EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – In front of what will likely be a sellout crowd at the Sun Bowl on Saturday night, UTEP will do everything it can to get out to a strong start vs. North Texas.

It’s something the Miners didn’t do a good job of last year at home vs. UTSA in a game that also had a large crowd; however, in the 2021 season opener at New Mexico State, UTEP scored on all three of its first quarter possessions en route to a 30-3 win.

The Mean Green will present some defensive challenges that last year’s Aggies frankly didn’t, but the fact remains that if the Miners can start strong offensively, they’ll get a raucous crowd behind them early, which can only help a UTEP defense that is expected to be very strong in 2022.

Quarterback Gavin Hardison is entering his third year as a starter at UTEP; if there’s any player that should be capable of navigating the emotions of playing in a season opener with as high of stakes as this one, it’s a veteran quarterback.

Head coach Dana Dimel showed last year a willingness to play aggressive offensively early in games; it’s entirely possible, and perhaps even likely, that UTEP will try to exploit Phil Bennett’s North Texas defense early.

“It’s always important for offenses because you have to get the full timing of the game,” Dimel said. “We have to execute, be precise and play with tempo. We have to come off the football and create avenues, whether it’s run or pass and be aggressive at the line of scrimmage and do things like that. It’ll help our confidence grow as an offensive unit. The tempo and pace of execution will be really important for us.”

UTEP and North Texas will kickoff what could be the first Sun Bowl sellout since 2008 at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Sun Bowl.