Should Ryan Metz Be UTEP’s Starting QB?
Time spoils magic. The miraculous becomes illusion. The big moments get cut down to size. Give us hindsight; we’ll pick anything apart and, inevitably, discover the holes. It’s human nature.
But what if we already knew where the holes were and something special still happened?
Ah, now that’s something new.
Such was the case on a drizzly Saturday night in Las Cruces, a game that started like the weather but finished in a hurricane. The end result was a second half unlike any other in either rival's memory and an amazing 50-47 overtime win for UTEP.
What redshirt freshman Ryan Metz led the Miners out of at Aggie Memorial Stadium was merely one of the greatest escapes in the history of UTEP’s running battle with New Mexico State. What Metz might be leading the Miners into is now the question knocking forcefully on the coaching staff’s Durham Center doors.
UTEP scored 50 points? Without Aaron Jones?
Could it have happened without Ryan Metz?
Forget any talk of the opposition’s defenses forcing the Miners into a windowless van. After losing its star running back in Lubbock, UTEP’s offense was holding itself hostage.
Texas Tech and New Mexico State stacked the box and dared the Miners to throw on them. An offense that desperately needed to stretch the field snapped like a brittle rubber band when asked to deliver anything past the first down marker.
Credit starting quarterback Mack Leftwich, a leader on and off the field. Leftwich was Pennsylvania’s Player of the Year and won a state championship. No one will question the kid’s heart.
But consider this stat: without Aaron Jones, Leftwich completed just four passes of 10 yards or more against Texas Tech and NMSU before Derek Ibekwe’s scary-hard hit took him out of the game in the third quarter.
Leftwich did complete five passes of more than 10 yards against Arkansas and two against the Red Raiders before Jones’ season-ending injury. But four of those seven passes were to Jones himself – Mr. Yards-After-Catch.
With Metz at quarterback, UTEP completed nine passes of more than 10 yards in less than a half of football – five of them coming on an epic, game-tying 98-yard drive with under two minutes to play.
Also telling through 2.5 games was UTEP’s inability to deliver passes to its wide receivers, a crew that – to be fair – had its issues catching the ball in both Miners losses.
But having Jones and fellow running backs Darrin and Jeremiah Laufasa figuring among the leading receivers in the first two games screams hot reads, dump downs and screens – the warning signs of a passing game in need of oxygen.
With Metz in against NMSU, the Miners aired it out. Lo, and behold, the receivers led the team in receiving for the first time this season. In order, Hello to Tyler Batson (61 yards), Cole Freytag (58), Autrey Golden (54) and Jaquan White (44)!
Metz finished 15-of-19 for 218 yards and four touchdowns, three through the air. It must also be said – as you can clearly see from the video – most of Metz’s passes were solid, if not great, throws. Low corner pylon to Golden. Back shoulder to Batson. A wide-open Route One throw to Freytag.
Yes, the win came against New Mexico State, now 0-3. The Aggies were game, but couldn’t stomp on the Miners with a pair of 14-point leads in the second half.
Yes, the first half Saturday was “The Battle of I-10” only if you consider a tractor trailer versus a small rodent a battle; and, sadly, neither team was the truck. UTEP and NMSU both seemed incapable of getting out of the road in time.
There will be tougher competition ahead for the Miners and there is still much to sort out on both sides of the ball.
But it’s fair to say Ryan Metz deserves a shot at starting for his hometown team; and, if he’s half the competitor his resume says he is, Mack Leftwich – and the Miners’ passing game – may be better for the challenge.
Running the ball and a line that bosses the trenches is a great philosophy on which to build an offense, but if that’s all there is – if you can’t answer opponents who move the football with much greater ease – then it’s time to move on.
We’ve been shown something new, and now nobody will want to see the same old tricks.