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[ UTEP 51, HAWAII 20 ]
Miners bury UH
A fired-up UTEP team pushes
STARS OF THE GAMEAbraham Elimimian, Hawaii
The cornerback had three interceptions and ran one back 20 yards for a touchdown.
Jordan Palmer, UTEP
KEY MATCHUPHawaii linebackers vs. UTEP running back Howard Jackson
The Warriors contained Jackson for most of the early going, limiting him to 7 yards on six carries in the first half. But he fueled a drive in the last minute of the first half that ended with Reagan Schneider's field goal.
Jackson exploded in the third quarter for 51 yards, including a 5-yard TD run, and finished with 138 yards on 28 carries. Starting UH linebackers Tanuvasa Moe, Watson Ho'ohuli, and Chad Kapanui combined for only 11 tackles.
SAY WHAT?"I knew they were going to come after us on the first one. I told the team to win on the road you have to make things happen, you have to take risks. We took a risk, and I told them it would be one for us or one for them."
"We do things, I don't know why we do what we do sometimes," Jones said. "Certain guys have never made a mistake on a certain play their whole career, then all of a sudden they don't run the right route for some reason. Especially on the road."
Error-plagued Hawaii fell to 2-3 and 2-2 in the WAC, making its chances to win the league championship virtually nil. And it's starting to look like the Miners (4-2, 2-1) might have a better chance to get to the Hawaii Bowl than the Warriors.
Still, despite the final score -- UH's worst loss since a 39-7 flogging by UTEP here in 2000 -- the Warriors had a chance to take control late in the first half.
But UTEP took a 24-13 lead into halftime on the strength of three of Jordan Palmer's five touchdown passes, wasted opportunities by UH's offense, and a high-risk gamble by the Warriors gone bad. The knockout punches came in the third quarter, when UTEP put the game away with a 20-7 outburst.
"We talked about being a big third-quarter team at the half," Price said. "We talked about how they had scored all of their points in the third quarter."
As bad as the second-half meltdown was, a questionable call five plays into the game got Hawaii started off in the wrong direction.
The head-scratching and second-guessing about Jones' decision to try a pass from punt formation from his own 18 began as soon as Chad Kapanui's pass went way over Kaulana Noa's head.
"We said we were going to fake punt the first time and unfortunately we missed it," Jones said. "We talked about it all week. We didn't get it done."
Five plays later, Palmer threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to wide-open Jonas Crafts, and the Miners led 7-0 at 11:41 of the first quarter.
UTEP started its next possession also on the Hawaii 18, as Jahmal Fenner returned a punt 46 yards following another three-and-out. Palmer quickly passed for another touchdown, this one 15 yards to Chris Francies.
It became obvious quickly that Hawaii missed starting cornerback Kenny Patton, who was out with a strained hamstring. Starting middle linebacker Ikaika Curnan also didn't make the trip (ankle sprain), and that was part of the reason UTEP's Howard Jackson rushed for 138 yards and a touchdown.
During the game, the defense's losses mounted. Starting safety Lono Manners left with a fractured ankle, and cornerback Abraham Elimimian was gone, too, with a tight hamstring.
Elimimian tied the school record for one game with three first-half interceptions, though.
But UH scored after only one of the three picks ... the one Elimimian ran 20 yards into the end zone himself.
That touchdown came after Tim Chang found Gerald Welch for a 13-yard TD, but Justin Ayat missed the extra point and the Warriors trailed 14-13 after the first quarter. Ayat also missed a 29-yard field-goal attempt, after Chang passes went off the hands of Se'e Poumele and Ian Sample beyond the goal line.
Hawaii was 1-for-7 on third-down conversions in the first half, and the red zone was the dead zone for the Warriors, who went 1-for-3 from close range, while UTEP was 7-for-7.
"I thought we had a couple of situations," Jones said. "We missed the field goal, we busted a route, we dropped a ball. We could've gone ahead if we make a couple of plays in the first half offensively.
"To win on the road you've got to stay focused and get it done."
Chang passed for 294 yards and two touchdowns. He had no interceptions, but UH turned the ball over four times, matching Palmer's four interceptions. The Miners made up for it by converting nine of 13 times on third down compared to two of 13 for Hawaii.
"It's very frustrating," Chang said. "Abe and the defense did a great job giving us opportunities and we didn't take advantage of it."
Johnnie Lee Higgins caught a 16-yard TD pass from Palmer to make it 21-13 at 10:41 of the second quarter. Then Reagan Schneider hit a 48-yard field goal at the end of the half.
UTEP drove 80 yards on 11 plays at the outset of the second half, culminating with Palmer's fourth TD pass, this one for 9 yards to Francies. The Miners led 31-13.
The Warriors came up empty from deep in UTEP territory on the next series. Kainoa Akina relieved Chang three plays after Chang took a late hit, and Akina's keeper got the Warriors to the Miners 17. But after two incompletes, Fenner intercepted Akina's pass in the end zone.
Josh Chamois then capped another 80-yard UTEP drive with a 1-yard TD run, expanding the margin to 38-13 midway through the third quarter. Palmer found Crafts with a 44-yard pass the play after Elimimian left the game.
Chang, who suffered a separated left (non-throwing) shoulder, returned for the next series, but completed one of three passes, for 1 yard to Jason Rivers. Kapanui then tried another pass out of punt formation, but it was batted down by Chamois.
"We had to try to make something happen, down by that many points," Kapanui said.
The lead became 44-13 when Jackson ran in from 5 yards out three plays later and the point after was no good.
UH finally stopped the Miners' 30-point spree when a scrambling Chang found Welch again, this time for a 30-yard touchdown with 3:26 left in the third quarter. But it was way too little, too late.
The entire fourth quarter was garbage time, with the Palmer-Francies connection clicking once more for 13 yards and the final score, capping a night of utopia in what one local columnist calls football Utepia.
"If we continue to play like we did tonight, we're going to have a pretty good year," said Price, whose team also beat Fresno State on the road.
"We didn't play well enough on either side of the ball to win a game like this," Jones said.
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