EL PASO, Texas - Carson Meger said he enjoyed this win even more than their first one, even though it was against rival NMSU. That may be because he won his first game as a "closer" and for an extended period of time.
"When Carson Meger is your closer, you're going to win because the guy doesn't make mistakes. He knows what he's doing," head coach Mike Price said.
Meger stepped in for injured starting quarterback Nick Lamaison in the second quarter and UTEP defeated Tulane, 24-20, Oct. 20 at the Sun Bowl for their second victory of the year.
After leading a hot start in the first half and contributing to 24 points, Lamaison pulled a hamstring with about three minutes left in the second quarter while making a 15-yard run. Price is unsure on the status of the injury but Lamaison said he expects to be back for the next game Oct. 27 at Houston.
With Lamaison behind center, the Miners' lead grew to 11 points at one time but Meger was unable to get any more points on the board, which would set up one final push by Tulane.
Leading 24-17 at the half, the Green Wave scored a field goal and had that chance when LaQuintus Dowell fumbled the ball away with 2:56 left in the game. Tulane picked up one yard on the ensuing drive and failed to convert on fourth down, sealing the game for UTEP.
"It was overwhelming, I was just too happy. (The defense) came through for me and had my back," Dowell said.
Meger took over for Lamaison and completed that drive in the second quarter, which resulted in a field goal, but never scored again. Meger, who finished 9-of-14 for 71 yards, said he was ready to go in for the first time all game, crediting the rest of the offense for the easy transition.
"At this point, I'm kind of used to it," Meger said. "The O-line was driving them back and any time we can establish the run, it's a lot tougher on defense.
Meger even joked that Lamaison told him he was going to come out of the game during the drive with a hamstring injury, referring to Lamaison as "kind of like a prophet."
Offense was the name of the game in the first half led by Lamaison and Tulane quarterback Ryan Griffin, as both teams combined for 41 points.
After scoring just one offensive touchdown in the past 11 quarters, UTEP scored three in the first two quarters of this game.
But following nearly every Miner score, the Green Wave responded with three-consecutive scoring drives, all set up by big pass plays in the half.
Griffin, who was 28-of-44 for 363 yards and two scores, would have a 31-yard touchdown pass to tie the game at seven, a 30-yard pass that would set up a field goal and a 45-yard pass to set up Tulane's last touchdown of the game.
UTEP led at the half 24-17 with both teams combining for one sack, no turnovers and two punts. Miner defenders said they went into the locker room on a sour note but felt their halftime adjustments were what led to the three points they gave up in the second half. UTEP also forced three turnovers: one fumble and two turnover on downs, all in the second half.
Tulane had 440 yards of offense compared to the Miners' 445. UTEP went 8-of-13 on third down while the Green Wave were 5-of-11.
William Vega can be reached at [email protected] or you can follow him on Twitter at @WillVega21. Make sure to follow Miner Illustrated on Twitter at @minermaniac for more up-to-date news and information about UTEP.