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September 27, 2008

With backs against the wall, Miners defeat Knights 58-13

It only took eight minutes for the UTEP defense to use their brand-new police siren audio and video package.

Defensive end Brandis Dew rushed UCF quarterback Rob Calabrese, brought him down for a sack, which prompted the sound to play through the Sun Bowl speakers. The defense followed the sack with another and a fumble recovery for a touchdown, powering the Miners to a 58-13 win.

"Amazing - we got a lot of stress off our shoulders and off our chests," UTEP quarterback Trevor Vittatoe said. "We've been waiting for it for a year; we've been preparing for it a lot."
"Tonight the ball rolled our way," Vittatoe said. "It was a big win, it was real exciting."

Someone passing by the stadium may have thought there was an emergency, but instead the good times were rolling at the Sun Bowl, as 33,339 fans cheered the Miners on.

"Obviously, we're elated about the victory, we just kept telling the players they're working too hard…it was just a matter of time before we win." UTEP head coach Mike Price said.

The Miners (1-3) kept the Knights scoreless for a quarter and a half, while tight end Jamar Hunt, and wide receiver Kris Adams caught touchdown passes.

Vittatoe threw for 263 yards on 18-of-32 passing, three touchdowns and an interception. The week before the game, Vittatoe didn't know if he would get the start.

"It was actually just a blessing to play today," Vittatoe said. "I spent countless hours in the training room trying to get back ready to play. If I wouldn't have done that I wouldn't have played."

Vittatoe played well, connecting on passes to Hunt, Adams and Jeff Moturi, who caught them for 14, 74 and 25 yards respectively.

"We've really been needing that (win)," Adams said. "I feel like they (UCF) came out and didn't respect any our receivers besides Jeff (Moturi). It feels good to take the stress of him now, people know now that we have other guys that can make plays."

Senior kicker Jose Martinez connected on a 64-yard field goal, which brought the fans in attendance and the players on the sideline to their feet as the Miners head to the locker room with a 27-7 lead. It was the longest kick in the nation this year, and a yard shorter than Martin Gramatica's (Kansas State) NCAA record against Northern Illinois in 1998.

"It finally got the weight off my chest," Martinez said with a smile.

"I feed off the adrenaline from them (the crowd), the louder they are the farther I'll kick it," he added.

Freshman running back Vernon Frazier led the team in rushing, carrying the ball four times for 73 yards. Teammate and hybrid wide receiver/quarterback James Thomas II ran for 21 yards, while throwing for 21 on a perfect 2-for-2 passing effort. The tailbacks combined for 140 yards on the ground.

UCF's Calabrese, who started in place for Michael Greco, did his best but could not contend with UTEP's inspired defense. He was picked off twice by junior Cornelius Brown, who now has three interceptions and a blocked punt on the year, and sacked twice by the UTEP defense.

"We've been capable of performing like this all season," Dew said. These past three losses that we had, we learned a lot from. We came out this game, our backs were against the wall, and we had to come out and show the country and the conference that we could come out and play - that's what we did."

The freshman quarterback ended the night 13-for-31 with 167 yards, two interceptions and a touchdown.

"It's a long season," UCF head coach George O'Leary said. "You regroup; that's all you can do...I just don't think as coaches we did a great job either, I saw too many mistakes out there."

The Knights (1-3) head home to face the SMU Mustangs (1-4), while the Miners make a road trip to play against the Southern Miss. Golden Eagles (2-2) in Hattiesburg, Miss.

Notes

The 74-yard pass thrown by Vittatoe to Adams was the longest play from scrimmage of the season. It was the longest play since a 78-yard pass thrown by Vittatoe to Moturi in a 48-47 win against Tulsa.

Had the Miners lost tonight's game, it would have marked almost a year (Oct. 6, 2007) since the team won a game. UTEP had been on a nine-game losing streak, which was the longest in the country at the time.

The 48-point output by the Miners is the highest scored against an FBS opponent since the Sept. 29, 2007 game against SMU, where the Miners scored 48. The Miners had scored 52 points against Texas Southern Sept. 22, 2007.

The Knights are now 8-5 on the road in Conference USA play. UCF had won their last three until Saturday night's defeat.

The Miners are now 4-0 in C-USA openers, defeating Houston, SMU (2006-07) and now UCF.

The Knights made their debut appearance in the Sun City Saturday night. UCF was 2-2 all-time against Texas teams before the loss. Wins were against Rice (2005) and SMU (2007). Defeats were against Texas State (1985) and Houston (2006).

The El Paso road trip was the longest the Knights traveled to play a regular season tilt since a 2002 trip to Tempe, Ariz, to play against Arizona State at Sun Devil stadium.

The Knights were last season's C-USA conference champions, and defeated the Miners 36-20 in the first meeting (Nov. 24, 2007) between the teams.

This is the second time a Florida based team has come to El Paso. UTEP, then Texas Western, defeated Florida State 47-20 in 1955.

The Miners and Knights were the last two teams to open C-USA play.

Carlos M. Silva Jr. is the publisher for MinerDigs.net. He can be reached by clicking here.


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