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The Film Room Previews: UTEP Miners

Let's take a peek at Tech's Week 2 opponent, the UTEP Miners

If anything, the UTEP Miners have an identity. You know exactly what you're gonna get when you play them. A huge dosage of Aaron Jones, aggressive defensive play, and lots of tight ends in motion. They went 7-6 last year, which for them was a massive improvement. Last week I liked our matchup with SHSU a little too much. I hope I'm not making the same mistake again, but I really like our matchup with the Miners.

OFFENSE: I-Formation

If they ever get out of the I-Formation against us, something is either going very wrong or very right. UTEP is a solid team running the ball, but that's about all they have going for them in that aspect. Aaron Jones is the obvious standout here. Like last week with SHSU, they have Aaron Jones and not much else. Their O-Line is a little above average, but nothing crazy special. They simply play very conservative, unified football. UTEP runs a 2-quarterback system currently, but I would expect that to change. Their running QB, Kavika Johnson, is very good at running the read-option, and given our struggles playing assignment football, it's entirely probable that he plays 60-70% of the snaps on Saturday. They're going to try and counter our shock calvary style offense by turning the game into a long, drawn out siege.

DEFENSE: Blitz-Happy 4-2-5

UTEP runs a 4-2-5 with a linebacker/safety hybrid. They really like to blitz out of this defense, so expect them to bring lots of pressure from their front 6. So far they've mostly run man coverage out of it, but I expect them to shake it up and throw some zone in there after Arkansas took their young secondary (3 freshmen starting) to town last weekend. It could be a long day for the Miners if they fail to get pressure. They look a lot like SHSU did last week, as they really depend on their pressure getting to the QB to disrupt the passing game. This game is looking very similar to last week's the more we look at UTEP and what they try to do.

UNIFORMS:

Something like this with blue pants. It's honestly not a bad look. I have nothing to make fun of here, they're really sharp and I like them. We're doing a whiteout, so we're actually going to be the ones in white. If we do, they'll probably wear something blue.

PLAYLIST:

Heigh Ho - Snow White and the Seven Dwarves

Gold Digger - Kanye West ft. Jamie Foxx

Dig It - The D-Tent Boys

The Coal Miner Song - Jimmy Joe Lee

Do Or Die? - A Bunch Of Former UTEP Football Players?

JOKES:

It's ironic that Miners use picks because no one in the history of colleges has ever made UTEP their first pick

The coolest thing that happened to your University is now no longer associated with your University because you changed your name out of collective shame. But seriously, good on y'all for the whole racial integration thing. And for beating Kentucky. That was pretty cool.

Seriously though, Josh Lucas (who?) plays the most famous coach in your history. Couldn't even get Ben Affleck for your B-List Disney flick?

WHY I'M WORRIED:

Oh god do we ever struggle with running based teams. And oh god is UTEP a running based team. If they can keep the ball away from us, it could be a very long game. Kavika Johnson could also make some waves if we aren't careful.

WHY I'M NOT WORRIED:

UTEP's secondary isn't that good right now. Arkansas tuned them up last week to the rhythm of 308 yards passing with only 4 incompletions. 308 yards passing is a drop in the bucket to our Air Raid, but the fact that Arkansas only threw 4 incompletions is the more telling stat when it comes to the UTEP defense. With the speed and talent we have at the wide receiver and running back positions, there might not be a way UTEP's offense could score enough to stop us. I didn't think it was possible to be more one-dimensional than the UTEP offense was last year, but they have defied all expectations. 3rd and anything over 7 is going to be a nightmare for them.

HOW WE MATCH UP:

Man, UTEP just does not have a lot of firepower returning outside of Aaron Jones, who could start for a lot of bigger programs. That alone plays into our favor. They have youth all over the board too, as seen here.

I don't know how anyone can look at this and not see youth and kinda poor effort, especially on the second tackle. UTEP simply wasn't fast enough to make it to the screen pass on the edge, and when they got there, they tackled badly. The UTEP secondary absolutely depends on the blitz disrupting the QB. Like I said earlier, I think our Offensive Line is good enough to clean this up. I don't think we have a zero-sack outing, but we freaking preform against the blitz. Defensively I don't think there's any way they can match up with the speed we're gonna put on the field.

UTEP just has a problem in coverage right now that I don't think can get fixed in a week, especially against a passing team like us. Once again a poor tackling attempt leads to extra yards for their opponents. This route combination that Arkansas is using is called a "flood", where all the receivers crowd a half of the field at various vertical levels to try and catch a safety out of position. It's nothing new, teams have been doing it for years and years, but UTEP had a significant amount of trouble with it last weekend. I can see us using some of these individual "Post" routes against their relatively green secondary to huge gain. The Air Raid really isn't dependent on the "flood" route combination, but I see no reason why we won't use elements of it. Less slants, more posts. We won't run something like this out of a I-Formation, obviously, but I could see some two-back formations out of the gun to draw the linebackers and hybrid in, isolating our speed and experience on the very, very young corners and safeties.

This play is eerily reminiscent of a play Arkansas had against us last year. I think our backs don't have as much power as Arkansas, but they are more slippery. We should be able to exploit plays like draws and sweeps to big gains on UTEP. The UTEP DE gets too far outside, creating a big hole for the Arkansas RB. The DTs both crash the "A" gaps, making that hole even bigger. UTEP's linebackers never really get going downhill fast enough, the safety comes downhill way too fast. Basically everyone on the UTEP defense messed up here. This is a touchdown if the backside safety doesn't pursue adequately well. Even then, if that DT hadn't hustled downfield, it still might've been a touchdown, because the Arkansas running back had him on skates.

The biggest X's and O's observation I have is that UTEP likes to overcommit their linebackers to the weak side of the offense. They depend on the hybrid playing the strong side very quick, and thus are very susceptible to strong side running plays and play action passes to the edge.

Notice how the defensive line is shifted ever so slightly to the strong side and the linebackers are ever so slightly towards the weak side. Against an offense like ours, they really can't afford to leave spaces like the ones they did against Arkansas. The safeties will likely be deeper, and the corners wider, which will give the receivers 8-10 yards to work with as opposed to the 5-7 yards Arkansas has. Considering how good Mahomes is against the blitz, and the strength of our RB stable and OL, this is a very favorable matchup for us.

I think we'll get a better look at the UTEP Offense if we use our game against them last year, so let's flip channels over that way for a second.

UTEP literally only returns Aaron Jones on the Offensive side of the ball. If you thought it was a one man show last year, it's even more so now. I expect to see heavy doses of this simple dive play out of either the I-Formation or the Singleback. The only changes I can see happening is UTEP splitting their receivers out wider than normal to force Keenon Ward to respect the pass as well. If that happens, our linebackers are going to have to play better than they did last week to stop this run. The UTEP O-Line is a little above average but nothing truly special, but our linebackers haven't shown out enough for me to be able to give them full confidence in this matchup.

Let's be completely honest with ourselves though. We're going to miss some tackles. We're going to dive at some ankles instead of wrapping up well. We have a great scheme to stop this offense. If we can get a few negative plays on first and second down and put them in 3rd and long, minus a fluke draw the series will be ours. But, having the scheme doesn't always mean everything. We need to be able to put butts on the turf against this offense. Every second Aaron Jones is still up is a second that he could use to break every tackle we throw at him. And that's not cool.

There isn't much strategy or X's and O's to be talked about this week. The schematic match-ups won't mean too much this week against a downhill running team. Break tackles. Don't let UTEP break our tackles. We're going to hit a couple of post and corner routes. That's who we are. They're going to try to grind out the clock with dives and the read-option look. That's who they are. This game comes down to who preforms the fundamentals better more than any other game on our schedule. It could be over quick, or we could see ourselves in another 4th Quarter deficit to a team that objectively has less talent than us.

THE VERDICT:

We're faster and more talented. Unfortunately, all of that means nothing against a team with a philosophy like theirs. I really hope we pull it together in this game, and get a quality win that answers some lingering questions on the defensive side of the ball. It's all about the fundamentals of blocking and tackling this week. All that said, I see this going one of two ways: we win by 4-5 scores, or 1-2 scores. Sorry UTEP, I just think y'all don't have enough defensive clout to keep scoring with us, and that is in no way a backhanded compliment. Y'all are certainly capable of giving us a run for our money, but I can't imagine many, if any scenarios where y'all take a win, especially considering that we're the home team.

SCORE PREDICTION:

Texas Tech 56, UTEP 31