UTEP vs. Boise State: Miners Face Toughest Test on Friday
For the first time in 16 years, the Miners enter their third game with a 2-0 record. And for the first time in 18 seasons, UTEP will face off against former WAC foe Boise State on Friday, Sept. 10, with a 7:30 p.m. kickoff.
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 6:30. MinerTalk will immediately follow the broadcast on 600 ESPN El Paso.
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UTEP's Strength: The Run Game
For the second consecutive week, the Miners will have to deal with a running game that doesn’t include their standout redshirt freshman Deion Hankins. The Parkland graduate suffered an injury in the New Mexico State game and hasn't played since the second quarter of the opening weekend. He was held out against Bethune-Cookman for precautionary reasons, according to head coach Dana Dimel. It looks like Hankins, barring any setbacks, will face the Lobos in two weeks.
UTEP will rely on a stable of three running backs that include Ronald Awatt, Willie Eldridge, and Rey Flores. Quardraiz Wadley is unavailable for this game after suffering in injury in last week's game.
The Miners have showed that they are a steady running team, despite not having their key running back in Hankins and one of their other senior leaders in Wadley. The combination of Awatt, Eldridge and Flores combined for 289 rushing yards last weekend in the home opener. That shows that they are significantly deep at the tailback position and they can flex their depth whenever they desire.
Awatt and Eldridge were the first pair of running backs to rush for 100-plus in a game since the 2003 season for the program.
Boise State, on the other hand, had issues defending the run game against UCF. In this game, the Knights were able to total 255 yards on the ground. The Broncos also struggled running the ball. Then finished with just 20 yards of rushing yards against UCF last week in there 36-31 loss.
3rd Downs & Time of Possession
Two key areas to watch in this game are third down efficiency and time of possession. They might not mean a lot in the long run, but these could be underlying areas to watch in this game on Friday. In the season opener and last week, the Miners showed that they are able to control the ball by winning the time of possession against lesser quality opponents by a significant margin (36:00-24:00).
The one area that UTEP has been struggling is third down efficiency on offense. The Miners are just a combined 5-of-23 in third down efficiency. The Broncos had similar issues on third down last week, only making 4-of-14. Third down defense could be a key factor in this game. The Miners have showed in the past two games they get the most production of their players on first and second down. When it comes to the Broncos offense, they were also big-play oriented on first and second down.
Speaking of the defense, one of the key position groups to watch on Friday is the UTEP secondary. I am not as impressed as I thought I would be with this group, although you could chalk it up to it just being the first few games of the season thus far. They allowed 215 passing yards against B-CU.
Is Boise State Still Mad from Last Week?
The Broncos should've beaten UCF. Let's be honest. UCF outscored Boise State 22-7 in the second half. The Broncos even led 24-7 late into the second quarter, but couldn't secure the road victory.
There probably isn't a player more upset from last week than veteran quarterback Hank Bachmeier. He threw for 263 passing yards against UCF, including a pair of touchdown passes and a critical interception late in the game. The problem was the offensive line for the Broncos simply couldn't hold up against the pass rush.
In this game, expect Bachmeier to have a bounce-back performance. Wideout Khalil Shakir is someone to watch in this game as a key target for the Broncos.
Final Prediction: Boise State 42 - UTEP 30
UTEP loses but hangs in. The Miners will give Boise State a game at first but they will ultimately fall on the road. Bachmeier has the potential to torch the UTEP secondary. I think he has a strong bounce back game on Friday and gets Boise State to 1-1. The Miners fall to 2-1 and will host New Mexico in two weeks following a bye week next week.