Could Dana Dimel’s Program Be Ahead of Schedule?
Since Dana Dimel was first hired, he repeatedly said that he took the UTEP coaching job since he would get a full five years to resurrect the football program. If you think about that comment, it makes a ton of sense. No Power 5 schools would give anyone that amount of time, since those programs need to win immediately. The same can be said for most Group of 5 schools as well. UTEP is a completely different story.
The Miners have had just five winning seasons in the last 50 years and no head coach has been able to build a consistent winner since the late 60s. The closest the university has come to that was Bob Stull, but he left for Missouri just as UTEP was becoming a winning program. It was never able to maintain that consistency since. Mike Price spent nine seasons with the Miners and he was, by far the most consistent head coach the program has seen. However, Price's two best seasons were when he first arrived in El Paso, but the remainder of his teams always lacked the defense to match his offense and become a regular postseason threat.
Back to Dimel. He won just two games in his first two seasons and one of them came against an FCS team. During this time, fans were grumbling that the program needed a new leader and the longtime Kansas State assistant was not the answer. Despite winning their home opener against FCS Stephen F. Austin, the Miners were blown out the next week by Texas, fueling the wrath of the UTEP fan base. Then the team won another dogfight against FCS Abilene Christian and fans were not impressed. All of that changed last Saturday afternoon in Monroe, Louisiana.
The Miners destroyed a Warhawks team that was favored by 10 points despite losing their first two games. The fact that the game was nationally seen on ESPN 2 opened up plenty of eyes nationally.
UTEP dominated both sides of the ball and completely outclassed their Sun Belt opponent on the road. It might have been a fluke, but there are plenty of reasons to think otherwise. Offensively, UTEP looked terrific against ULM behind a core of playmakers that include Gavin Hardison, Deion Hankins (nicknamed Tankins), Justin Garrett, and Jacob Cowing. The defense was equally as impressive, fueled by a first quarter interception from Duron Lowe. From that point on, the Miners defense took control and made life miserable for the Warhawks offense.
At 3-1, UTEP has a bye week before they start their C-USA campaign on the road against Louisiana Tech. That game will also be seen on ESPN 2. Unlike the Warhawks, the Bulldogs are 2-0 and they have a tough road matchup this weekend against #22 BYU. Following that game, UTEP will return to the Sun Bowl for the first time in four weeks when they host Southern Miss. Instead of being huge underdogs against La Tech, the Miners hot start will make an interesting decision for the oddsmakers.
As far as Coach Dimel, he has repeatedly said that 2020 will be a developmental year for his football team and he was gearing up for a big run in year four. Let me pose this question to all of the Miner Maniacs. What if his team continues to develop in C-USA and they are ahead of schedule? If Hardison, Hankins, Garrett, and Cowing keep lighting up the stat sheet and scoreboard, this season will be a lot more fun than anyone could have imagined.