UTEP Football Defensive Report Card – Nevada
It was a competitive matchup for the Miners against Nevada but inconsistencies on both sides of the ball resulted in a 37-21 loss at the Sun Bowl.
While everyone will point to blatant negatives in the offense, the defense for the Miners was suspect at times and gave up some significant yardage on Nevada broken plays that killed them in the end.
Here's the report card on the defensive side:
Defensive line: D
Not the best outing from the UTEP defensive front, but it wasn't necessarily from an individual standpoint. Too many times throughout the game, UTEP blitzed just three up front, making it nearly impossible for the line to cause any pressure to Nevada quarterback Cristian Solano. Surprisingly enough, the running back corps from the Wolfpack put up 200 yards on the ground and scored a pair of rushing touchdowns.
Sione Tupou had a nice outing with nine total tackles, but the linebackers otherwise had a quiet evening on Saturday night. Nevada's offense spreads teams out and at times, the linebackers got burned on second-chance plays. Give the big-backer award to Tupou for having back-to-back sellar starting outings for the Miners, though.
Here's another game that is going to have us scratching our head at UTEP's secondary and wondering how did it become this inconsistent? Individually, Justin Prince, Michael Lewis, Justin Rogers, Ykili Ross and Josh Caldwell are playmaking defenders. But pass coverage has been the biggest issue this season.
The Wolfpack put up 203 passing yards on the Miners, including back-to-back touchdown receptions by Elijah Cooks from Solano. Ross did have a halftime-saving interception in the back of the end zone, which followed a bad pass interference penalty that he committed.
Before I start, UTEP's defense has obviously shown us that they can play. They are the Miners' strong point and I think there's a lot of nice pieces defensively. But more than anything, I think we are expecting the defense to take that next step by shutting out teams on multiple drives and creating more momentum for the offense.
When the offense drove the ball 10-minutes in the third quarter and scored to tie the game, the defense missed an opportunity to continue the momentum and allowed a Nevada field goal before the half.
And when their backs were against the wall and Kai Locksley threw his second interception of the game, UTEP allowed a touchdown on defense that pretty much sealed the game.
Again, the defense is the focal point of this team. That's why I would hold them to a higher standard in this loss. When the offense is high, the defense has to match the momentum. But when the offense falls, the defense has to pick them back up.