ALBUQUERQUE — UTEP coach Mike Price said a shaky start and BYU's superior execution led to the Cougars' blowout 52-24 win over his Miners in the New Mexico Bowl Saturday in University Stadium.
A muffed kickoff return on the opening play, mishandling BYU's blitz and Miner receivers forgetting to run hot routes in the face of pressure on QB Trevor Vittatoe killed UTEP. "I looked up and we were down 24-3 after a quarter," said Price.
"The want was there on both teams but execution they had and we didn't."
Price said his staff made adjustments and began having more success. One of those was to go down field if BYU didn't double cover receiver Kris Evans. "We thought we could beat their corners deep if they didn't bring help, it was a 6-foot-3 receiver going against a 5-7 guy," said Price of a last-gasp effort to score as the first half ended on a fade route over Cougar Brian Logan that fell harmlessly to the ground.
Evans caught three touchdown passes from Vittatoe, but as the game progressed, BYU got to the Miner senior and it took its toll, said Price.
"He got banged up, started throwing the ball high and lost his vision."
BYU outgained UTEP 514 to 233 total yards and took out Bowl Offensive MVP quarterback Jake Heaps with just over nine minutes to play in the game.
"He is no freshman," said Price of Heaps performance, 25 of 34 for 264 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. "He was poised and confident. We didn't do a lot to make him uncomfortable."
Price said he thought of taking his quarterback out be cause of his vision problems, and interceptions thrown to BYU's Andrew Rich and Brandon Ogletree.
"We were our own worst enemy today."
Vittatoe completed 14 of 29 passes for 245 yards and three touchdowns. He was sacked a record four times by BYU defenders including a blindside hit by BYU corner Corby Eason on the first series.
The lone bright spot for the Miners besides Evans' three scoring catches was the return job by Marlon McClure, who set a bowl record on his 72-yard first-half kickoff return.
BYU held the Miners to minus-12 rushing yards, the lowest by a UTEP team since minus-53 at New Mexico in 2001.
"We didn't think we would run a lot in this game but we believed we could throw it and make plays," said Price.