EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – UTEP is off to a 5-1 start through six games in 2021, the Miners’ best start since 2010 in year four under head coach Dana Dimel.
The Miners (5-1, 2-0 Conference USA) can clinch a sixth win and bowl eligibility at home on Saturday vs. Lousiana Tech (2-3, 1-0 C-USA). A big reason for UTEP’s hot start and big turnaround from a season ago has been the Miners defense, which currently ranks 16th in the nation in total defense, tied with Alabama for that honor.
A big reason why has been star defensive end, Praise Amaewhule. The sophomore defensive end from Katy, Texas, came into 2021 with high expectations, but he started off slow. Amaewhule managed just six tackles and one sack in UTEP’S first three games.
Since then, though, Amaewhule has been a force. In UTEP’s three-game winning streak over New Mexico, Old Dominion and Southern Miss, Amaewhule has three sacks, five pass break-ups, 17 tackles and five tackles for loss.
In total on the season, Amaewhule’s four sacks, nine tackles for loss, three forced fumbles and five pass break-ups all rank him first on the Miners in those categories.
On Saturday, when Amaewhule and the Miners host Louisiana Tech, he’ll look to tee off once more, against a Bulldogs team that he eviscerated in 2020, to the tune of 3.5 sacks and four pass break-ups in one single game vs. LA Tech, ultimately a 21-17 Miners defeat.
“They’re a passing football team and that feeds into it,” said Dimel. “Obviously he does well vs. passing teams. This is his type of game coming up, where he could have a lot of success. He’s just matured a lot off the field as a person and that’s led to his success.”
With his success, Amaewhule has seen double teams at a higher level of frequency in 2021. He’s handling it well according to his coaches and is having a huge impact anyways.
“t’s not about big plays, but rather keying up to your guy and I’ve been focusing on that,” said Amaewhule. “Attacking him, playing the run and executing the pass rush, just doing the little stuff right.”
Amaewhule and the Miners will host LA Tech at 7 p.m. on Saturday night at the Sun Bowl.