UTEP Football 5 Keys to Beating Charlotte
The Miners have a chance to win back-to-back games after an exciting 27-10 upset of Boise State in the Sun Bowl last week. At 2-3, many believe that the Miners may have saved the season by beating Boise State. However, if the Miners want to go bowling again, they will have to do much more than just beating Boise State. At 1-4, the Charlotte 49ers are a team that the Miners should beat, but the Miners will have their work cut out for them. The 49ers have a high-powered offense and a veteran quarterback waiting for the Miners in Charlotte.
What do the Miners have to do to break the infamous 0-26-1 eastern time zone losing streak and get back to .500?
Stop the Charlotte passing game, hold them under 30 points
In just three games this season, fifth year senior quarterback Chris Reynolds of the 49ers has already put up eye-popping numbers. He has 740 yards through the air with 9 touchdowns. Reynolds has a pair of all-conference level receivers to throw to, including Victor Tucker and Grant Debose, with both combining for 9 receiving touchdowns this year. The Miner secondary has played very well this season, even with all the departures they had last year. Corner Illijah Johnson and safety Kobe Hylton have both played exceptionally well and will need to continue to play like that if the Miners want to beat Charlotte. If you’re the Miners, the best path to winning this game is keeping the Charlotte offense off the field. The only win the 49ers have was against Georgia State in a shootout. In my opinion, the only way Charlotte wins this game is if they get into a shootout with the Miners. The Miner defense is playing its best football yet and can solidify themselves if they hold the high-powered Charlotte offense under 30 points.
Continue to simplify the offense
One of the biggest reasons UTEP upset Boise State last week was the simple offensive approach the Miners ran. They didn’t force the ball downfield and stuck with the running game. That worked out perfectly for the Miners, who put up 322 yards of total offense, including 199 rushing yards. If the Miners continue to run this offense, they’ll be fine against a sub-par Charlotte defense. The 49ers gave up 41 points to FCS William & Mary. There shouldn’t be much struggle if the Miners continue to call plays that best utilize the personnel on this team. Gavin Hardison had his most efficient game against Boise State, going 10-11 with 123 yards and a touchdown. The short passing game combined with the run game has worked so far, and it should continue to work if the Miners use it against a Charlotte defense that gives up over 500 yards a game. In fact, Charlotte ranks 131 in FBS for total defense.
Force two or more turnovers
Something that was missing from the Miners' win last week was that they forced no turnovers against Boise State. Obviously, that didn’t matter much, as the Miners still held the Broncos to 177 yards and 10 point. For Charlotte, however, that is the identity of this offense. They’re going to go deep. They’re going to pass the ball a lot. With Charlotte being as aggressive in the air as they are, the threat of throwing an interception is high. Reynolds has three interceptions in three games, so the opportunity for UTEP to snag an interception or two is there. The goal here is to keep UTEP’s defense off the field as much as possible. Forcing turnovers will certainly help with that.
Run the ball
I decided to give running the ball its own category simply because of how important it is, especially with how the weather is going to be in Charlotte on Saturday. Winds are expected to surpass 20 mph and it is supposed to be very rainy. In these conditions, passing the ball will be difficult. That is why running the ball will be very crucial for the Miners this week. Charlotte is 129th in FBS for their rush defense. If we are being honest, I would be disappointed if the Miners don’t go for over 200 rushing yards. Both Hankins and Awatt have shown flashes of being the best running back duo in Conference USA, but can they finally put it together and solidify themselves as that title? We’ll see this Saturday.
Continue to pressure the QB
If Charlotte still decides to be a heavy pass offense, then the Miners will need to put pressure on Reynolds. The Charlotte offensive line has allowed 11 sacks in just four games so far this season. And the Miners don’t even need to sack Reynolds, they just need to put pressure on him. Last week, the Miners didn’t sack Boise State quarterback Hank Bachmeier once, but you could tell the pressure the Miners put on him contributed to his ugly 13-34, 93-yard game. Despite no sacks against the Broncos, the Miners did have 12 quarterback hurries. The Miners defense has a huge opportunity to make a statement by making it a rough day for Reynolds. This could be a breakout game for both edge rushers the Miners have. Both Jadrian Taylor and Praise Amaewhule haven’t been amazing this season, but with the confidence they have been gaining, don’t be surprised if we see a vintage “Shake-n-Bake" performance from the two.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is that the Miners made a statement win last Friday against Boise State, but they will now need to show that they can beat teams that they should beat. The Miners should have beaten New Mexico, but instead, they turned the ball over seven times. You cannot have a performance like that if you want to win any game, period. This is a big game for the Miners. Oh, and not to mention, the Miners are 0-26-1 in the eastern time zone. The Miners want to be a consistent winner in C-USA, but to do that they need to beat teams that give up over 500 yards per game, simply put.