EL PASO, Texas – Darrell Hackney threw four touchdown passes to support teammate Sam Williamson’s midweek guarantee of a road victory, and Alabama-Birmingham beat No. 24 UTEP 35-23 Saturday night.

Reggie Lindsey caught three of Hackney’s TD passes and UAB (5-5, 3-4 Conference USA) snapped UTEP’s nine-game home winning streak, denying the Miners (8-2, 5-2) a chance to clinch the league’s Western Division title.

Hackney, the top passer in Conference USA with 2,718 yards coming in, completed 11 of 17 passes for 184 yards.

His biggest mistake was an interception that Quintin Demps returned 43 yards, setting up a 4-yard TD pass from Jordan Palmer to Aaron Givens to pull UTEP within 35-23 with 6:11 remaining.

Corey White ran for 106 yards on 21 carries with a touchdown for UAB and Lindsey finished with seven catches for 146 yards.

This matchup was slippery for UTEP. The Blazers had five losses by a combined 24 points, including a 17-10 defeat in their season opener at Tennessee and a pair of one-point setbacks on consecutive weekends last month to SMU and Marshall.

But something about the way UAB had been playing made Williamson, a defensive tackle, bold enough to blurt out his prediction of a victory.

“We’ve been playing better on the road than at home. We’re going to upset them,” Williamson declared this week during a Birmingham television interview. “We’re going to win. I’m guaranteeing a win on TV.”

UTEP – in line for a bowl trip in back-to-back years for the first time since 1953-54 – didn’t resemble a team that had won five straight to join the Top 25 for the first time all season.

Johnnie Lee Higgins had a spectacular 82-yard punt return for a touchdown nullified by a penalty to end the third quarter, two of Palmer’s three interceptions set up UAB touchdowns and UTEP’s Marcus Thomas fumbled inside the 10 in the second period.

Coach Mike Price took several chances, though it didn’t help his team.

The Miners used a fake field goal to gain a first down during the opening period, but it led only to a missed field goal. Twice, UTEP couldn’t convert on fourth down, including at midfield with 12 minutes to play.

The Blazers led 35-16 with 9:20 remaining after Hackney threw his fourth touchdown pass, a 13-yard strike to Lindsey that sent many of the 47,967 fans to the exits. On the play before that, Hackney found Lindsey for an 18-yard pass on fourth-and-3.

Hackney also found Lindsey on scoring plays of 31 yards in the second period and 29 yards in the third. Hackney also threw a 3-yard TD pass to Chico Cleveland in the second quarter and White had a 14-yard scoring run as UAB led 21-3 at halftime.

UTEP had the ball for more than 11 minutes in the first quarter but only led 3-0 after Reagan Schneider’s 27-yard field goal on the opening drive. Schneider also missed a 31-yard try on UTEP’s next possession.

AP-ES-11-19-05 2150EST


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