Texas Tech 38, UTEP 3: Miners Struggle to Execute on Offense
With the help of sophomore quarterback Allan Bowman's 260 passing yards (30-of-45) and three touchdowns, Texas Tech (2-0) rolled over UTEP (1-1) 38-3 in Lubbock.
The Miners offense finished with just 131 yards of offense on 57 plays, while Texas Tech put up 424 total yards on the night.
You could talk about UTEP winning the time of possession battle (33:09-26:51). You can mention how the Miners offense was just 2-for-15 on third-down conversions, compared to Texas Tech's 8-for-14.
And talk all you want about the UTEP defense, which played an exceptional first half, featuring an interception by USC transfer Ykili Ross. Aside to allowing two big passing touchdowns—from 49 (Dalton Ridgon) and 30 yards (TJ Vasher) out—the defense showed flashes of significant improvement from last week. UTEP got big production from safety Justin Prince (10 total tackles) and cornerback Josh Caldwell (nine total tackles, two pass breakups).
But the story of the night was the inept offense that the Miners put up against Texas Tech, led by a duo of quarterbacks. Doesn't this story sound familiar?
Senior quarterback Brandon Jones, who has been the team's outright No.1 quarterback since the start of camp, played the whole first half where he completed just 4-of-12 passes for 21 yards and ended his outing in the negatives for rushing. While Jones was in the game, UTEP had just 53 total yards on 29 plays, averaging 1.8 yards per play.
Miners were down 21-0 at the half, but it wasn't necessarily a disaster as some may have thought. It just wasn't pretty.
Yet, it led to Dana Dimel's halftime adjustment—bring in senior Kai Locksley. He had rejoined the team just a month ago, following his reinstatement from a suspension involving an arrest in June, but had worked well in practice to prove that he belonged on the field.
"He's been doing things the way they need to be done," Dimel said in the postgame press conference. "He's been taking care of business, and you know, he's not on the team to sit and watch and we wanted to give him some action and give him some game reps because we are going to need them one way or the other throughout the season. It wasn't any decision that we bench Brandon and put Kai in. We just want to get Kai some work."
After Texas Tech marched down the field and kicked a 45-yard field goal by kicker Tre Wolff to start the third quarter, Locksley entered the game at quarterback for the Miners seemingly out of the blue. His first drive didn't disappoint, driving the ball to the Red Raider 30, which was the furthest the offense had gone throughout the night. He wasn't able to help tthe offense score though, resulting in a 48-yard missed field goal by UTEP kicker Gavin Baechle.
A couple drives later, and another Red Raider score (31-0), Locksley marched the offense down inside Red Raider territory again early in the fourth quarter. On the drive, he completed the team's longest pass of the night in a 25-yard dart to Arizona transfer Devaughn Cooper. UTEP had a fourth-down conversion on the drive, but Locksley took a big sack on a third down and the team had to settle for a field goal. Baechle nailed the 45-yard attempt to give the Miners their only points of the night.
Locksley finished just 3-for-7 through the air with 33 passing yards and 21 rushing yards.
It's easy for some to condemn Jones and plead for Locksley back as the starter. Many are going to argue that Locksley should have been the starter all along. Maybe some prefer Jones over Locksley.
But in reality, both have their positives and negatives. Both have their strengths and weaknesses. And for that, even though the Miners said that Jones was their guy, it's hard to keep Locksley off the field when he can make plays too.
"The feeling, it will be evaluated," Dimel said. I won't make any comments on the quarterback spot right now until I can evaluate the film. I think both kids did good things and both kids made mistakes, but I need to look at the film.
"They are both talented kids and they both need to be utilized in our offensive system. We'll just go ahead and critique them, but right now no definitive answer on naming any starters right there. Both the kids are deserving of playing and both of them are talented enough to win plenty of football games for us down the stretch."
Take sides if you will between Jones and Locksley, but this really only means one thing—there is yet again uncertainty around the UTEP quarterback job.
"Nothing you can do about it," Jones said in the postgame press conference when asked about the feeling of being benched in the second half. "You've just got to take it -- kind of take it as it is and if Kai is giving us the best opportunity to win, he deserves to be out there. Our team deserves to win. We've worked too hard to lose. So whoever wins should be out there. I mean, it sucks, obviously, but just take it in stride."
And maybe while the focus is definitely at the quarterback, there should be examinations at the offensive line as well. Senior Treyvon Hughes, who ended last week with 144 rushing yards, was held to just 27 yards on 10 carries. Junior Josh Fields had 27 rushing yards off 14 carries.
"We just didn't execute tonight," Fields said. "We have to build off of this game and go into Nevada, execute more and create big plays."
But for now, if the quarterback evaluation will likely be held during UTEP's bye week in anticipation for Nevada (Sept. 21), both Jones and Locksley will have their chance to prove themselves.
"Like you said, just attack [practice] kind of the same way," Jones said. "Every day you've got to earn your job, whether it's football, whether it's life. I feel like you've just got to compete every day. So that's what I'm going to do. I'm going to make sure our team is going to be right for Nevada in two weeks; I promise you that."