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October 7, 2012EL PASO, Texas - Mustang quarterback Garrett Gilbert threw for 234 yards and threw for one touchdown as he led SMU (2-3, 1-0 C-USA) to a shutout win, 17-0, over UTEP (1-5, 0-2 C-USA) Saturday night in the Sun Bowl.
After getting a field goal from Chase Hover in the first quarter, Gilbert got the Mustang offense working on their fifth possession of the game. Utilizing only three pass plays and two runs, Gilbert connected with Darius Johnson on a 40-yard pass to score the game's only offensive touchdown.
Later in the first half, the Mustang defense would score as well when Ja'Gared Davis intercepted a pass from UTEP quarterback Nick Lamaison and returned it 30 yards for the touchdown.
It would be the only points scored in the game.
"We are real disappointed in the loss," head coach Mike Price said. "They took the battle to us in the first half their offense obviously played better than ours. I'm very disappointed."
The last time the Miners were shut out was September 13, 2003 against San Diego State in a 34-0 loss. The last time UTEP was shut out in the Sun Bowl was against SMU.
UTEP struggled offensively throughout the game. Lamaison finished the game going 9 for 23 with two interceptions and only threw for 131 yards. Carson Meger went 7 for 16 with one interception and 47 yards passing. The running game didn't fair much better as Nathan Jeffery ran for 67 yards on 20 carries.
"I wish there was something I could put my finger on offensively," Price said. "We just didn't get good play from some of our players that we need to execute."
There was one highlight from the offense. Coming out of the half, the Miners were able to find some rhythm and utilized a two-tight end set to move the ball down the field. Mixing in runs from Jeffery and passes to Craig Wenrick and Eric Tomlinson, UTEP marched down the field and set themselves up for a field goal try. Unfortunately for the Miners, SMU linebacker Margus Hunt blocked Steven Valadez's try.
"We just have to finish," Jeffery said of the offensive performance. "When we get to the red zone/orange zone we just have to finish and we didn't do a good job of that."
Defensively, the Miners appeared to hold their own as Drew Thomas led the team in tackles with 12. Several times the defense forced the Mustangs in to three-and-out situations with the hope that the offense would come through.
"We knew we had to keep their offense off the field in order to give our offense a chance to win," Thomas said. "I'm real proud of our guys stepping up and doing what they needed to do."
Thomas continued, "We had the offense's back and they made plays too. As a whole team we had to get better."
The Miners will have a short week as they prepare for Tulsa this Thursday. The game will be broadcast on Fox Sports Network.
Chris Avila can be reached at email@example.com or you can follow him on Twitter at @chrisavila_01. Make sure to follow Miner Illustrated on Twitter at @minermaniac for more up-to-date news and information about UTEP.
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