Blame Injuries, Mistakes for UTEP Loss, But Not the Weather
With apologies to their fans, if not Milli Vanilli, UTEP won't blame it on the rain.
Attrition and execution had much more to do with the Miners' 25-6 loss to UTSA than precipitation in a game delayed twice by lightning, as did a Roadrunners' team hungry for its first win after a brutal non-conference schedule.
Expectations played a part, too, for quarterback Ryan Metz -- none higher than those he has for himself. Throwing four interceptions and a pair of pick-sixes clearly stung the redshirt freshman, who so badly wants to do everything with the job he just won but lose it.
After his head coach took the blame stoically, Metz took the blame emotionally. But the truth is UTEP, now 2-3, has changed drastically.
The Miners can no longer run the football. Star tailback Aaron Jones is injured and done for the year. His immediate backup, Darrin Laufasa, was injured on his first carry against Incarnate Word a week ago and had one carry against UTSA.
For the second straight, Metz led UTEP in rushing. With 26 yards. Converted defensive back LaQuintus Dowell was next with 12 yards.
To generate offense the Miners had to pass. Metz put the ball in the air 49 times, completing only 23 passes for 216 yards.
A physical Roadrunners' defense licked its chops and came after Metz all night, sacking the ex-Andress star twice and pressuring him throughout.
Four interceptions? Completely believable from a freshman left running for his life.
If there was a bright spot for the Miners, it was play of the defense. Though UTSA's star tailback Jarveon Williams finished with 133 yards, most of those did not come easily.
More telling were the five punishing sacks UTEP delivered to Roadrunners' starter Blake Bogenschutz. Between absorbing sacks and tackles-for-loss, Bogenschutz finished with -36 yards rushing.
UTSA did get some big plays in the passing game, but a few of those were screen passes to Williams who, much like Aaron Jones, is adept at delivering yards-after-catch.
Generally speaking, though, the Miners' defense took a step up.
But can UTEP find any consistency on both sides of the ball at the same time? The Miners need to get a little healthier for that to happen. Right now, it's not in the forecast.
- Saturday was an odd night all around. The first lightning delay came with 11:11 left in the half. The second came exactly 11 minutes later on the clock, with just 11 seconds left before halftime. The teams agreed to blow off the final seconds and start the third quarter when play resumed.
- The weather wiped out Homecoming halftime so there were no homecoming court announcements. After halftime there was no band or cheerleaders, either!
- The melody of UTEP's fight song has changed in the last couple of years, but apparently not long enough ago to record the newer version. So, when the Miners finally scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter, march-time Marty Robbins came blaring over the loudspeakers. Honestly, I don't know why it was ever changed. The old version of "Miners Fight" is unique and unmistakably El Paso. The new version sounds too much like the theme to the old sitcom, "Coach." UTEP needs to go back.
- My column on what I believe should be a growing rivalry between the two schools drew plenty of reaction from both stops along I-10 on Twitter and Facebook. Austin Morales wrote: "You blame (UTSA) for having bigger dreams than some s***** El Paso school?? Love the way you down on SA as a city, and their lack of 'Mexican food', because Mexican food is the only thing on the planet to you people."
- Best reaction to Austin? Ernie Diaz: "Dude eat a snickers."
- For the record, I'm not down on San Antonio or UTSA. If what former KVIA sports director Asher Wildman told me is true -- and I don't have any reason to doubt him -- it's pulling the attitude that the Roadrunners' program is already beyond its C-USA home and on its way to the Big XII. There's nothing wrong with ambition and there have been interesting moves in the past with conference realignment, but thinking that the UT System folks in Austin would ever roll out the red carpet for a satellite campus is a pie-in-the-sky daydream.
- More reaction. On Twitter, @ochofierro said, "#UTEP will never be our rival. As a fairly recent graduate I can assure you that no one at #UTSA cares about UTEP." Yeah, but go to a UTEP-UTSA game in San Antonio and you'll see a large contingent of UTEP grads and ex-El Pasoans cheering on their hometown school. UTSA should embrace the rivalry -- there's a lot of El Paso in San Antonio!
- Check out the stats from the game here, courtesy of UTEP Athletics.