Miners seek first 4-1 start to a season since 2010, to host ODU Saturday


EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – As the calendar turns to October, the UTEP football team is in the hunt for their first bowl appearance since 2014.

The Miners are 3-1 and will open Conference USA play on Saturday against Old Dominion (1-3) at Sun Bowl Stadium, looking to improve to 4-1 for the first time since 2010. It has been four years in the making for head coach Dana Dimel, who took over the program after a winless season in 2017.

“This is something we’ve worked for the past couple years,” said UTEP redshirt freshman running back Deion Hankins. “This is something we’ve talked about — our dreams for this program and where we want to be in the future. We have to take it one game at a time and this is just another block in the road.”

The Monarchs and Miners present two of the top defenses in the league, ranking two and three, respectively, in total defense. UTEP is giving up 317.0 yards per game, while ODU is yielding 315.0 yard per game.

“We have a big conference game coming up, our conference opener against [Old Dominion], a team that’s real well coached and that we’re super familiar with,” said UTEP head coach Dana Dimel. “Their head coach was with us at Kansas State, so there’s a lot of familiarity. They run a lot of the Kansas State defensive packages that we’ve seen, but they also put some other wrinkles in as well. It’ll be a good test for us. Their record is not indicative of what kind of football team they are. They’re getting better and improving all the time. It’s obviously going to be a really tough test for us to open conference play at home. [ODU] has a quarterback who makes a lot of plays, he’s very athletic and dynamic. They can score some points on you.”

UTEP is coming off a dramatic come-from-behind win over New Mexico last Saturday, 20-13. ODU’s comeback effort against Buffalo last week came up one point short, 35-34. A point of emphasis this week for UTEP will be to get off to a better start, in addition to getting back to running the football, something that was largely ineffective against the Lobos.

“We are definitely going to try and establish a run game and get physical at the line of scrimmage,” said Dimel. “We need to do a better job than what we did last week. New Mexico did a great job of taking away the run on us. This week we have to hit some big run plays and stay patient with the run game.”

Kickoff on Saturday is at 7 p.m. MT. The game will stream live on ESPN+.

UTEP (3-1, 0-0 C-USA) vs. Old Dominion (1-3, 0-0 C-USA)

Date: Saturday, Oct. 2

Time: 7:00 p.m. MT

Location: El Paso, Texas

Venue: Sun Bowl Stadium

Stream: ESPN+ (Watch)

Radio: KLAQ 95.5 FM

Miners Notables (via: UTEP Athletics)

The Series with ODU

Old Dominion owns a 2-1 record against UTEP. The Miners came out on top during the first meeting on Oct. 11, 2014, 42-35, in the 83rd Homecoming game. The Monarchs have won the last two meetings, 31-21 on Nov. 14, 2015 in Norfolk, Va., and 31-21 during UTEP’s 85th Homecoming contest on Oct. 29, 2016.

About ODU

The Monarchs’ lone win came against Hampton, 47-7, on Sept. 11. ODU opened the season with a loss at Wake Forest, 42-10, while also falling at Liberty, 45-17, and against Buffalo, 35-34. Elijah Davis leads the team in rushing (255) and has scored two touchdowns. D.J. Mack Jr. has 130 yards on the ground and leads the way with five rushing scores. He’s passed for 559 yards and three touchdowns. Zack Kuntz leads ODU in receptions (16) and receiving yards (185). Jordan Young paces the defense with 27 tackles, while Amorie Morrison leads with 2.5 sacks. Overall, ODU ranks third in C-USA in rushing yards per game (194.8). The Monarchs rank ahead of UTEP at no. 2 in C-USA in total defense (315.0 ypg).

UTEP in Homecoming Games

The Miners are 39-48-1 all-time in homecoming games. UTEP has lost its last five homecoming contests, as the last victory came against Old Dominion, 42-35, in 2014. The Miners also faced ODU in 2016’s homecoming game. The last homecoming game was in 2019 against UTSA.

UTEP in C-USA Openers

The Miners are 5-11 in Conference USA openers since joining the league in 2005. UTEP has lost its last 11 league lid lifters. The last win came against no. 12 Houston during a 58-41 victory on Oct. 3, 2009.

One of the Top WRs in the Nation

Jacob Cowing leads Conference USA in receiving yards (467) while ranking fourth nationally in that department. Cowing’s 116.8 yards per game ranks second in the league and fifth nationally. WKU’s Jerreth Sterns (120.0) leads C-USA in yards per game, while USC’s Drake London (135.0) tops the nation in yards per game and total receiving yards (540).

All About That Consistency

WR Jacob Cowing has been Mr. Consistency since arriving on campus in 2019. He has caught a pass 22 straight games, with at least two receptions in the last 16 contests of the streak. Most recently he had a huge game in the win against New Mexico (Sept. 25), grabbing seven passes for a career-high 174 receiving yards. It was the most receiving yards by a Miner since Jordan Leslie had 218 at Tulsa in 2012. The lone time of his UTEP career that Cowing failed to make a catch came in his second appearance, a 38-3 loss at Big 12 power Texas Tech on Sept. 7, 2019.

Garrett’s Got That Too

WR Justin Garrett has been just as reliable for Miner quarterbacks over the past couple of years. He has posted at least two catches in 19 straight contests, a streak that started on Oct. 5, 2019, against UTSA in the Sun Bowl. Most recently he had four catches for 105 yards in the victory against New Mexico (Sept. 25).

Firing Away

Gavin Hardison has averaged 10.3 yards per attempt through four games in 2021, a huge jump from his average of 7.1 in 2020. Hardison ranks first in Conference USA and fifth nationally in yards per pass attempt.

Praise Chasing QBs

Praise Amaewhule tallied a career-high seven quarterback hurries in UTEP’s 20-13 win against New Mexico. It was the most since Menson Holloway’s eight QB hurries at Nevada on Nov. 4, 2000. Amaewhule added two pass breakups, a strip-sack, 1.5 tackles for loss and four tackles.

Tyson Wilson’s Impact

Tyson Wilson made his first career start against New Mexico. The sophomore DB made the most of his starting nod as he posted a career-high seven tackles and a career-best two pass breakups.

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