UTEP Football Looks to Come Out Angry Against Rice
Dana Dimel has always been mild-mannered when addressing the local media. That changed last night during his weekly coach's radio show with Jon Teicher. When he was talking about his third consecutive loss to North Texas last weekend, the Miners leader said that his team will not start Saturday's home finale against Rice as tentative as they have looked in weeks past. "I think we are playing too tight and it shows more offensively when you are playing apprehensively," Dimel said last night. "We are so excited about where we are in the season and how each win takes us to a new threshold. I think now, we are past that stage. I think now, we are pissed off and ready to go play some football."
If the Miners can play looser on offense and less apprehensive against the Owls, the team can break their three-game losing streak. Rice has lost four of its last five games, including last week's 42-21 home defeat to Western Kentucky. Unlike UTEP, the Hilltoppers feature one of the best offenses in C-USA led by quarterback Bailey Zappe. However, there is no reason why the Miners offense should not get back on track this weekend in the Sun Bowl.
Rice gives up an average of 36.5 points per game, second to last in the league. They also surrender an average of 431 yards of total yards to their opponents, including 261 per game in the air. The Miners have always tried to establish the run in order to set up the pass. Maybe they will switch things around this week since Rice has struggled to defend the pass all season. UTEP has always shown the ability to pile up 7-8 yards per pass on quick slants to their receivers, which is as good as a long run on first down. It would be nice if the passing game did not always have to rely on the home run play to get their yards.
Also, the Miners have to show more creativeness in the red zone. It seems like too many times, they run the ball on first and second down for little yardage, which always sets up a passing play on third down. This team has too many weapons to have to rely on their running backs every time the team gets into the red zone.
After starting the season 6-1, the Miners are suddenly 6-4 and in desperate need of a win. Rice will be their best shot at ending their losing streak, but the offense has to come through. The UTEP defense has played great all season, but they gave up a long 44-yard pass with just over 10 seconds left that set up the game winning field goal for North Texas. If Gavin Hardison can have a big game against the Owls and the Miners are able to run the ball better than they have for much of the season, the defense will not have to carry the team as they have all year long.