Jayden de Laura passed for three touchdowns and Arizona rushed for a total 244 yards as the Wildcats pulled away from UTEP for a 31-10 nonconference victory on Saturday night in Tucson, Ariz.
de Laura, who committed six turnovers — including five interceptions — in the first two games of the season, was more efficient against the Miners (1-3) while leading a balanced attack. He completed 23 of 29 passes for 285 yards without an interception.
Michael Wiley led the ground game for Arizona (2-1), rushing 17 times for 83 yards and a score. Jonah Coleman added 71 yards on three carries.
The Wildcats expanded a 14-3 halftime lead with a 38-yard field goal and a 2-yard touchdown pass to Jacob Cowing in the third quarter. Arizona’s final touchdown was set up by a big hit by safety Gunner Maldonado, who knocked the ball loose from Mike Franklin, recovered it and returned it 22 yards to the UTEP 26.
Three plays later, de Laura hit Montana Lemonious-Craig for a 4-yard TD reception with 9:19 left in the game.
Seven of the Miners’ first eight drives ended in a punt, and they didn’t reach the end zone until there was 1:32 left in the game, when backup quarterback Kevin Hurley connected with Javoni Gardere on a 25-yard reception. Starting quarterback Gavin Hardison completed 15 of 31 passes for 228 yards.
Cowing caught a game-high 10 passes for 84 yards. Tetairoa McMillan had six catches for 89 yards, including a highlight-show, one-handed grab over the middle for a 37-yard gain in the second quarter.
After a scoreless first quarter, McMillan turned a screen pass into an 18-yard touchdown on the first play of the second quarter. UTEP kept it close for much of the half, blocking a 45-yard field-goal attempt and then driving 65 yards to convert a 25-yarder to make it 7-3 with 5:13 left before halftime.
The Wildcats answered with a 10-play, 74-yard drive, capped by Wiley’s 3-yard run at the 1:23 mark for a 14-3 edge.