By UTEP Zay 

UTEP football made history Saturday night when they beat the Charlotte 49ers 41-35. For the first time in history, the Miners won a game in the eastern time zone. They were previously 0-26-1. Now at 3-3, the Miners have put their season back on track and have a chance to go to a bowl game in back-to-back years for the first time since they did so in 2004-05.

Welcome back to Stock Up, Stock Down, where we look at whose stock rose, or fell, following the Miners high scoring win over Charlotte.

WR Tyrin Smith: Stock Up

Last week, I gave Smith a stock down following his performance against Boise State. I didn’t necessarily think he had a bad game, but it didn’t look like he would have a significant role in this new offensive scheme the Miners were running now. Boy was I wrong. Smith found ways to get open. He recorded 4 receptions for 108 yards and two touchdowns. With UTEP running the ball a lot, teams are usually caught off guard when the Miners pass the ball. That was obvious when Smith was wide open on a play action pass that resulted in his touchdown of the game. His second came on a simple go route up the seam, where Smith just ran past his defender. Smith also had two difficult catches, and it’s clear that he has gotten better throughout the season. The drops and mental mistakes have diminished for Smith, and he is beginning to look like an elite playmaker for this Miner offense.

UTEP CB’s: Stock Down

The two young boundary corners UTEP has previously played very well. Unfortunately, the high-powered Charlotte passing offense was little too much for the inexperienced corners. Illijah Johnson and Latrez Shelton struggled to contain Charlotte receivers Elijah Johnson and Grant DuBose, as the two receivers combined for 13 receptions, 215 yards, and three touchdowns. Three Charlotte receivers had receptions of over 35 yards against the Miner secondary. There were also plenty of times where a Charlotte receiver beat a Miner corner, but the ball was overthrown by Chris Reynolds. However, the young secondary didn’t look like they were defeated or as if they had lost confidence, and Johnson snagged the game winning pick for the Miners. The two corners get a stock down, but they have some stuff to look back on and improve from this game.

DE Jadrian Taylor: Stock Up

Talk about a coming out party. Taylor, who up to this point had only recorded one sack, put up video game numbers in this one. The 6’1 senior from Lufkin, Texas, had three sacks, 1 forced fumble (that resulted in a scoop and score touchdown by Tyrice Knight), and a 100-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown. He now leads the Miners in sacks with four. It’s good to see Taylor finally break out. Miner fans had been waiting for the star edge rusher to have a game like this and he delivered. He was responsible for 14 points and was an instrumental part of UTEP breaking the eastern time zone curse. Taylor earns a major, and much needed, stock up after this one.

RB Deion Hankins: Stock Up

The El Paso native has really come alive these past few weeks. His stock has steadily risen following the New Mexico game. However, this was undoubtedly his best game yet. The redshirt sophomore put up 112 yards on 20 attempts against Charlotte. That was the most yards he had since his freshman year, where he ironically put up 119 against Charlotte. He had a crazy 34 yard run on a long 2nd and 30. On this play, broke five tackles and carried a load of Charlotte defenders almost 10 yards. This run set up a 26-yard passing touchdown to Trent Thompson and gave the Miners a 10-point lead. It’s beginning to feel like Hankins has finally found himself and we are seeing the potential the former Parkland Matador had. He and his running back partner Ronald Awatt are looking like the best one-two punch in C-USA. Hankins earns his 3rd straight stock up following that performance.

S Ty’Reke James: Stock Down

The senior safety didn’t have a bad game, but he made a huge mistake that could have cost UTEP the game. With the game on the line, the Miners had the 49ers on a 4th and 30 with under 3:30 left to play in the 4th quarter. Up 41-28, all UTEP had to do was get a stop and the game would be virtually over. The game was just about over, and all UTEP needed to do was push the receiver out of bounds. But nothing can ever be too perfect for the Miners. Senior safety Ty’reke James laid out Tucker and was subsequently called for targeting. Not only did Charlotte get an easy first down, but James was also disqualified from the game. This resulted in a Charlotte touchdown that cut the lead to six. Major mistake from James, as he is also out for the first half of UTEP’s next game versus LA Tech. This earns him a major stock down.

QB Gavin Hardison: Stock Up

I decided to give our fourth and final stock up to the guy under center, Gavin Hardison. Following the 27-10 loss to New Mexico, people were doubting whether Hardison was the guy. He was completing under 50% of his passes, he had thrown 3 interceptions, and he simply didn’t look good. However, things changed following that tough loss. The play-calling improved and it turned Hardison into a quality game manager. Here’s the thing, there’s nothing wrong with being a game manager. There have been plenty of successful game managers in football. Through the last two games, he is 20/25, has 296 yards, four touchdowns, and no interceptions. His playmaking ability has also helped the Miners, as he has been getting out of the pocket and scrambling, along with some designed quarterback runs that have continued to catch defenses off guard. He has not been forcing the ball downfield, he’s been efficient, and he has proved that he is the guy for UTEP football.

The Bottom Line

UTEP followed up their upset of Boise State with a nice conference road win over Charlotte. They broke a century long streak of losing on the east coast, and they got back to .500 on the season. Will the Miners improve to 4-3 going into their bye week, or will they fall in Ruston and have a week to think about that loss? Guess we’ll find out this Saturday.


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