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September 2, 2012EL PASO, Texas - In a game that was pitted as a blowout by everyone but a select few of the UTEP faithful, the Miners hung with the Sooners for two and a half quarters before Oklahoma finally put them away.
Oklahoma (1-0) was stunned by the UTEP running game and a pair of blocked field goals before it found its rhythm scoring17 unanswered points in the second half to put the Miners away 24-7.
"The offense was inconsistent in the first half, timing was off a bit in some areas, but we took care of the ball," Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops said.
The game was a tale of two halves as the Miners, behind running back Nathan Jeffery, pushed the Sooners around for two straight quarters going into halftime tied 7-7. It was Jeffery that kept UTEP in the game, but the kicking game (or lack thereof) that kept Oklahoma out of reach.
"We had a great opportunity and we played out hearts out. I thought our defense played tremendous," UTEP head coach Mike Price said. "We can correct some of the mistakes we made."
On the Sooners opening drive UTEP forced a punt, which was blocked by defensive back Richard Spencer. Jeffery, who could not find the endzone with the offense the series before, picked up the ball and ran it in for the Miners only touchdown of the game.
Oklahoma converted just 5-of-16 third downs, but one of those conversions turned into a 68-yard touchdown thrown by Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones to receiver Kenny Stills that tied the game at seven.
Jones finished the game with 222 yards passing on 21-of-36 for two touchdowns. He won the head-to-head matchup with UTEP quarterback Nick Lamaison who played one of his worst games as a Miner. Lamaison threw for just 39 yards completing 6-of-23 passes.
"(The secondary) was pretty good. They ran a lot of man and they have great players," Lamaison said. "We had some opportunities to make some great plays but we didn't execute."
When the Miners were in the red zone, senior kicker Dakota Warren missed two field goals in the first half at a distance of 45 and 31 yards before Price pulled him out of the game. Place kicker Steven Valadez took over kicking duties for Warren but could not convert on a field goal in the third.
"The missed field goals were tough for the momentum, tough for the adversity," Price said. "You go down there and you stumble in the red zone and then we don't come up with anything."
UTEP running back Jeffery finished with a game and career high 182 yards on just 21 carries before coming out of the game with leg cramps. His longest rush of the game came off a 71-yard scamper that came in the third quarter.
The Sooners put the game away with a 65-yard run late in the fourth quarter by running back Williams Damien.
Next up for the Miners is a game against Ole Miss at 5 p.m. Sept. 8 in Oxford Miss.
Sal Guerrero may be reached at reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him via Twitter at @SalDGuerrero for all things UTEP sports. Make sure to follow Miner Illustrated on Twitter at @minermaniac for more up-to-date news and information about UTEP.