‘Execution’ and ‘Efficiency’ Emphasized as UTEP Football Regroups from Week Zero Loss to UNT
Well, for UTEP football, it's time to turn the page.
The highly anticipated North Texas opener was met with much disappointment for Miner fans. Players and coaches are determined to prove themselves to the UTEP faithful, but on-field improvements might have to wait until next week's Battle of I-10.
This week, the Miners have the tough task of heading to Norman to face ninth-ranked Oklahoma in Brent Venables' coaching debut.
Kickoff is set for 1:30 p.m. MST on Saturday and the game can be heard on our partner station, 95.5 KLAQ. MinerTalk presented by the Oscar Arrieta Agency will take place after the broadcast on 600 ESPN El Paso ahead of the Chihuahuas baseball game.
"(North Texas) did a great job, and I feel like we left a lot of things out there on the table which leads to us being upset and angry about that," said head coach Dana Dimel in his weekly press conference. "It’s something we have to respond to. It’s game one, none of us like to play a conference game on game one because you like to have a warm-up, but I see a lot of potential on this football team. I see a lot of talent. I thought our new guys played solid."
This is the first time the Miners return to Oklahoma since their 56-7 loss in 2017 under former head coach Sean Kugler. Two members on the current roster saw action in this game, including receiver Walter Dawn Jr. and running back Ronald Awatt.
UTEP is 4-56 against AP Top 25 teams all time, while the Sooners lead the all-time series 4-0.
"My first year and my first college game actually," running back Ronald Awatt recalls. "The atmosphere is crazy. You step on the field and you feel like you're on a big stage. I know it's going to be their first game, lot of new transfers, new coach—it's going to be rocking. As for us, I feel like we have to be prepared for the environment and go out and have fun."
Offensively, the Miners did a great job at moving the ball against the Mean Green in week zero, racking up 400 total yards of offense. However, they did a poor job executing when it came to scoring in the red zone. The Miners were an abysmal 0-for-3 in red zone touchdowns, only getting a pair of field goals out of three red zone drives. One of the glaring issues is running the ball, which the Miners amassed just 107 yards on Saturday against UNT.
"The ingredients are all there," Dimel explained. "We just need to get it cleaned up and have better execution. I’m not alarmed that we’re not going to be able to run the football this year. I think it was a game that really we should have done a better job of taking advantage of what they were giving us."
Quarterback Gavin Hardison, who threw for 293 yards on 21-of-48 passing, one touchdown and one fumble Saturday, preached execution and efficiency in the red zone.
"Executing our plays and find ways to get in there. Battle when we get into the red zone. Understanding that the defense will go a little bit harder. We have to execute, be efficient and play hard to score the football."
Defensively, the Miners allowed North Texas to rack up 399 yards of offense and let them convert six crucial third downs. UNT quarterback Austin Aune wasn't sacked and was pressured just twice (QB hurry) by the Miner defense.
"Get better," said defensive end Jadrian Taylor. "Everyone's got to get better. We aren't good enough right now. In order to get better, we have to work a lot harder."
UTEP hopes to see a better product on the field next weekend as they host NM State in the Battle of I-10. Sandwiched in between, the Miners will have to make a business trip to Norman this weekend.