UTEP Football Banged up and Humbled Heading Into Bye Week
Few Miners fans expected the team to still be undefeated after the Boise State game. They did, however, believe that UTEP could play competitive football and hang in there against the traditional Group of 5 powerhouse. Instead, what they watched was an all too familiar story: six turnovers (high even for UTEP standards) which doomed any chance the Miners had to stay in the football game. What is even more concerning than the final score (54-13) is the number of injuries that have been mounting for this football team.
Here is the list of the walking wounded from the Boise game:
Andrew Meyer: the offensive lineman injured his left ankle early on and he did not return.
Keenan Stewart: the defensive tackle left the game late in the fourth quarter.
Ronald Awatt, Willie Eldridge, and Rey Flores were all banged up. Awatt and Eldridge practiced last week in red jerseys.
The Miners were already without running backs Deion Hankins and Quardraiz Wadley, plus defensive backs Justin Prince and Josh Caldwell due to injuries.
As rough as the final score in Boise ended up, the Miners played Friday night's contest without half of their starting defensive backfield plus their top two running backs on their depth chart. Broncos quarterback Hank Bachmeier responded by picking apart UTEP's secondary with ease all game long. The only bright spot for the Miners was Josh Cowing, who delivered another terrific performance (6 receptions, 112 yards, 1 touchdown).
The bye week for UTEP could not come at a better time. The team needs to heal their injuries from their first three games and prepare for their final nonconference game against New Mexico a week from Saturday night at the Sun Bowl. The Lobos are 2-0 thus far with wins over Houston Baptist (27-17) and New Mexico State (34-25). Their perfect record will most likely come to an end this weekend, when they travel to College Station to play #7 Texas A&M.
Barring a miracle, both UTEP and New Mexico will be 2-1 when they play on September 25th. If the Miners can get Hankins, Wadley, and Awatt back for that matchup, their "Big 3" running game will be a great test for the Lobos defense. A healthy Eldridge and Flores would be the icing on the cake for the UTEP ground attack. The return of Prince and Caldwell are also a must, since UNM quarterback Terry Wilson threw for 382 yards and 3 touchdowns last week against the Aggies. Although a great performance against Boise State would have energized the Miner fan base and made believers out of most, the Lobos will be a more accurate indicator to measure the progress of the UTEP football team in 2021.