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Monarchs have furious rally, but fall to UTEP 28-21

Old Dominion bounced back from a 17-0 deficit against the Miners Saturday night.
Credit: ODU Athletics

EL PASO, Texas — As it did a week ago against Buffalo, Old Dominion's football team staged a furious second-half comeback and then lost a heartbreaker.
 
Trailing UTEP, 17-0 with just 51 seconds left in the first half, the Monarchs stormed back to take a 21-20 lead late in the third quarter and seemed to be dominating the Miners.
 
But then UTEP staged a comeback of its own, driving 63 yards in seven minutes in the fourth quarter to claim a 28-21 victory in the Conference USA opener for both teams.
 
UTEP took a 26-21 lead after Deion Hankins carried from the three for the touchdown. The Miners went for the 2-point conversion and quarterback Garvin Hardison, who had plenty of time, found Justin Garrett on a pass to make it 28-21 with 6:59 left.
 
ODU (1-4, 0-1 Conference USA) then drove to its own 43 and on third down, Py'Vonne Inyou intercepted a D.J. Mack pass with 4:16 left.

ODU had two more possessions.

One started at their 31, but four plays later, ODU quarterback D.J. Mack was pulled down while scrambling at ther 36 and the ball turned over with 3:15 left. 

The Monarchs then gave UTEP a major scare, driving from their own five to the UTEP 31, where they had a first down with 1:07 left. But on fourth down, Mack's heaved a pass toward 6-foot-8 tight end Zack Zuntz in the right corner of the end zone, but overthrew him.

UTEP (4-1, 1-0), which has won more games now than any season since 2016, then ran out the clock.
 
ODU's offense had generated just 81 offensive yards and trailed UTEP, 17-0, with 51 seconds left in the first half, when the Monarchs did what they did in the second half last weekend against Buffalo – their offense got their act together.
 
ODU trailed the Bulls, 35-7, last weekend at halftime and rallied for 27 points, one short of what they needed to win.
 
ODU drove 75 yards in five plays in just 40 seconds. Coach Ricky Rahne had all three timeouts left and used all three.
 
Mack keyed the drive with a 28-yard run, then with 15 seconds left and no timeouts, launched a pass to Alli Jennings III that he caught on the goal line and lunged across with 10 seconds left. It was a gamble, because there was no certainty that had he been tackled that ODU would have had enough time to spike the ball and stop the clock.
 
Rice's point after touchdown trimmed the lead to 17-7 and gave the Monarchs momentum heading into the locker room.
 
UTEP scored first in the second on a drive keyed by a 51-yard pass from quarterback Gavin Hardison to standout wide receiver Jacob Cowling. But the defense stood firm and forced the Miners to settle for a 40-yard field goal.
 
But ODU then took over. ODU then drove 75 yards on a drive in which the Monarchs gambled and went for it on fourth and one at their 33. Blake Watson carried for two yards to keep the drive alive. Mack threw 21 yards to Zack Zuntz to set up first and goal and then scored from the three and ODU trailed 20-14.
 
Then, after holding the Miners on downs, the Monarchs blocked their fourth punt of the season, this one by Isaiah Center and AC White scooped up the ball and returned it 10 yards for the touchdown.
 
Rice then kicked the point after touchdown to give ODU its first lead of the game, 21-20, with 4:27 left in the third quarter, on that it would surrender later in the fourth quarter.