Location: Alamodome, San Antonio, Texas
Kick Off: Saturday, September 29, 6 pm CT
Live Stats: Side Arm Stats
Audio: Ticket 760
Betting Odds: UTSA -10, O/U 44.5
Records: UTEP (0-4), UTSA (1-3)
Series Record: UTSA leads 3-2
Last Meeting: The Roadrunners won last year’s meeting in El Paso 31-14.
UTEP Miners Outlook
Ay Dios Mio, the Miners need a win. After 16 straight losses, UTEP is just trying to pick up the pieces to kick off the Dana Dimel era in El Paso. While Dimel and his cooridnators are aiming to bring UTEP back up to speed with a spread offense and a 4-2-5 defense, the talent simply isn’t in place for the Miners to enjoy any sustained success this year. We’ll call this Year Zero in honor of the colossally hard job Dimel walked in to.
To say Sean Kugler left the cupboard bare on the offensive side of the ball would be a major understatement. While Dimel was able to land an immensely talented transfer quarterback in Kai Locksley, there is very little athleticism surrounding him that moves the needle. Running back Quadraiz Wadley is the lone stand out as he’s running for over six yards per carry. The longest pass completion for the Miners this year went to Warren Redix for just 28 yards.
Granted, it’s hard to put together chunk yardage when your offensive line is as soupy as a taco from Chico’s. I hate to be too harsh on the offensive line — the unit lost its three best players for the year in Greg Long, Derron Gatewood, and Jerrod Brooks — but it’s simply a matter of fact that UTEP can’t compete against strong defensive lines. With two freshmen starting on the offensive line, the Miners will have their hands full against UTSA’s deep and nasty defensive front.
Statistically speaking, UTEP’s defense isn’t much better than its offense. That may be true in reality, but at least there’s legitimate Division I talent to point to.
Graduate transfer A.J. Hotchkins has burst onto the scene after transferring from Oregon. With legitimate sideline-to-sideline speed and a real nose for the football, Hotchkins is one of the best linebackers in Conference USA.
The Miners have several promising pieces on the defensive line including Kansas State transfer CJ Reese, Mike Sota, and Denzel Chukwukelu but their strength lies in the secondary. Kahani Smith is one of the most underrated defensive backs in the conference, while Nik Needham, Kalon Beverly, and Justin Rogers bring a heavy dose of speed to their cornerback unit.
UTSA Roadrunners Outlook
Frank Wilson’s Roadrunners finally etched a tally in the win column last week against bitter rival Texas State but it wasn’t all rainbows and puppy dogs in the Alamodome. Even against a Sun Belt bottom feeder in Texas State, the Roadrunners could only muster up a single offensive touchdown.
At least for one week, UTSA fans were spared a quarterback rotation as Cordale Grundy took each snap from center against the Bobcats. While Grundy’s production has been underwhelming this year, he continues to make smart decisions with the football and is becoming more comfortable as a runner. If the offensive line continues to improve their pass blocking and Grundy’s wide outs can find some open turf then Grundy could see his stats sharply increase.
Despite having two strong backs in Jalen Rhodes and BJ Daniels, UTSA’s run game hasn’t quite taken off like it should have this season. The offensive line has failed to generate significant push at the line of scrimmage, largely due to a combination of youth, inexperience, and guys playing outside of their natural positions. This doesn’t appear to be changing any time soon.
Brighter days are undoubtedly ahead for UTSA’s young wide receivers, and last week’s game against Texas State served as a great reminder. True freshman Tykee Ogle-Kellogg hauled in his first touchdown catch as a Roadrunner with an impressive leaping catch in the back of the end zone. Cordale Grundy was forced to make a tough throw on the touchdown and Ogle-Kellogg found a way to come down with the ball. That could work wonders to build a pitch-and-catch relationship between the duo.
Defensively, UTSA shined in their first game against a Group of Five opponent this year. The Roadrunners’ defensive line won their battles against the Bobcats and star middle linebacker Josiah Tauaefa played one of his finest games as a Roadrunner.
The Roadrunners also took an important step forward in the turnover department after bringing down two interceptions and recovering a fumble for a touchdown. With the severe struggles UTSA’s offense has shown this year it’s going to be up to the defense to generate their own points on the scoreboard and set up excellent field goal position.
Whether it’s this week or later, Kai Locksley is going to have a breakout game very soon. His speed and elusiveness provide game-breaking abilities. As UTEP’s offensive line continues to prove they can’t sustain a standard offense, UTEP should enable Locksley to play more “backyard” football. If the Miners take this route against UTSA then they could easily pull the upset as the Roadrunners are unable to respond to quick scores.
I don’t typically pay much attention to series history but it’s quite weird that the home team has never won a game in this series. Ultimately, both teams’ offenses are fundamentally broken, but UTEP has a quarterback that knows how to find the endzone and it will pay off with a long touchdown late in the game to take the lead.
UTEP 27 UTSA 26