When I saw the tweet below regarding the death of 21 year old Luke Laufenberg, son of Dallas Cowboys radio announcer Babe Laufenberg, it affected me so much I had to step away from my desk and office. Luke was diagnosed with cancer in 2017 and had struggled through the rehab process to earn a spot on the Miners’ team. We’re all told as fathers that the world is never the same after you have a child, and as a father of a young boy who I love more than I ever thought I could love something, I can testify that this is true.
Today we lost a son, a brother, a friend, and a warrior. Have never seen a person battle like Luke Laufenberg, but he lost his fight with cancer. He was truly inspirational. The hole in our hearts will never be filled. You are my hero. RIP my sweet Luke. See you on the other side pic.twitter.com/HF1xfw19Xi— Babe Laufenberg (@BabeLaufenberg) August 22, 2019
I don’t mean to steer the game preview to Sorrowville, and while my preview will certainly enlist humor (because that is my defense mechanism against my own emotions), I want to acknowledge first and foremost that this program isn’t just going through the normal trials and tribulations of practices in the Texas summer heat. This program is in the midst of a total rebuild, while playing with the loss of a teammate, friend and brother, and for a city that is healing from its own unspeakable tragedy early last month.
With that acknowledged, on to the preview.
First Down - The Enemy:
UTEP Miners play in the Conference USA West division (quick, without Google, name 4 C-USA teams…go!) and are in somewhat of a transition period. From a losing program with absolutely no sense of direction, to a losing program with MapQuest directions printed out and a compass UTEP enters the 2019 season with high hopes. However, as far as football goes at the Sun Bowl, the best football that gets played there might actually be in at the bowl game played there in December.
The Miners are coached by Dana Dimel who is entering his second season in El Paso. Dimel has already started the 2019 campaign off on the right foot with a 36-34 come-from-behind win against known perennial powerhouse, Houston Baptist. While most wouldn’t look at this as any sort of victory, the win was the first home victory since November 2016, and matched the program’s win total from last year.
Dimel coached under Bill Snyder at Kansas State for nearly 30 years, so I expect to see a lot of the concepts Kansas State brings offensively with a running attack and even the use of the traditional fullback, which I don’t know if Tech will see in any other opponent this season.
Second Down - Key Players:
As far as the UTEP offense goes, even though they passed for 286 yards, the real story last week was their ability to run the ball with talented tailback Trevoyn Hughes to a tune of 144 yards on 23 attempts and a pair of touchdowns. His running style isn’t fancy, he is definitely more of your downhill runner, and he is paired with a solid veteran offensive line. Stopping the run game is more of importance this week than it ever was against Montana State.
As far as the Miner defense goes, my only note is that a Houston Baptist offensive unit produced 300 passing yards on 37 attempts with two touchdowns and looked like the better team most of the game last week... and that’s about all you need to know.
Another note: former Texas Tech DC Matt Wallerstedt, who is kind of a mess and overall terrible human, is currently UTEP’s defensive line coach. Yes, that same Matt Wallerstedt that coached a defense that gave up 30.5 points per game with over 200 yards rushing per game in 2013, and in its first three games in 2014 averaged 36.7 points per game and 5.13 yards per play that included a game against Arkansas that was absolutely unwatchable.
Come at me, Wallerstedt. I got time.
Third Down - By the Numbers:
- When you think of ugly programs, these are the numbers that describe them in a nutshell: UTEP’s offense scored an average of 17.67 points per game last season. While giving up more than double that to opponents (32.75). This includes being shut out twice and only scoring more than 30 twice last season. Yuck.
- If Texas Tech scores three touchdowns Saturday night, they will equal the Miner’s total touchdowns from last season (nine) in two games.
- Tech is 16-6-1 all-time against UTEP. Tech has averaged 19.1 points in margin of victory, including a 69-20 rout the last time UTEP was in town.
- Texas Tech hasn’t lost to an unranked Group of Five opponent since New Mexico in 2004.
Fourth Down - Prediction:
The recipe for a win is simple. Stop the run and make Brandon Jones beat you with his arm. Do that and you may even force a turnover or two.
Let’s face it, UTEP isn’t very good, at all. Tech is favored by 34 points in this game. I’m taking Tech and the points. Let’s mentally prepare for Arizona!