Date: Saturday November 18, 2017
Kickoff Time: 2:00 PM CT
Location: El Paso, TX
Stadium: Sun Bowl
Series Record: La Tech leads 10-2-1
Last Meeting: La Tech won 28-7
Betting Line: La Tech -17.0
The Louisiana Tech Bulldogs will make their last road trip of the season Saturday when they travel to El Paso to take on the UTEP Miners. The Miners come in at 0-10 and are hoping they can find at least one win before the season ends, and this will be their final chance at home. The Dawgs, meanwhile, are 4-6, with bowl hopes still alive if they can find a way to win their last two.
Louisiana Tech Overview
For Skip Holtz and the Bulldogs, it’s crunch time. With loss number six coming last week to FAU, there is no more room for error if La Tech wants to make it four straight seasons going to a bowl game. On paper, this should be an easy tune up win leading into their senior day showdown with UTSA which, depending on how UTSA-Marshall turns out, could be a “winner goes bowling, loser goes home” situation.
However, you can throw the papers away when playing in El Paso. It’s a long trip and a high elevation, and just overall a tough place to play for the road team. Just last season, North Texas traveled to UTEP in week 13 at 5-6, looking to pick up one last easy win to finish 6-6. They lost.
Making matters worse for La Tech is that this past week has been finals week since they use a quarter system instead of semesters. It’s hard to get good practices during finals week. Flashback two years ago to when Tech traveled to UTEP in finals week. Tech was much better that year, yet barely survived with a 17-15 win where the clock ran out with UTEP in possession. Never underestimate the Sun Bowl.
Assuming El Paso voodoo doesn’t strike, however, Tech should be able to handle their business. UTEP is only scoring 11.3 points per game and only averaging 214.8 yards of offense. Tech, meanwhile, scores 28.3 points per game and nets 404.2 yards. UTEP has little run defense to speak of, which should be exciting for Boston Scott. He’ll have his work cut out for him, though, as partner in crime Jarred Craft appears to be out for this game.
But yards don’t mean everything. Last week against Florida Atlantic, Tech outgained FAU 512-415. Tech had 32 first downs to FAU’s 19. Tech didn’t turn the ball over, FAU did. Tech almost doubled up FAU in time of possession. Yet Tech lost by 25.
Why? No ability to finish. Tech had to settle for field goals trip after trip into the red zone. Whatever the reason is for that, Tech HAS to finish off drives, especially on the road. Regardless of opponent.
Fortunately for Tech, the Bulldogs are starting to get healthy. LB Russell Farris came back last week, as did WR Adrian Hardy. Jaylon Ferguson exited last week with an injury, but he’s back this week.
It’s just been a bad year. Sean Kugler is out, and Mike Price is trying to keep the ship steady until a replacement coach can be found, but neither one has been able to manufacture a win.
The quarterback spot has been going back and forth between Zack Greenlee and Ryan Metz, who have a combined four passing touchdowns all year. Both have been banged up, but Greenlee is expected to start against Tech. The most UTEP has scored in a game this season is 21 against Army. UTEP will need to do better than that, as Tech has scored more than that in eight of their ten games thus far. Only their two SEC opponents have held them under 22 (21 against Mississippi State, 16 against South Carolina).
UTEP’s trio of running backs, Quardraiz Wadley, Kevin Dove, and Joshua Fields, are trying to replace Aaron Jones, but it’s just not the same. They have a combined two touchdowns between them. Quarterback Zack Greenlee has that many himself. UTEP has one of the best offensive linemen in the conference with Will Hernandez, but one guard can’t do it all. Someone on this offense has to step up and get the ball in the endzone.
Playing on the road after finals week is scary. Playing in the Sun Bowl is scary. Doing both at the same time is downright frightening, especially when you have to win out to go bowling. That’s the situation La Tech faces. Tech has struggled to finish drives (and games) all season, but at some point the talent difference will get it done. We saw that when Tech scored 14 points to close out the Rice game in Houston, and I expect we’ll see some of the same in El Paso. Miners keep it close, but Tech finds a way.
La Tech 27, UTEP 20