Underdog UTEP Miners' upset bid comes up short to Fresno State in New Mexico Bowl

·2 min read

The gap between the UTEP football team and the top college football programs, so cavernous throughout their recent history, has narrowed dramatically this season.

However, the quest to end the nation's longest bowl-win drought will have to wait another year after a 31-24 loss to heavily favored Fresno State in the PUBG Mobile New Mexico Bowl.

UTEP lost its seventh consecutive bowl game dating back to 1967.
UTEP lost its seventh consecutive bowl game dating back to 1967.

Playing with looseness, verve and adventure as the biggest underdog of the 84 bowl teams, the Miners led by nine late in the first half and trailed by two in the fourth quarter before the nation's 14th-ranked offense took their measure.

UTEP lost its seventh consecutive bowl game dating back to 1967 and has never won in the postseason outside El Paso.

For big stretches of this game, the Miners looked like a team bent on making some new history. Trailing by nine early in the fourth quarter, a team that hadn't run a true trick play all season ran its third of the game and hit the jackpot when backup quarterback Calvin Brownholtz faked a third-and-inches sneak and threw a 51-yard touchdown pass to tight end Trent Thompson for Thompson's second touchdown of the game.

That got UTEP within 26-24 and forced Fresno quarterback Jake Haener to be the star he is with a series of clutch passes. Tailback Jordan Mims was the offensive MVP and had two touchdown runs.

In the final seven minutes of the first half, when UTEP led 17-9, Fresno State scored on four of its next five possessions and made stops late to outlast the Miners. Trailing 31-24, quarterback Gavin Hardison fumbled with 3:55 remaining on Fresno's 42-yard line.

The end was disappointing for a team that now expects to win, but a competitive bowl loss still counts as something remarkable for a program that went 2-34 from 2017-19 before losing its last four in last year 3-5 season.

The gap between UTEP and the big-time college football programs is still there, but it's shrinking.

Bret Bloomquist can be reached at 915-546-6359; bbloomquist@elpasotimes.com; @Bretbloomquist on Twitter.

This article originally appeared on El Paso Times: UTEP upset bid comes up short to Fresno State in New Mexico Bowl

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