A turnover on the first play from scrimmage set the tone for the 87th meeting of the Battle of I-10.
UTEP's Clarence Ward intercepted a pass from Jeff Walls to Kyle Nelson that bounced off his fingertips. Seven plays later UTEP running back Donald Buckram scored the first of his two touchdowns on a one yard touchdown run and the Miners were up 7-0 early. Mother nature then made her presence felt and for the first time since September 6, 2003 an Aggie home game was delayed by weather.
When play resumed nearly three hours later the Aggies had the ball on their second possession of the ball game. Trailing 7-0 the Aggies started the drive at their own 27 yard line and drove all the way to the UTEP 29 but turned the ball over on downs after a holding penalty negated what would have been an Aggie first down inside the 20. The Aggie defense played strong and forced UTEP to punt on its next possession and the Aggie offense once again put together a long drive. This one spanned 15 plays and 51 yards but once again the Aggies came up empty as Kyle Hughes missed a 43 yard field goal.
The teams traded punts and then it was UTEP's turn for a long drive. After a wonderful punt from Kyle Hughes pinned the Miners on the eight yard line, UTEP drove 92 yards on 11 plays to set up their second touchdown of the elongated first half to put them up 14-0. The Aggies would once again drive deep into UTEP territory getting all the way to the UTEP 27 yard line but once again came up empty after turning the ball over on downs.
The third quarter belonged to UTEP as they started out the half on their own 20 and drove 68 yards on 17 plays to the Aggie 12 yard line setting up a Logan Barrett field goal to put the Miners up 17-0. The Aggies' Jeff Fleming threw an interception on their next series giving the Miners the ball at the Aggie 15 yard line. Four plays later the Miners were in the endzone for the third time and had a commanding 24-0 lead.
A change of quarterbacks by the Aggies due to an apparent injury to starter Jeff Fleming saw Trevor Walls in the game. He did not fare much better on his first series as a botched handoff between Walls and his running back gave the Miners the ball at the Aggie 17. The Aggie defense would appear to stop the Miners after Davon House tipped a Trevor Vittatoe pass in the end zone to himself and returned it to the 50 yard line but a roughing the passer penalty on the Aggies gave the Miners the ball at the Aggie four yard line. That was all the Miners needed as UTEP punched the ball in for a touchdown giving them the 31-0 lead.
The Aggies got the ball with 48 seconds remaining in the 3rd quarter and put together a six play 65 yard touchdown drive highlighted by a 53-yard scamper by Seth Smith down to the Miner seven yard line. Marquell Colston finished off the drive with a one yard touchdown run. The Aggies would go for two but fail to convert leaving them behind 31-6.
The UTEP starters put together one last drive, this one a 13 play 80 yard drive for their final touchdown of the evening putting them up 38-6. The Aggies answered with a nine play 46 yard drive that ended with a five yard touchdown pass to tight end Kyle Nelson. For the Aggies it was their first passing touchdown in the past 15 quarters. The Aggies would once again go for two and fail and trailed 38-12.
The UTEP starters were done for the evening and the next Miner possession saw their backups come in. The Aggies forced the Miners to punt and they got the ball back with 1:06 remaining on the clock. The Aggies turned the ball over on downs and UTEP took over and ran out the clock.
The Aggies finished the night with 284 yards of total offense, 187 rushing yards and 97 passing yards. The Miners finished the night with just 54 more yards of total offense, 182 passing yards and 156 rushing yards. Aggie running back Seth Smith finished with 99 yards and an impressive 7.6 yard per attempt average. Quarterback Jeff Fleming finished 6 of 13 for 74 yards with two costly interceptions that lead to 14 Miner points. Backup Trevor Walls finished 4 of 10 for 23 yards, one touchdown but one fumble that led to a Miner touchdown.
The Miners' Donald Buckram rushed for 113 yards on 14 attempts and had two touchdowns while Vernon Frazier had six carries for just 24 yards but also had two touchdowns. Jason Willims rushed seven times for only 19 yards but he too had a touchdown run. Trevor Vittatoe finished the day with a pedestrian 15 of 32 for 182 yards and no touchdowns but he had no turnovers as the Miners' balanced attack was the difference in the game.
The Aggies fall to 1-2 on the season and will face their I-25 rival New Mexico in Albuquerque next Saturday at 8:00 p.m. MT.