Struggling Miners Prepare for Slumping UTSA on Homecoming
Three straight losses for the Miners (1-3, 0-1 C-USA) and not a lot of answers for this young season pins UTEP in a must-win situation this week. And hosting a UTSA (1-3) squad that also lost three consecutive games could be just what the Miners need to rebound.
Problem is, is UTEP capable of playing four solid quarters of football and defeating a UTSA team that they haven't beaten at home since the Roadrunners joined C-USA (0-3)?
The Miners are coming off an uninspiring 31-13 road loss to Southern Miss and left with a couple of injuries. Uncertainty also looms over the program with backup Kai Locksley out-playing starter Brandon Jones in the loss.
Locksley finished with 109 passing yards, 114 rushing yards, a 63-yard rushing touchdown and no turnovers in his time as a relief backup for UTEP. Jones ended with 59 passing yards on 6-of-13 passing.
The Miners constantly flip-flopping between quarterbacks is indicative of their lack of consistency offensively. For this week's starter, Dimel says it will be evaluated in practice.
"It is either going to be Brandon Jones or Kai Locksley," said Dana Dimel. "One of those two. We are going to let them compete this week and see how they perform in practice and make the decision after that. Kai’s health is good. We pulled him at the end of that game because he was bothered a little bit by a slight injury, but he practiced today.”
They continue to show holes in the offensive line, allowing four sacks against Southern Miss, while not being able to get running backs Treyvon Hughes (four carries, one yard) and Josh Fields (three carries, six yards) established on the ground.
Their offense ranks 123rd in the FBS for total offense, averaging just 302 yards per game and ranks 120th in points scored per game (18.3). What could be most frustrating is their lack of production on third down, ranking third-worst in FBS for third-down conversions (14-of-51).
UTEP is one of just eight programs that is perfect (12-for-12) in red zone scoring. They are also 14th in FBS for fourth down conversions (5-of-6), ironically enough.
'The two times we got inside the red zone and did not score were big parts of what we need to do better," Dimel said. "We need to score touchdowns when we get in the red zone because we are built for that. We have the style of offense that should do really well in the red zone. We are scoring every time we get in the red zone, but we have to score touchdowns as well down there."
Defensively, the Miners are last in the nation in third down defense (55.8 percent conversion rate). They rank 105th in total defense, allowing an average of 439.8 yards per game.
Against UTSA, the Miners have a chance to build some momentum as UTSA starting quarterback Frank Harris will be out against the Miners.
“They are a team that right now are not sure of their status at quarterback," Dimel said. "They have a good, young quarterback that had done some nice things this year, but he was hurt in the last ball game against North Texas on the third play of the game. They have good athleticism all across their football team. Last year’s game was a close ball game that we obviously did not find a way to try and come from behind to win.”
In all, this game against UTSA could be a must-win for both teams. Both teams are active in recruiting throughout the east Texas area and this could be great momentum for recruits.
“We all know this is a big game for us with another University of Texas school. We are excited to play them," Dimel said. "It will be a good second conference game for us and one that should be fun to watch. We have some incentives to get the fans to come to the ball game and it is a rivalry type of game for us besides the New Mexico State game. This is a big rivalry game for us just because of the proximity and it being with a University of Texas school. It is really an important game for us. It should be a fun environment and our guys are looking forward to the opportunity.”
Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. on Saturday at the Sun Bowl.