UTEP Football Defensive Report Card – Southern Miss
Another uninspiring outing by the defense left us with more questions than answers moving forward for the Miners following their 31-13 loss to Southern Miss.
The defense allowed 519 total yards of offense for the Golden Eagles in the loss.
Here are the grades by position:
Defensive Line: D
Quiet nights for Denzel Chukwukelu and Josh Ortega upfront for the Miners' defense, which is extremely out of the ordinary. Chukwukelu was called for a personal foul penalty that cost them, but the pair ended up with just one tackle apiece. I would expect both of these guys to clean up any mistakes by UTSA.
Chris Richardson led the way with four tackles and a tackle for loss, but allowing too much on the ground (165 rushing yards) and not putting enough pressure on the quarterback (one sack by Praise Amaewhule) made this another bad night for the defensive line.
Sione Tupou (five tackles), Joe Jay Smith (four tackles) and Jayson VanHook (three tackles) were not put in proper situations to make aggressive plays on defense. The zone coverage felt more conservative than strategic and the linebackers paid for the poor production. =
Southern Miss quarterback Jack Abraham had a field day against the UTEP secondary, throwing for 351 passing yards and three passing touchdowns. Secondary gave up too many big plays, like the 74-yard passing touchdown to running back De'Michael Harris and the 61-yard pass to Quez Watkins. The UTEP secondary has struggled the most this season and it's time for them to turn a corner.
It will be difficult for this position group without their stellar safety Justin Prince, who exited the game with an apparent ankle injury. Head coach Dana Dimel doesn't think the injury looks good either.
Aside to a forced fumble by Michael Lewis and a fumble recovery by Justin Rogers, the defense really struggled against a high-tempo Southern Miss offense. Sure, the Golden Eagles had an efficient pass game but the number of big plays and third-down conversions (9-of-14) UTEP allowed trumped any sustained UTEP success.
Defense takes a big step back in this one. All eyes will be on them for the UTSA game next Saturday, Oct. 4.