ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP)Jordan Mims ran for 165 yards and two touchdown and caught five passes for 71 yards and another score to help Fresno State beat UTEP 31-24 on Saturday in the New Mexico Bowl.
Fresno State (10-3) won the bowl game for the first time in three tries.
Jake Haener was 26 of 41 for 286 yards and a touchdown. His status had been somewhat in doubt when he briefly entered the transfer portal after coach Kalen DeBoer took the job at Washington.
Mims’ 22-yard catch and run late in third quarter gave the Bulldogs a 26-17 lead. But it was setting the tone with the ground game that was important, he said.
”The offensive line, we preached running the ball hard all this week,” Mims said. ”Even though they have a good defense, it’s all about us and what we do and I think we showed that (Saturday) by running the ball.”
Taking advantage of Mims was a key part of the game plan, said Bulldogs interim head coach Lee Marks.
”We knew we were going to be able to rely on Jordan,” he said. ”To be honest, he’s such a good player. One cut, get vertical, just downhill. He told me coach, ‘I’m not going to get tired. And he did not. That’s tremendous for him.”
The Miners (7-6) pulled to 26-24 early in the fourth quarter on Calvin Brownholtz’s 51-yard touchdown pass to Trent Thompson.
But Fresno State got a field goal, followed by a UTEP safety, before the Bulldogs ran out the clock.
UTEP’s Gavin Hardison threw for 252 yards and a touchdown. But one play after completing a 27-yard pass on fourth and five, Hardison fumbled at the end of a 10-yard scramble and the Miners never saw the ball again.
”Fresno has a really good defense and Gavin did a lot of positive things,” UTEP coach Dana Dimel. ”He threw for 200 yards in their first half alone. He did so many positive things. He just keeps getting better and better and better.”
UTEP has lost the New Mexico Bowl in all three of its appearances and has a seven-game bowl losing streak dating to 1967.
It is the third time in the past five years that Fresno State has reached he 10-win mark.
”For any program, getting 10 wins is a big deal,” Marks said. ”It hasn’t happened a lot in our program.”
With his second completion of the game, a 53-yarder to Reynaldo Flores, UTEP quarterback Gavin Hardison surpassed the 3,000-yard mark on the season, the first Miners quarterback to do so since 2009.
For only the second time this season, the Bulldogs did not commit a turnover.
Fresno State: The Bulldogs will be spending the offseason readjusting to new/old coach Jeff Tedford, who returns following a two-year, health-related absence after coaching the team from 2017-19.
UTEP: With Hardison having at least two seasons of eligibility remaining, as well top running back Ronald Awatt and top receiver Jacob Cowing, also scheduled to return, UTEP is well positioned for next season.