EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – After a disappointing 54-13 loss at Boise State last Friday, UTEP returned to the practice field on Monday to pick up the pieces and move on.
In addition to correcting the mistakes from their first loss of the season that included six turnovers, the Miners (2-1) are also dealing with multiple injuries to key players after the loss to the Broncos.
While head coach Dana Dimel has indicated none of the injuries are serious, UTEP will need all hands on deck if they hope to accomplish their goal of making a bowl game in 2021.
The good news for UTEP on that front, is that the Miners have a bye this week to rest and recuperate for their Sept. 25 home game vs. New Mexico.
Multiple Miners did not practice on Monday; center Andrew Meyer and safety Justin Prince were both held out and were wearing walking boots. Star running back Deion Hankins also did not practice, although that wasn’t a surprise given how UTEP has handled his injury this season. The Miners are eying a return for Hankins vs. New Mexico.
Cornerback Josh Caldwell and running back Quardraiz Wadley were practicing after being held out of the Boise State game.
At 2-1 on the season, UTEP is preparing for what could arguably be the biggest game of the Dimel era next Saturday vs. the Lobos. Playing a Mountain West foe at the Sun Bowl, a win would get UTEP to 3-1 entering Conference USA play and be by far the most impressive of Dimel’s tenure at UTEP.
A win over UNM could give the Miners confidence for their first three C-USA games, both of which appear to be winnable. UTEP will host Old Dominion on Oct. 2, a team that did not play in 2020 and won just one game in 2019. Then, they’re on the road to play Southern Miss, before returning home to host Louisiana Tech Oct. 16.
None of the games on UTEP’s upcoming schedule are slam dunk victories, but they are most certainly winnable contests that could put the Miners in position to get bowl eligible. UTEP will have to play better than it did vs. Boise State, specifically in limiting turnovers. Much of that burden will fall on quarterback Gavin Hardison, who accounted for four of UTEP’s six turnovers vs. the Broncos.
If the New Mexico game were this week, things could be much more difficult for the Miners. The extra week, coupled with the Lobos paying a visit to No. 7 Texas A&M in the interim, gives UTEP confidence heading in.
The Lobos and Miners will kickoff at 7 p.m. on Sept. 25 at the Sun Bowl.