Week two for the Texas Tech Red Raiders sees the UTEP Miners come to Lubbock. Like most fans of the Double-T, who we play week by week are largely defined by box scores. Last weekend UTEP survived Houston Baptist, 36-34, but what’s the deeper story about a program in a rebuild? We linked up with our friend Alex Nicolas of the Puro Miners Bro! Podcast for insight:
1. Texas Tech and UTEP are no strangers to disappointment with their performances in 2018. UTEP is coming off of a tough one-win season, but stands now with new vigor after a win against Houston Baptist. Where does the fanbase stand on the Miners continuing into this year? What about this season feels different than the last?
I think there is reserved optimism about what 2019 can be for the UTEP program. What feels different is the confidence the program has from the players’ standpoint. Being familiar with the schemes, their routines in terms of practice, and meetings seems be second nature. You can see certain developmental areas like the passing game is starting to improve. Overall UTEP fans know this team is far from a .500 squad, but marks of improvement are slowly being made. Also, the fact UTEP named a starting quarterback early in camp gives fans a sense of confidence knowing UTEP found their man early on in camp and did not drag a decision.
2. The last time UTEP matched up with Texas Tech was in 2015 when a little-known quarterback named Patrick Mahomes slung the ball for over 300 yards and four touchdowns. Is there an element of revenge in this game for the Miners, or does the team see this as just another game on the schedule? How does Texas Tech fit into UTEP’s goals for the season?
I think at this point UTEP is just trying to compete and get better, they are in no position to circle games. Most of the key players from that 2015 team are gone so this is just week two of the season for UTEP. I think if UTEP competes and gives Tech a scare, that would be a huge confidence boost heading into an early bye week which can be a small goal in some fans minds. Most expect Tech to roll, but if UTEP competes and puts up a good fight it could become a tipping point for the Dana Dimel era.
3. Texas Tech has been infamous over the past couple of years for having a less-than-average defense, but their showing against FCS Montana State might be kindling for a promising future. What kind of offensive weapons can we expect UTEP to utilize against the Red Raiders? Who are some names offensively for the Miners that Tech fans should become familiar with before Saturday?
UTEP’s running game will be a big part of the Miners’ game plan. Running back Treyvon Hughes ran for a career high 144 yards and looks to be much improved in the area of explosiveness and possibly one of the best running backs in C-USA. UTEP’s quarterback Brandon Jones had a great offseason and did miss some easy throws last week, but is the leader of the offense and a can make plays on third down which is important in UTEP’s offense. Also keep an eye on wideout and former El Paso High standout Tre Wolf who is becoming UTEP’s most explosive athlete. I think you will see UTEP try to play keep away with the run game, and try to stun Tech with a splash play in the passing game via play action.
4. On the other side of the ball, Texas Tech is just as infamous for dominating opposing defenses through the implementation of Air-Raid like schemes. Does UTEP have the defensive grit to outwork a team so hell-bent on scoring the ball? Who are some names defensively for the Miners that Tech fans should become familiar with before Saturday?
Last year’s defense would be gritty enough to give Tech some fits in certain situations, but this unit is going through early season growing pains, and honestly Tech should have their way with the UTEP defense. UTEP is ushering in a number of JUCO transfers in the secondary and a few at linebacker which is leading to some growing pains in terms of pre-snap communication, and lack of confidence in defending the pass. Houston Baptist picked apart the UTEP secondary last week and the pass rush was very inconsistent. Safety Justin Rogers played corner back the past three years, and looks to be a tackle machine playing an important role in the UTEP defense. Also keep an eye on UTEP’s big-two up front, Denzel Chukelweulu, and defensive tackle Chris Richardson. Both are four year starters and big dudes upfront.
5. What are the keys to victory for UTEP? What absolutely must happen for the Miners to pull off the upset against a Texas Tech team looking for redemption in their own home? Game prediction?
Main keys for UTEP is to the run the ball effectively, take care of the ball, and get some luck and score on defense or special teams. Of course playing behind the chains on offense could lead to a shutout and make Tech’s defense look god-like, but the Miners must run the ball and keep the clock moving and keep the Tech offense chillin on the sideline. I think Tech will be a much improved program under Coach Wells, and I’m a huge fan of the hire. Texas Tech wins over UTEP, 62-28