn't take advantage of that tonight," McNeil said. "I thought we did a good job in the second half, but like I said, we made mistakes in the first half. We have two games left in the season and we are still capable of becoming bowl eligible.
The game started shaky for the Miners as they marched down the field on their first possession and were stopped on a fourth and one on the East Carolina 1-yard line. The UTEP defense held ECU to a three and out and on the ensuing punt, UTEP's Mike Edwards fumbled the ball and ECU recovered on the UTEP 34. The Pirates capitalized on the turnover with a 2-yard touchdown by Michael Dobson to put ECU in the lead, 7-0.
UTEP got on the board again with a Leilyon Meyers 2-yard touchdown and a Mike Scott extra point making it 13-7.
ECU scored in the early parts of the second half when Davis connected with Justin Hardy for the 10-yard score, making it 16-14 UTEP. Later, ECU methodically moved down the field over a 6-minute span only to be held up by the UTEP defense and walked away with only a field goal making the game 17-16.
Miners held ECU for the remainder of the game and sealed the victory with a TraVaun Nixon interception with two minutes to go in the game.
"That was a great victory, the players played so well," Price said. "They didn't play well all the time, but they gave great effort and I'm just really, really excited for them to be able to go into their senior night next week and play for a chance to go to a bowl."