Thanks to a victory over Louisiana Tech on Saturday night, the UTEP Miners are now eligible for the postseason.
As has been said by the UDD staff and other C-USA observers on social media, Dana Dimel has so far shown that he belongs in coach of the year conversations thanks to the turnaround job he has done with this program. When wins were once so rare for this program, the nation notices when you are able to rattle off six so quickly. So, where does Dimel’s team go from here?
As the Miners enter their second bye week of the season, they’ll now have two weeks to prepare for a talented FAU team and then host a red hot and ranked UTSA team on November 6. Let’s examine some takeaways from the game that will influence the rest of their season.
Miners Are Bowl Eligible For The First Time Since 2014
You don’t have to tell UTEP fans how miserable it has been to be a fan of this program for the better part of the last decade. They’re aware. So it does not come as much of a surprise that this makes the first time that the Miners have qualified for a bowl game in six years and just the 15th time in the program’s 85-year history. Back in 2014, UTEP went to the New Mexico Bowl where they lost to Utah State. If UTEP wins two more games this season, they will tie their highest win total since 2005.
Turnovers And Penalties Could Be A Problem For UTEP
Believe me, I don’t want to be the guy that rains on the parade for a program hitting this kind of high. However, two stats are eye-catching about this UTEP team, and not in a good way: turnovers and penalties.
In this game against LA Tech alone, the Miners turned the ball over four times. That brings their turnover total for the year to 19 through seven games with a turnover ratio of minus two. Anytime you turn the ball over four times and still win a game this decisively, you better thank your lucky stars. History tells us that likely won’t happen a lot.
The Miners have also been penalized 56 times for 576 yards for the second highest totals in both categories in C-USA. UTEP opponents have been flagged 61 times this year, which is more than any other C-USA opponent total, which is incredibly fortunate for UTEP. Regardless of your thoughts on UTEP’s strength of schedule so far, UTEP has some luck on their side based on this stat.
Ground and Pound
Despite the turnovers, UTEP is getting it done offensively this season. The Miners lead the Conference in time of possession with an average of 33:32 per game. UTEP is also tied for the fewest sacks given up in C-USA with just seven. In the run game, UTEP is performing adequately with 165.1 yards per game and ten touchdowns. They have also converted on fourth down nine out of ten times this season.
Perhaps most importantly, in the red zone, the Miners have come away with points 84.6% of the time. All of this is a testament to the job the Miners’ offensive line has done this year under the direction of offensive line coach Mike Simmonds.
C-USA Has A New Sacks Leader
At this point in the year, UDD has given plenty of (pardon the pun) praise to defensive end Praise Amaewhule for his ability to constantly bring disruptions to opposing backfields. We also can’t forget to point out the performance of Jadrian Taylor, who piled up 3.5 sacks against the Bulldogs on Saturday. With that, Taylor is now C-USA’s current sack leader with 6.5. Taylor and Amaewhule are sixth and tied for first in the league, respectively, in tackles for loss.
LA Tech Held to Its Lowest Point Total in a C-USA Game
2013 marked Louisiana Tech’s first season in Conference USA. With only three points in this contest, they set a new program low for scoring against a C-USA opponent and their worst scoring day since last year’s New Orleans bowl loss to Georgia Southern. Quarterback Austin Kendall had his worst game of the season with three interceptions and a QBR of 15.8.
Of his team’s offensive performance, head coach Skip Holtz had this to say:
“It was probably one of our worst performances offensively we have had in a long time. We struggled. We had a hard time getting anything going. Defensively, I thought the front seven played really well. But offensively, it was a poor effort. I give UTEP an awful lot of credit, but we have to do a better job as an offensive staff to put our players in a better position. It was a night where a lot of things did not go our way.”
The Techsters now don’t have much room for error if they want to reach bowl eligibility with games against UTSA and UAB still looming.