EL PASO, Texas - The beginning of a new football era at UTEP fizzled Saturday night.
Head coach Sean Kugler roamed the sidelines for the first time, but his team dropped a close game late. The Miners fell behind early against the University of New Mexico Lobos; however, a late surge pushed the game into overtime.
In the end the Lobos run game did the Miners defense in. Kasey Carrier scored the lone overtime touchdown, scampering 21 yards to defeat UTEP by a final score of 42-35.
After the game, Kugler said he told his team to hang in there. He said they'd go back and work to correct issues that popped up during the opener.
"We hang our heads high whether we win or lose," said Kugler.
One issue that will likely get the coach's attention is the Miners defense. Carrier gave everyone on the field fits all day. At the end of the night, his box score looked like a video game. Carrier rushed for 291 yards and four scores. He carried a Lobos offense that, simply put, looked uninterested in throwing the ball. The Lobos attempted just seven passes all game.
The UTEP offense followed suit, looking run-heavy as they racked up more than 40 rushing plays. Aaron Jones, an El Paso native and former Burgess star running back, showed up big in his first game, racking up more than 100 yards while scoring twice.
Jones told ABC-7 he was happy with his personal performance, but was disappointed to start his college career with a loss.
"I know the guys fought hard," said Jones. "We did the best we could, but fell on the short side."
Jameill Showers looked the part of a starting quarterback in his first game in a Miners uniform after spending his early college years as a backup at Texas A&M. Showers completed 15 of 20 passes. He tossed one touchdown and kept control of the ball, but couldn't help the Miners put points on the board in overtime.
UTEP is now 0-1 on the season and will have to prepare for an away game at New Mexico State. The two rivals will kickoff next Saturday at 8 p.m.