Miners Prepare for ‘Balanced’ Lumberjacks on Saturday
In wake of the 2018 season, the UTEP football team will attempt to put their winless 2017 season behind them and prepare for their home opener against Northern Arizona.
Most UTEP fans would expect an easy victory over NAU, who is a Division I FCS program, but against UTEP, NAU is the favorite by eight points, according different betting line Sports Chat Place.
In regards to watching Arizona in their debut last year, Dimel has found inspiration from last year's season opener to scout Northern Arizona.
“Well I know that at Arizona when we played them it was always a tough test. That’s a game that’s been played for quite a while and Jerome (Souers) was there at the time. That’s how long he’s been there. So you know how his team plays, how aggressive they play and how well coached they are. We know his team is going to be very well prepared to play.”
The last time the two teams faced off 71 years ago, the Miners pitched a 40-0 shutout over the Lumberjacks. In that game, coach Jack Curtice and Texas Mines (UTEP) beat the Flagstaff Lumberjacks 40-0 on Oct. 4, 1947 at Kidd Field. They rushed for 279 yards and held Flagstaff (now Northern Arizona) to 236 yards of offense.
But it safe to say that the Lumberjacks, who are currently ranked 16th in the nation for FCS teams, according to Street & Smith's Preseason FCS Top-25, will not go down in a shutout fashion.
Northern Arizona returns 19 starters and 39 letter winners from last season, where they finished 7-5 overall and fell to San Diego 41-10 in the first round of the FCS Playoffs. Many around the NAU area were unsure for the future of head coach Jerome Souers, but he will return for his 21st season at the helm of the program with some shiny newcomers and some strong returning players.
Dana Dimel on his initial reactions for this team:
“We’ve done a bunch of studies on them. They’re a very, very good ball team. That’s not just coach speak. Jerome Souers (NAU head coach) has done a really nice job there. He’s been there for quite a while. He believes this is his best team he’s had since he’s been there. This is a really, really good football team that’s got a lot of good players on it."
The Lumberjacks will return quarterback Case Cookus, who came back for the team midway last year after sustaining an injury and helped the team on a late-season winning streak. He threw for 7,703 yards and scored 72 touchdown passes in his three seasons with the team.
“He’s [Cookus] really talented; he’s got a lot of hype to him,” Dimel said. “I think he has good accuracy. He can lead. He’s a winner. When he started, they didn’t lose too many football games. Once he came back, they went on a winning streak.”
Wide receiver Emmanuel Butler is the real deal for the team and has already garnered attention from NFL draft scouts. He’s totaled a whopping 2,541 receiving yards with 26 touchdowns for the team. Butler is also on pace to become the team’s leading receiver in almost every category for wideouts.
Saturday will show if the Miners can fare well against the Lumberjacks, and it will show where they stand for the season. They've got the longest active losing streak among FBS teams (12) and look to snap the streak this weekend.
"It’s all about looking at the windshield, not the rear view mirror. It’s important to see how we will do it and how we will work through it," Dimel said. "That’s behind us, but we have to get it behind our players as well. It’s a work in progress moving forward."