Southern Methodist took a 14-point lead over Texas-El Paso last night in Irving, Tex., then fell behind by three points in the third period. Only the running of Reggie Dupard and the passing of Don King enabled the Mustangs to rally to a 35-23 nonconference victory.

"Nobody knows what these kids have been through," SMU Coach Bobby Collins said, referring to SMU's NCAA probationary problems. "Nothing has happened that has helped us. The newspapers said we should beat UTEP by 42 and all that does is just get them ready to play their best game against us."

He said the scare "will help us get better."

Third-ranked SMU, which hasn't lost a season opener since 1971, fell behind by 17-14 in the third period when Chris Jacke kicked a 33-yard field goal.

The Mustangs moved 62 yards in nine plays with Dupard scoring from two yards out. King put the Miners away with a 48-yard pass to Marquis Pleasant with 5:42 to go after freshman John Harvey had run 55 yards for a UTEP touchdown.

The Miners, who lost to Air Force, 48-6, last week, fell behind two touchdowns, then tied the score, 14-all, at halftime.

"I couldn't ask any more of our team," UTEP Coach Bill Yung said.