The calendar said November 1, but the final score suggested April 1.
For the second time in 12 years, perennial WAC weakling UTEP tweaked the nose of conference kingpin BYU. Final score: UTEP 14, BYU 3. This is not a misprint. No need to adjust your newspaper - just your WAC standings.In a game filled with shades of UTEP's 1985 upset over No. 7 BYU at the Stun, er, Sun Bowl, the inspired Miners dominated the listless, 25th-ranked Cougars. The victory touched off a celebration that saw long-suffering UTEP fans tear down a goalpost in 10 seconds flat, carry it off the field and out of the stadium.
It had Miner supporters dancing from here to Juarez. (Come to think of it, fans at Rice, SMU and New Mexico probably enjoyed this one, too.)
The upset comes just days after a poll conducted in a local paper showed some El Paso residents are in favor of the Miners, infamous for futility, dropping football altogether. BYU may have single-handedly resuscitated this lifeless program. Only 18,630 fans were on hand Saturday night to witness history.
The Miners also ended BYU's 138-game touchdown streak. The last time the Cougars failed to score a TD was in 1986 in a loss at San Diego State.
Coach LaVell Edwards had said all week, with his usual straight face, that UTEP would give BYU a tough game. But he couldn't have imagined this. And it could have been worse, in fact, had UTEP's placekicker not missed three field goals.
What's more amazing, BYU had been handed sole possession of first place in the Mountain Division earlier in the day when SMU knocked off Rice, 27-6. The Cougars handed it right back. BYU could have been all alone on top of the division, being the only team with one conference loss. Instead, it was just another WACky chapter in the 1997 football season.
In addition, the Miners spoiled Drew Miller's first collegiate start with a steady blitz and mixed defensive schemes. Miller, the first QB in coach LaVell Edwards' 26-year career to start as a true freshman, got the nod when Paul Shoemaker was unable to go because of a lingering ankle injury.
"They were pressuring hard, so for us to put Paul in there would have further injured his ankle," said Edwards. "To have to start him (Miller) this early in his career is the worst possible thing. He hung in there and did a nice job under the circumstances."
UTEP's backup freshman quarterback, Rocky Perez, fared a little better in replacing injured starter John Rayborn. Perez suffered a concussion in the first half, giving way to another freshman, Adrian Aragon. But Perez returned and made some big plays against an exhausted Cougar defense.
Meanwhile, UTEP's Chinese fire drill defense had BYU confused all night. The Miners blitzed the young Cougar QB early and often, sending at times up to eight defenders. All told, UTEP racked up four sacks and forced three interceptions. The Cougars once again proved their traditionally prolific offense is a jugger-NOT.
"You have to compliment UTEP on their preparation," said Edwards. "They played great defense. They were very sharp and crisp. I'm sure the extra week (bye) helped them."
From the beginning, though, it appeared the Cougars were going to waltz all over the Miner defense. On the first play from scrimmage, Miller tossed a swing pass to fullback Dustin Johnson who caught the ball and raced to the UTEP 37. BYU came away with a field goal. It was the Cougars' lone score of the night.
The Miners moved the ball deep into BYU territory on their first two possessions, but missed two field goals. UTEP's third drive was fruitful as Perez sneaked into the end zone from one yard out to give the Miners a 7-3 lead. It was a lead that held until halftime. And, as it turned out, it was all UTEP would need.
At intermission the Cougars had 92 yards of total offense to UTEP's 153.
In the second half, BYU continued to struggle offensively.
Halfway through the third quarter, a 72-yard UTEP touchdown pass was nullified by an offsides penalty. But moments later, linebacker Brent Henderson picked off a Miller pass and returned it 42 yards for a TD to give UTEP a 14-3 edge.
On BYU's ensuing possession, Miller completed a 41-yard pass to Margin Hooks. One play later, Miller was picked off again.
Fittingly, the game ended when cornerback Michael Hicks intercepted a Miller interception in the end zone.
The final stats are even more telling: Zero, that's right, zero, yard rushing and 226 yards passing for the Cougars. With a lack of ball-control like that, it's not surprising that the Miners held the ball for 13 minutes (36 minutes to 23 minutes) longer than BYU.
"It was a major setback . . . ." Edwards said of BYU's inability to run the football. "We knew we had to do that to take the pressure off Drew. Clearly, the Cougars failed on this point.
NOTES: Kevin Feterik, who fractured his ankle against Rice on Oct. 11, began throwing this week and is now walking without the aid of crutches. "He's ahead of schedule," said BYU quarterbacks coach Robbie Bosco. Feterik, in fact, could be availiable next Saturday when the Cougars host Tulsa. . .The win was UTEP's second over BYU in the last 25 years. The Cougars had won 10 straight against the Miners. . .UTEP improved to 3-5 on the season.