EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – After a 38-7 loss to Big Ten foe Northwestern on Saturday, UTEP head coach Dana Dimel reflected heavily on what’s gone wrong for his offense through three weeks of play.

Dimel took the blame entirely for UTEP’s slow offensive start, saying that five early season turnovers by redshirt senior quarterback Gavin Hardison were mainly on him as a play caller.

“His source of his struggles are bad play calling by me. We’re not going to pin anything on Gavin, we’re not going to do that right now. The kid is a really good player and all the pro scouts like what he’s doing and it’s just part of that position when the team isn’t doing what they want us to do that they blame it on Gavin,” Dimel said. “I’ve been really pleased with Gavin I think he’s doing a great job. I’ve got to give him better plays and put him in better situations. If we’re not doing those things offensively, it goes back on me as a play caller and as a head coach, nothing our players are doing.”

Dimel has been a play caller for over 20 seasons, both as a head coach and an offensive coordinator and the schemes he designed helped Kansas State to four New Year’s Six Bowls during his time with the Wildcats as the offensive coordinator.

For that reason, when Dimel was asked by KTSM on Monday if he would consider relinquishing play calling duties at any point to first-year offensive coordinator Scotty Ohara, he said it wasn’t in the plans.


He added that Ohara has been coaching from the press box the last two games, which has helped the Miners, particularly with making pre-snap checks at the line of scrimmage. Ohara has been with him for years and knows how Dimel thinks, and of course the entire offensive staff has a large role in crafting UTEP’s game plan and what plays may work within that plan.

The Miners are 1-2, with both defeats coming on the road in what were thought to be winnable games. In both losses, UTEP struggled to find consistency offensively and turned the ball over six total times in the pair of defeats to Jacksonville State and Northwestern, respectively, third-worst in the country.

The Miners’ -1.67 turnover margin is also 124th in the country.

“You have to learn from (the turnovers), but you also have to have a short-term memory, so you can keep attacking the defense and not let it affect you,” said Hardison.

For the season, UTEP is averaging just 16.3 points per game, which ranks 121st in the nation out of 133 teams. Dimel also lamented the Miners’ inability to generate big plays offensively; they’re 84th in yards per completion (11.24) and though they ran in the top 50 in rushing yards per game (196.3), they have just two runs on the season over 20 yards.

UTEP has moved the ball well at times, too, but haven’t been able to capitalize on enough of them to get the scoring clip they want.

“Eliminating the one play, the one mistake, the one miscue that keeps you from getting points. Again, when you got 205 yards (at the half), you should have more than seven points on the board,” Dimel said.

The lone game that UTEP moved the ball efficiently throughout the contest was their one win, against Incarnate Word in which the Miners rushed for 329 yards on 50 attempts and Hardison was 10-13 with a pair of touchdowns.

Dimel has said that his ideal run/pass split for his UTEP offense is a 65/35 split between the run and the pass. Against Incarnate Word, that number ballooned to almost 80 percent run, but against Jax State and Northwestern – games where the Miners were taken out of their game plan due to slow starts or turnovers – the run/pass splits were 59/41 and 54/46, respectively.

In the last two seasons, UTEP has run the ball more than 60 percent of the time in seven games; the Miners have won six of those outings. Much of that success is dependent on the in-game situations UTEP finds itself in. Giving up an early lead, or turning the ball over puts the Miners in situations where they can’t play the way they want to.

With another tough road trip coming up this weekend at Arizona, in which UTEP is currently a 17.5-point underdog, things could get worse before they get better for the Miners. But after the Arizona game, the schedule flips for UTEP, with home games in three of their next four contests.

Kickoff on Saturday in Tucson is set for 9 p.m. MT on Pac-12 Network.