UTEP Football Struggles Put More Pressure on Basketball Success
Six weeks into the 2019 college football season, things are looking grim for the Miners. UTEP delivered a flat homecoming performance at home against UTSA, a program that had also been struggling prior to their 26-16 win at the Sun Bowl Saturday night. Although nobody expected this team to go bowling, they did believe that head coach Dana Dimel would make significant progress in year two. Thus far, that has not happened.
What has been evident is that neither Brandon Jones or Kai Locksley are capable of delivering consistent results at the quarterback position. Without a leader, the Miners offense is often dull and underwhelming. The defense has also struggled on a week to week basis. They gave up an alarming 320 rushing yards against UTSA and have not been able to bail out the struggling offense.
With the UTEP football team on their second bye week of the season, the coaching staff will have extra time to try and figure out a way to salvage 2019. Maybe they start playing more youngsters to get a better feel of what 2020 and beyond will look like for the program. Regardless, Miners fans are all focused on Rodney Terry and the men's basketball team. Thanks to the large haul of Division 1 transfers, expectations are through the roof for the 2019-20 squad. With the football team struggling to win games, the pressure for Terry's Miners to win in season two is greater than ever.
In the seven years that Tim Floyd was head coach at UTEP, his best chance to go to the NCAA Tournament was his 2010-11 team. Many of his players on the roster had experienced the NCAA Tournament the previous season, and they were too talented a group to not return to the Big Dance. Unfortunately, that Miners team blew a 12-point lead to Memphis in the final six-plus minutes at a sold-out Don Haskins Center in the C-USA Tournament Championship game. UTEP lost the game and their NCAA Tournament hopes. Floyd would never get that close again while coaching the Miners.
Miners fans do not need to be reminded that it has been more than 27 years since a UTEP men's basketball team won an NCAA Tournament game. Despite Billy Gillispie's dramatic turnaround in 2004 and Tony Barbee's best team six years later, UTEP still bowed out in the first round of March Madness each of the three times they participated. Coach Terry is trying to change that and has built a team that looks the part on paper.
This Saturday night, they host Texas Tech in an exhibition game. We will see how they stack up against once of the best current programs in the country, while giving fans an early indication on the Miners' potential. Unlike football, it can take just a handful of players to turn around the men's basketball program. UTEP has so much new talent this season, the trick will be finding enough playing time for everyone.
The good news in El Paso is that both the Miners soccer and volleyball teams are playing better than they have in years. Although they do not generally draw large crowds, their early success has been well received. At UTEP, football and men's basketball are both under the microscope. Fans are tired of losing and years of disappointment. Football is a long term rebuild and they still appear to be years away from a turnaround. Hopefully, Rodney Terry can change things at the Don Haskins Center sooner than later and bring excitement back to the Miner Nation.