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October 21, 2012Coming in to the game on Saturday night at the Sun Bowl, the big deal was supposed to be the sale of beer for the first time ever at a UTEP football game. Beer was the talk of the town from the moment it was announced on Tuesday to kickoff Saturday night.
But guess what? Something strange happened, the football game became the story again thanks to an outstanding effort from the Miner defense in the second half.
All year long the UTEP defense has been the back bone of the team and Satuday was no different. In what was an extremely fast moving game for the first half and most of the second, everything came to a screeching halt with 5:52 to go in the ballgame.
It should have been the point of the game where Tulane began what should have been its final drive of the night. For a while everyone in attendance thought it was and the Miners came up with a big defensive stop.
It looked like there would be no drama as UTEP needed to just burn the clock with a methodical drive.
But what would a Miner football game be without some kind of drama? Boring.
After UTEP held the Green Wave, they were driving and looking good doing it. All seemed well with the world. Then out of nowhere, LaQuintus Dowell, who had been shouldering the load of the Miner running game in the second half, fumbled and game Tulane a glimmer of hope.
(Back to the beer for a second, beer sales are cut off at the end of the third quarter and I can bet you that if the concessions were still selling, Miner fans would have been buying. There needed to be some kind of stress relief.)
Tulane and its pass offense had been wreaking havoc on the Miner defense all night. Tulane's quarterback Ryan Griffin passed for 363 yards. That should give an indication as to how productive Tulane's offense was. So to say that the Miner faithful in attendance (23,234) were a little weary of the Green Wave getting the ball back again was an understatement.
Yes, Griffin threw for 363 yards on the Miner secondary but that same Miner secondary had only allowed three second half points up until that drive. The bend but don't break philosophy that the Miners had been imploring all season until that point had been working for the most part and if UTEP was to pull out a victory, they would need yet another massive effort.
(Back to the beer for a second; it is getting to the end here and let me say, this guy typing is getting just a bit thirsty for a cold one.)
Tulane takes over after the fumble by Dowell, the Miners have bent but not broken in the second half against Tulane's pass offense and the crowd is on the edged of their seat and the beer sales stopped some 30 minutes ago. All year, the back bone of this Miner team has been the defense and on Tulane's second final drive, the UTEP defense held for four downs and only allowed the Green Wave to gain ONE yard in the process. ONE yard to give the Miners a 24-20 homecoming win and more importantly, the second win of the season.
If and when we get a chance to see the UTEP offense play a game as well as the defense, we just might see a solid and very competitive football team. But the Miner offense was held scoreless in the second half and a touchdown would have made that final 5:52 a moot point and this guy typing would already be drinking a beer.
Chad Middleton, also the producer for 600 ESPN El Paso's SportsTalk, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can follow him on Twitter at @chad600espn. Make sure to follow Miner Illustrated on Twitter at @minermaniac for more up-to-date news and information about UTEP.