EL PASO, TEXAS (KTSM) – For the second consecutive season under head coach Dana Dimel, the UTEP football team finishes 1-11 after losing their season finale to Rice, 30-16 on Saturday afternoon at Sun Bowl Stadium.
The Miners are now just 2-34 in their last three seasons, 2-22 in two years under Dimel.
Rice running back Aston Walter rushed for 149 yards, including a 64-yard scamper in the fourth quarter that set up Rice’s final touchdown to put the game out of reach. Rice (3-9, 3-5 C-USA) closes the year on a three-game win streak while UTEP (1-11, 0-8 C-USA) lost their last 11 games.
Despite this year’s struggles, Dimel believes it was a successful season.
“They [success] can’t be measured by wins and losses right now,” said Dimel. “They have to be measured by strides that were taken in allowing me to get my full stamp on this program. It’s to be able to build a program the way a program needs to be built. As far as successful, absolutely in the measurement of the guys playing extremely hard and there’s a lot of good guys that are leaving the program that did things the right way in moving this program in a positive direction. I look at it that way. You have to build. To build, you have to start somewhere.”
UTEP Director of Athletics Jim Senter gave his support to Dimel last week in an exclusive interview with KTSM 9 Sports.
“Building a program takes time. It’s just like building a house,” said Senter. “That’s what we are engaged in for the long term, the big play, which is further out in year three, four, five, six and seven. My point in saying that is, I know we all want to win and we want to win right now, but we are going to do it with class and integrity. We are going to do it the right way. We are going to see the benefits starting to happen.”
The Miners led 16-14 at halftime, but outscored 16-0 in the second half after senior quarterback Kai Locksley exited with an apparent hand injury. Locksley, who threw for 100 yards and rushed for 63 yards and a touchdown in the opening half, would not return to the game.
Sophomore quarterback Gavin Hardrison, who many people close to the program feel is the future of Miners football, struggled to find his rhythm in relief. Hardison completed just 11 passes on 24 attempts for 113 yards.
The Miners graduate 22 seniors and Dimel will shift his focus to the recruiting trail with the early signing period fast approaching.