Bryant sparks second-half surge as Northwestern pounds UTEP 38-7 to stop skid

Ben Bryant threw for a touchdown and ran for one, and Northwestern used a huge second half to beat UTEP 38-7 Saturday afternoon for its first win since a hazing and abuse scandal rocked the athletic department.

The Wildcats (1-1) scored all but seven of their points in the second half in stopping a 12-game losing streak and giving interim coach David Braun his first victory. The win was their first since last year's opener against Nebraska in Ireland - and their first on this side of the Atlantic since beating Rutgers at Ryan Field in October 2021.

The Wildcats had lost 18 of 19. But they buried UTEP (1-2) in the second half after struggling through the first two quarters. 

Bryant threw an 18-yard touchdown to Thomas Gordon on the opening drive of the third. He scored from the 1 just over two minutes later, after Xander Mueller returned an interception 28 yards to the 3.

Joseph Himon II turned a third-down screen from Ryan Hilinski into an 85-yard touchdown to make it 28-7 with just under three minutes left in the third, and just like that, the Wildcats were on their way.

With everything else going on, Northwestern sure needed this. The school is facing more than a dozen lawsuits across multiple sports with allegations including sexual abuse of players by teammates, as well as racist comments by coaches and  race-based assaults . Longtime coach Pat Fitzgerald was fired in July and replaced on an interim basis by Braun, who was hired last winter as defensive coordinator. Braun, who spent the past four years at FCS powerhouse North Dakota State, took over with no college head coaching experience.  

Bryant didn't exactly light it up after struggling in the opener at Rutgers. The Cincinnati transfer completed 11 of 17 passes for 116 yards.

Cam Porter ran for 90.

Backup quarterback Jack Lausch scored on a 6-yard run on Northwestern's first possession after UTEP drove for a touchdown on the game's opening drive. He also broke off a 46-yard run on a keeper in the fourth quarter, leading to a 4-yard TD for A.J. Henning that made it 35-7.

Mueller had a sack, Blake Gallagher added an interception, and the Wildcats stopped an eight-game losing streak at Ryan Field.

UTEP found itself in a rare spot as a favorite to beat a Power Five team for the first time in 56 years. But the result was a familiar one for the Miners.

Gavin Hardison threw for 192 yards and a touchdown. 

Deion Hankins ran for 27 after going for a career-high 174 yards in last week's win over Incarnate Word. And the Miners remained winless over Power Five teams since beating Mississippi in the 1967 Sun Bowl. They're 0-37 against them since 1998.


UTEP: The Miners simply stalled after opening the game with a 70-yard touchdown drive. They managed just 104 yards rushing after running for 485 through their first two games.
Northwestern: The Wildcats can breathe a little easier now that their skid is over.


UTEP: The Miners visit Arizona on Sept. 16, the first time they've had back-to-back games against Power Five teams since losses at Arkansas and at Texas Tech to start the 2015 season. 
Northwestern: The Wildcats will try to make it two in a row when they visit No. 21 Duke on Sept. 16.