Miners Continue to Ride the Wave After Win at Rice
It's been two days since the Miners snapped their 20-game losing streak, with their 34-26 win over Rice, and head coach Dana Dimel and UTEP have enjoyed the winning feeling, to say the least.
With Middle Tennessee coming up this week, the Miners will look to recollect and plan for the C-USA East first-place Blue Raiders.
The losing streak spanned 707 days before the Miners were able to break it against Rice. It was the longest active losing streak in FBS and tied the longest losing streak in Texas college football history (TCU, 1974-75).
"Coming up that tunnel at Rice, that steep climb, that was one of the loudest tunnels I’ve ever been involved in," Dimel said at his weekly press conference. "That was kind of a neat feeling to hear the kind of enthusiasm that the guys had for the victory. It means a lot. They’ve been playing with that type of enthusiasm and that kind of spirit throughout the last five, six or seven weeks. During and since the Tennessee game, I’ve seen that the spirit, the attitude and the effort is tremendous right now."
“It showed to me, how much they care. To see that kind of the passion from the team, they showed it when they played, coming up that tunnel was crazy how loud it was. I’ve come up that tunnel many times because we played at Rice in various spots that I’ve been at. That kind of noise after a victory was just unbelievable. Really, really important to show how invested the kids on what we are doing. So that’s what I thought was really significant about that; how important it is to them and how much it means to them.”
They did it using junior quarterback Kai Locksley, who was less than 100 percent healthy, to say the least. Locksley had been battling an ankle injury for the past three weeks and according to Dimel, he will still be limited but is set as the starter for Saturday.
“Right now, Kai (Locksley) played a really good ballgame considering the circumstances that he was under," Dimel said. "Coming back, we didn’t think he was going to play at all. He didn’t practice most of the week. When he did practice, it was very limited with what he did."
Coming off a 193 passing game, with two rushing touchdowns and one interception, Locksley's performance nonetheless helped the Miners against Rice.
"He came in and did some really nice things for us," Dimel said. "He threw the ball extremely well. He didn’t do anything (injury wise) in the game. He tweaked his ankle again. All of you that are familiar with ankle injuries, that’s what happens. They’re very tender. They’re a difficult injury to handle. He’s in no worse condition than he was at this time last week. He’ll probably even practice more this week than what he did last week with what he’s doing. Brandon Jones came in and did some good things again."
Jones will be the backup for Locksley, as senior Ryan Metz is still out with a head injury he suffered against Louisiana Tech.
"I’m really pleased with Brandon (Jones)," Dimel said. "Metzy (Ryan Metz) is still out right now with what he’s doing. (Mark) Torrez and (Alex) Fernandes will be backing up Kai (Locksley) and Brandon (Jones). We expect Kai (Locksley) to start and Brandon (Jones) to be ready. Those other two will have to step in if we get down on those two guys.”
Now having to square off against a Blue Raiders team that is red-hot, the Miners will turn their focus on keeping consistency and adding to their success from last week.
The Blue Raiders are led by senior gunslinger Brent Stockstill, who is currently fourth in passing yards, third in yards per game and first in passing touchdown among all FBS quarterbacks. MTSU is second in C-USA for scoring (30.2 points per game) and scoring defense (18.7 ppg).
“It’s really important now to have consistency with what we’re doing and continue to practice with the kind of effort that we’re practicing with. I thought they went out this morning and had a really good practice," Dimel said.
"But that’s what’s going to be evaluated. How we handle every segment of what we’re doing now. How do we practice today, how do we lift this afternoon? How do we come back and have our first Tuesday practice? Everything that we do in handling some prosperity that we had. Learning to be consistent with our effort in what we’re doing.”