UTEP Defensive Report Card – Houston Baptist
The Miners got away with a slim 36-34 season-opening win against Houston Baptist and start the year with a 1-0 record after their first home win in 1,008 days.
"Wouldn't be a high grade for the defense tonight, but they played good enough for us to win and that's what it's all about," head coach Dana Dimel said. "The goal for the defense is to give up one less point than the offense scores and they beat their goal by one. We'll get it fixed."
Here are some final grades for the UTEP defense:
Defensive line: B
The defensive front for the Miners did a nice job plugging holes against the Houston Baptist run and it was ultimately defensive lineman Chris Richardson's forced fumble in the end that won UTEP the game. Richardson finished with four total tackles, a sack and the forced fumble. Denzel Chukwukelu ended with three total tackles while newcomer Praise Amaewhule recorded three total tackles and a sack in his debut for the Miners.
Tough night for the linebacking group, but not in terms of production; rather, they dealt with two injuries that set them back. Starting linebacker Kalaii Griffin injured his forearm early on, while his backup Elijah Ruiz was sidelined with heat exhaustion. That left Dylan Parsee, who was coming off an ACL injury, to play the remainder of the game at the spot. Fellow linebackers Jayson VanHook and Joe Jay Smith had to anchor the load in the linebacker group, as they finished with six and four tackles, respectively.
This was a tough spot for the Miners tonight with such a high-tempo offense that the Huskies brought to the table. HBU quarterback Bailey Zappe went 27-of-37 through the air for 300 passing yards and a pair of touchdowns. Three of their receivers—Ben Ratzlaff (88), Jerreth Sterns (62) and Gamar Girdy Brito (84)—each finished with 62 or more receiving yards on the night. Safety Justin Rogers led the way with 10 total tackles tonight and played sharp in the secondary, but the newcomers struggled at times and allowed way too much offensive production by the Huskies.
Overall defense grade: C-
It really can only go up from here. UTEP's defense was kept on their toes following the up-tempo offense that the Huskies posed, but not every team will run 15 plays in less than five minutes. This was a good test for their defense and UTEP will adjust. The defensive line looked sharp—that's a building point. Also, there were a ton of new bodies playing in the Miners' secondary. They will naturally improve too.