EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – The last time UTEP and New Mexico State played the Battle of I-10 at the Sun Bowl, Dana Dimel was in his first season at UTEP in 2018.
NM State won a hard-fought game, 27-20 that night, as they went 3-9 coming off a trip to the Arizona Bowl. UTEP was in the midst of its first of two 1-11 seasons to open the Dimel era.
When the Miners and Aggies hit the field again on Saturday, it will have a similar feel, but the roles are switched. UTEP is coming off a trip to its first bowl appearance since 2014; NMSU has a first-year head coach in Jerry Kill.
“You remember that game for the rest of your life,” said Kill. “When all the fellas get together over a few years (and reminisce), they’ll remember that game.”
“My goal is to never lose to any of my rivals,” continued NMSU safety Bryce Jackson. “We’re very serious about this game and coming back home with the trophy and the bragging rights.”
Both teams are still trying to get their bearings after starting the 2022 campaign 0-2, with a loss each to a Group of Five and a Power-5 team.
“It’s important. You know, it’s like any time you go 0-3 or 1-2 you have to get a win,” Dimel said. “So it’s really important game for us that way.”
“It’s the one thing that is bothering me a lot it is that we haven’t won,” added wide receiver Rey Flores. “We played good the first week, didn’t win, played good last week, didn’t win. That 0-2 I don’t like the way that feels, the way it looks so definitely this week is a must win type of game for us.”
It’ll also be a reunion for Dimel and Kill. In 2016, after Kill had left Minnesota due to health issues, he resurfaced as an associate athletic director for the Kansas State football team. That season was also Dimel’s second-to-last as the Wildcats’ offensive coordinator before coming to UTEP.
The two crossed paths and forged a solid relationship during a 9-4 season for the Wildcats. The friendship and the rivalry will be renewed on Saturday night at the Sun Bowl. There’s a big mutual respect between the two men.
“We beat all four Texas teams at that time at K-State which is a pretty good feat and also beat Texas A&M in a bowl game (the 2016 Texas Bowl),” said Kill. “He called every offensive play and he was under Snyder for half a century so I’d say he knows a lot about football.”
“He used to come hang out with us quite a bit and got to spend a lot of time around him, which was good, ” Dimel said. “I got to know him really well and he was very helpful to us for sure.”
The pair will square off on opposite sidelines on Saturday night, with both teams in search of their first win of the season. UTEP is currently a 15-point favorite over NM State.