Senior quarterback Peyton Mansell’s first start for the Wildcats ended in a defensive, low-scoring battle in favor of the UTEP Miners.
After taking an early first quarter lead, the Miners responded later in the second half to secure the 17-13 victory. Despite the loss, head coach Adam Dorrel is pleased with his team’s effort.
“We did a lot of great things [Saturday night],” Dorrel said. “Our defense never quit. I thought our special teams were really good, and I thought there were a lot of positive things we could extract from this.”
Turnovers plagued ACU (0-1) in the first half with three fumbles, two of which were lost. On the Wildcats first drive, junior running back Tyrese White committed the first turnover of the season.
White finished the day with 41 rushing yards on 11 carries.
After early miscues, the Wildcats played a safer second half offensively.
“It’s one of those things I was anxious about coming into the game,” Dorrel said. “We rebounded, and I was proud of how our guys came out in the second half.”
Following redshirt freshman Jermiah Dobbins’ touchdown run, UTEP (2-1) responded with 10 unanswered points to close out the first half.
Mansell finished his Wildcat debut 13-20 for 197 yards.
“It felt great just being out with the boys and being out in an atmosphere like this,” Mansell said. “It’s something I’ve been looking forward to for a long time. There’s no place I’d rather be right now.”
Dorrel believes that many of the new faces in leadership roles helped compliment the offense.
“I thought they did really well,” Dorrel said. “Peyton did some really good things. I thought Tyrese did some good things, and we played a ton of guys [Saturday night], so we got a lot of guys experience.”
After trailing at the half, junior kicker Blair Zepeda tied the game with a 29-yard filed goal. He would finish the season-opener 2-2 on field goal attempts and perfect on his sole PAT.
“They love the game of football and play really hard,” Dorrel said. “I thought we were tough, and the energy on the sideline and the way we competed never quit.”
Despite the effort, the Wildcats couldn’t force a stop, only having the offense on the field for 10 minutes in the second half.
“We made a couple mistakes,” Mansell said. “There were like three plays that really stuck out that if we make, the outcome is probably different.”
The Wildcats have the following week off to prepare for its Oct. 3 matchup against Army in West Point, New York.
“It was a very emotional day for everybody and in a good way,” Dorrel said. ” I wish we would have won, but it just feels really good to be out here again.”