UTEP Football Defensive Report Card – Rice
The UTEP Miners (1-11) concluded their season on Saturday off a 30-16 loss to Rice. UTEP struggled defensively, allowing 371 total yards against one of the worst offenses in the country.
Let's evaluate the defense by position group:
Defensive line: D+
The defensive front had such a good start, especially with a fumbled snap recovered in the end zone by defensive tackle Praise Amaewhule for a touchdown. But the unit was worn out by the steady Rice ground game, which rushed for 256 yards.
Rice running back Aston Walter put up 149 total yards of rushing on the ground and a touchdown, while change-of-pace quarterback JoVoni Johnson raced for 62 yards and finished with a pair of rushing touchdowns.
The linebacker unit pretty much carried the tackling game for the Miners on Saturday. Jayson VanHook led the team in tackles (7), followed by Sione Tupou (5). The two members anchored the linebackers on Saturday. Tupou also registered UTEP's only sack of the night.
If the linebackers did a bit more to stop the run, they would have been easily the clear savior of the defense on Saturday. The linebackers were also very confused against Rice switching between quarterbacks in the game.
The secondary for the Miners struggled again on Saturday but for the majority of the game, they held on and made some nice stops. Rice quarterback Tom Stewart got the majority of his 115 passing yards in the second half, where the Owls simply wore out the Miners.
Justin Rogers stole an interception in Rice territory that could have set the offense up for a potential game-tying drive. The problem was the offense could not generate any sort of offense from the turnover and the Miners defense could not slow down the Owls in the second half.
Opponents this season averaged 35.9 points per game against the Miners defense, which started the season with a ton of promise and ended in despair. The three-man front is something that simply doesn't work with this kind of personnel and the defense was too inexperienced as a whole to build momentum through the late part of the year. It was tough to watch this defense by the end and the hope is that next year, UTEP can find some pieces to fill the obvious holes that are on defense.