UTEP vs. Bethune-Cookman: 3 Questions Before Kickoff
The Miners (1-0) are set to host Bethune-Cookman (FCS) on Saturday, Sept. 4 (7 p.m.) at the Sun Bowl in the team's home opener.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, UTEP hasn't played a home game since Sept. 19, 2020, while Bethune-Cookman didn't play a single contest in 2020.
Listen to the full game live on KLAQ (95.5 FM) with Voice of the Miners Jon Teicher, Mike Perez and Mando Medina starting at 6. MinerTalk will immediately follow the broadcast on 600 ESPN El Paso. Subscribe to the NEW MinerTalk podcast to listen On Demand.
Here are some final questions before Saturday's kickoff
Dana Dimel is 3-1 vs. FCS teams at UTEP. What does that mean?
Everyone remembers the Northern Arizona home opener in 2018, right? If you've forgotten—or tried to forget—the Miners were demolished by NAU QB Case Cookus and the Lumberjacks (FCS) to begin the Dana Dimel regime, 30-10. Things looked grim at that point.
Since then, the Miners have reeled off three consecutive wins against FCS opponents, but it hasn't been easy for the squad by any means.
In 2019, their lone victory came in a narrow 36-34 home win against Houston Baptist. Last year, it took late-game efforts to beat both Stephen F. Austin (24-14) and Abilene Christian (24-14).
Even though Dimel's squads are 3-1 in these matchups, FCS opponents have out-scored UTEP 91-87 (-4 point differential) over the past three years.
Gulp. Historically, UTEP plays FCS competition a lot closer than one might expect.
The Miners had a convincing 30-3 road win against rivals NM State last week. In that game, the Miners racked up 452 total yards of offense led by wideout Jacob Cowing (five catches, 158 yards and a touchdown). This team will need to hope they can translate the momentum from the last game to this week in order to have full control.
What can we expect from Bethune-Cookman?
"Any time that you look at our football teams, you'll see the same thing—a disciplined, detailed football team," said B-CU head coach Terry Sims on SportsTalk. "We're going to play fast and we're going to play hard. You can always expect a great brand of football here."
Sims has coached winning seasons at B-CU through four of the last five seasons, including 7-4 in 2019. The program is experiencing a conference shift as well. They jumped from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference to the Southwestern Athletic Conference this year.
They will rely on a two-quarterback system with Shannon Patrick, a 6-foot-2 redshirt senior, and Marcus Riley, who was a running back for the Wildcats in 2018 and 2019. Their running game will be mixed between Que'Shaun Byrd and LaDerrien Wilson.
Expect a no-huddle offense that tries to play quick, and a mixed bag defensively with a ton of uncertainties.
Are the Miners coming into this game overconfident?
The short answer is I'm not sure.
But on paper, this should be an opportunity for the Miners to shine in a winnable game. If they come into this game overconfident, B-CU could end up surprising the home team as NAU did three years ago.
Plan on Ronald Awatt, Quardraiz Wadley and Willie Eldridge to get the most work on the ground attack while Deion Hankins rests with an apparent injury. Still no word on his timeline.
By establishing the ground game, quarterback Gavin Hardison can mimic what he did against the Aggies last week on big passing plays to Cowing and Justin Garrett.
The defense held NMSU to just 190 yards of total offense last week, including just three points on five red zone attempts. The defense needs to remain consistent like they did last year.
If all these things go right, UTEP is looking at their first 2-0 start since the 2005 season.
Prediction: UTEP 35 - Bethune-Cookman 17