UTEP Falls To Southern Miss, 56-30
Nov. 17, 2007
Damion Fletcher rushed for 211 yards and three touchdowns, leading Southern Miss to a 56-30 victory over UTEP on Saturday in the Sun Bowl.
The Golden Eagles (6-5, 5-3 C-USA) gained bowl eligibility with the win, while spoiling the Miners' final home game of the season. UTEP (4-7, 2-5 C-USA) suffered its fifth straight loss and third consecutive setback in the Sun Bowl. The Miners finished 3-3 at home this season.
"It was embarrassing, and I don't usually use that word often," UTEP coach Mike Price said. "They're a better team than us and they deserved to win. We got beat in all three phases of the game - offense, defense and special teams."
The Miners will conclude the 2007 campaign at C-USA East Division leader UCF (8-3, 6-1) next week. Kickoff is set for noon MDT.
After UTEP opened a 7-0 lead on a 13-yard pass from Trevor Vittatoe to Jeff Moturi with 10:24 remaining in the first quarter, Southern Miss scored 28 of the game's next 31 points to go ahead 28-10. Fletcher scored on a pair of short touchdown runs during the spurt.
The Golden Eagles were up 14-10 at the half. They opened the second half with a 47-yard kickoff return by Tory Harrison, followed by a 53-yard pass from Jeremy Young to Gerald Baptiste for a 21-10 lead.
Fletcher's three-yard scoring run extended the lead to 18 points with 8:36 remaining in the third quarter, and UTEP couldn't get closer than 11 points the rest of the night.
"The second half just started out so bad, and we did not expect that," Price said. "The defense played well in the first half, and I thought we would move the ball in the second half. Things just fell apart in the second half. It was a very ugly half."
Marcus Thomas rushed 22 times for 106 yards in his final home game for the Miners, scoring two touchdowns to go over 100 points for the season. Another senior, Joe West, finished with seven catches for 153 yards and a score.
Vittatoe had an off night, completing 19 of 42 passes for 290 yards.
Young threw for 205 yards and rushed for 60 for the Golden Eagles, who piled up 568 yards of offense. UTEP had 414 yards.
The first half took nearly two hours to play after the two teams were whistled for a total of 13 penalties. The game took nearly three and a half hours to complete.
The game got off to a strange start. Leading 7-0, the Miners appeared to get a big defensive stop midway through the first quarter when Will Osolinsky blocked a 35-yard field goal by Southern Miss' Justin Estes. But the Golden Eagles' Shawn Nelson recovered the ball off the block and ran four yards for a first down. Four plays later, Marcus Raines ran for a one-yard touchdown to knot the score.
"It was kind of a unique, interesting play," Price said. "I don't think it helped. It did swing the momentum their way, but the second play of the second half was as big of a momentum breaker."
UTEP vs. Southern Miss Post-Game NotesThe Miners finished the year 3-3 at home ... UTEP scored in every quarter of the game, and has now tallied points in 26 of 28 quarters in Conference USA play this year ... Jeff Moturi reeled in a TD pass for his nation-leading 10th consecutive game ... it was his 13th TD catch of the year, which equals the second-highest single-season total in program history ... Joe West finished with a career-best 153 receiving yards ... Marcus Thomas became the first player since 1988 and the fourth in program history to eclipse 100 points in a season ... he scored twice, lifting his total to 108 ... he has rushed for 16 TDs on the campaign, which equals the second-highest single-season figure at UTEP ... he finished with 106 yards, bringing his career total to 2,616 ... that places him fifth all time in program history ... Jose Martinez improved to 15-of-18 on the year on FGs after drilling a 38-yarder in the second quarter ... sophomore punter Greg Hiett boomed four punts for 193 yards, an average of 48.3 yards per punt ... he entered the game with one career punt ... Robby Felix made his 35th consecutive start ... Tufick Shadrawy and Torrey Huckaby made their first career starts ... Will Osolinsky blocked a field goal in the first quarter, marking the second blocked kicked on the year ... Quintin Demps blocked an extra point attempt by Paul Young of NMSU, also in the first quarter.