Quarterback Gavin Hardison Solid in First Start for UTEP
Although it was just an FCS opponent who won three times last season, the performance by Gavin Hardison against Stephen F. Austin last night gave Miner fans something to dream about. His stats might not look like much: 17-28 for 212 yards and one touchdown, but the redshirt sophomore from Hobbs showed plenty of promise at quarterback. With the exception of one bad pass as he was about to get sacked which led to his only interception, Hardison made all the right throws against the Lumberjacks. It was crucial for UTEP, since their running game was non-existent for much of the first half and the home team found themselves in a 14-3 hole early. However, Hardison remained cool, calm, and collected as he led the team to three unanswered scores and their first win since Houston Baptist last season.
We have talked about his cannon arm since he arrived on campus. What impressed me more about Hardison in his first ever start for the Miners was his accuracy. Of his 11 incompletions, there were a handful of drops, which would have led to at least another touchdown. UTEP has two terrific receivers in Justin Garrett and Jacob Cowing, which should make Hardison’s life much easier this season. The fact that redshirt freshman running back Deion Hankins was able to break through and post a 113-yard rushing performance also helped the Miners offense. However, when the running game struggled to gain yards, Hardison was able to deliver pinpoint passes to his receivers and UTEP moved the chains. That is a big departure from the Miners offense we have seen over the last two years. Also, credit the Miners offensive line for keeping their quarterback upright and allowing only one sack lack night.
Next week’s opponent will be a little different than the Lumberjacks. The Texas Longhorns are a powerhouse, and they opened up as a 42-point favorite over the Miners. Although the game will be the first one of the season for the 14th ranked team in the nation, they are expected to destroy UTEP. Now head coach Dana Dimel's team has a little confidence after picking up their first win of the season. Nobody expects them to upset or even be competitive against the Horns. If Hardison keeps his composure next Saturday in Austin and his team plays with a nothing to lose mentality like SFA did last night, then UTEP might be able to surprise a few people.