UTEP Produces Nearly Identical Performances in Two Wins
When UTEP Director of Athletics Jim Senter replaced two of the three UTEP football canceled games with FCS opponents, his goal was to win those games. Although the Miners did not dominate either Stephen F. Austin or Abilene Christian, they were victorious in both games. At a closer look, the team has seen similar trends in both wins.
The Miners have started slow out of the gate in every game thus far. It is understandable when you look at the Texas Longhorns, but it is surprising when you consider SFA and ACU are both FCS. However, UTEP had no game film on any of their opponents thus far, making it more difficult to game plan. What head coach Dana Dimel and the Miners did too in both wins was make the right adjustments so his team was able to hang on for the victories.
Offensively, Deion Hankins shined in the season opener and Josh Fields had his best game of the season this past weekend against the Wildcats. The UTEP running game has been far from dominant, but they were able to get the job done when needed. As for Gavin Hardison's performance, he has demonstrated the strong arm that Coach Dimel has raved about. Although he only has one touchdown pass in three games, he also has only thrown a pair of interceptions. Hopefully, the Miners can develop more than two receivers, since Justin Garrett and Jacob Cowing have caught the majority of Hardison's throws.
Defensively, UTEP held SFA to 230 total yards and ACU to 308 yards. Praise Amaewhule registered his first sack of the season last Saturday and his play on the defensive line has been steady. Stephen Forester has 17 total tackles to lead the team, including 12 in the pair of wins. The Miners defense is also doing a nice job of forcing turnovers, something they struggled to do last season.
The Miners have done what they were supposed to do: win against lesser opponents. It might not have been pretty, but they are still 2-1 for the first time since the 2014 season. This weekend, they have another winnable game when they face off on the road against Louisiana Monroe. The Warhawks have struggled out of the gate, getting hammered by Army 37-7 and then losing at home this past weekend to Texas State 38-17. If UTEP can leave Monroe with a win, it would make them 3-1 and give the team more confidence heading into C-USA play than they have in years.