EL PASO, Texas – UTEP will play under the Thursday night lights for the first time in 10 seasons when it takes on Rice in Houston on Nov. 3. The Miners and Owls are set to kick off at 5 p.m. MT/6 CT in Rice Stadium. The contest will be nationally televised on CBS Sports Network.
The Miners last played a Thursday night game on Oct. 11, 2012 at Tulsa. Since 2004, the Miners have played in five Thursday night games (2004, 2006, 2008, 2011, 2012).
Thursday night’s battle features two of the top defenses in C-USA. The Miner rank second in total defense (355.4) while the Owls rank third (370.1). UTEP ranks tied fourth nationally with 10 fumbles recovered.
UTEP (4-5, 2-3 C-USA) is coming off a 24-13 loss against Middle Tennessee in the Sun Bowl on Oct. 29 on Homecoming night. Cal Wallerstedt racked up a career-high 14 tackles while Tyrin Smith recorded a career-best 10 receptions for 117 yards and a TD. But MT QB Chase Cunningham threw for 265 yards and three scores and Jaylin Tate torched the UTEP defensive backs with 147 yards on seven receptions including a 75-yard touchdown to put the Miners away. UTEP totaled 292 yards of total offense. Gavin Baechle extended his school record consecutive field goals streak to 17 after hitting two makes of 47 yards. He’s 17-of-18 on the season. “Bagel” ranks third nationally in FGM. Tyrice Knight tallied 11 tackles, Jadrian Taylor notched his C-USA-leading eighth sack and it was the return of the sack as Praise Amaewhule recorded his first of the season.
Rice (4-4, 0-3 C-USA) was trounced by Charlotte 56-23 in Houston on Oct. 29. The Owls led 14-7 after the first quarter. The Rice defense gave up 514 yards of total offense and gained 370. TJ McMahon tossed three touchdowns and led the Owls with 45 yards on the ground. Bradley Rozner recorded five receptions for 105 yards and was on the other end of two of those touchdowns passes. Luke McCaffery tallied 58 yards on four catches and a score. LB Andrew Awe led the way with eight tackles.
“[Rice has] some really talented receivers. They got a quarterback that’s throwing the ball well,” UTEP Head Coach Dana Dimel said, “The game’s probably going to be short because if you look at it, one of their things is they’re a little bit different style of offense than what they’ve been in years past because they’re not running the ball as much as they have in the past. They’re running it well, they’re throwing the ball well, but they’re still doing a good job of eating up the clock. And so, I know we’re somewhere in the top-seven. If you go down seven, six, five, I don’t know exactly where time of possession and they’re up there high in the country in time and possession again. So, it’ll be one of those games that we won’t have a whole lot of plays to it, and it’ll be one that every play is going to be crucial for our football team to execute.”
UTEP (4-5, 2-3) at Rice (4-4, 2-2)
Date: Thursday, Nov. 3
Time: 5:00 p.m. MT/6 CT
Location: Houston, Texas
Venue: Rice Stadium (47,000)
Twitter Updates: @UTEPFB
TV: CBS Sports Network
PxP: Carter Blackburn
Analyst: Tom Herman
Radio: ESPN 600 El Paso
PxP: Jon Teicher
Analyst: Cole Freytag
Sideline: Mando Medina
A BIT OF THURSDAY NIGHT HISTORY
UTEP is playing in its sixth Thursday night game since 2004 and is 1-4 in those games played. The Miners fell at Arizona State 41-9 on Sept. 2, 2004. UTEP followed with a 34-27 victory at San Diego State on Aug. 31, 2006. UTEP opened the 2008 season at Buffalo in a 42-17 loss on Aug. 28. The Miners played on Thursday night in consecutive seasons – playing at Houston on Sept. 29, 2011 (L, 49-42) and at Tulsa on Oct. 11, 2012 (L, 33-11).
WHERE TO WATCH & LISTEN
The contest will be streamed on CBS Sports Network with Carter Blackburn calling the action with Tom Herman providing analysis. The action returns to 600 ESPN El Paso with “The Voice of the Miners” Jon Teicher calling play-by-play in his 42nd season. ‘Teich’ is joined by former UTEP WR Cole Freytag (2012, 2014-16) in the booth providing analysis in his first season and Mando Medina reporting from the sidelines. The action can also be heard on the UTEP Miners app.
SERIES VS. RICE
Rice leads the all-time series 15-9. The Miners are 9-3 at Rice. UTEP defeated Rice in the last meeting, 38-28, on Nov. 20, 2021 in the Sun Bowl. Gavin Hardison threw for a career-high 366 yards and two TD’s, while Ronald Awatt racked up 184 all-purpose yards. UTEP piled up 488 yards of offense. UTEP last played at Rice on Nov. 3, 2018 as the Miners halted an Owls rally for a 34-26 victory. It was the first win for head coach Dana Dimel at UTEP.
Rice opened the season with a 66-14 loss at no. 14 USC and followed that with victories against McNeese State (52-10) and Louisiana (33-21). The Owls are 2-2 in Conference USA action, falling it their last one 56-23 against Charlotte on Oct. 29. Rice has defeated UAB 28-24 and won at LA Tech 42-41. Rice’s other loss came at FAU 17-14. Junior QB TJ McMahon ranks sixth in C-USA with 16 touchdown passes. He’s thrown 11 interceptions and is completing 58.5 percent (131-224) of his passes for 1,703 yards. Sophomore WR Luke McCaffery ranks 10th in C-USA with 77.7 yards per game. Overall, he’s hauled in 47 receptions for 613 yards and six scores. Senior WR Bradley Rozner averages 21.4 yards per catch (third in C-USA) and has tallied 579 yards on 27 receptions with seven scores. Rozner is tied for fourth in TD catches in C-USA. Junior LB Chris Conti leads the team with 47 tackles. The Rice defense has picked off six passes led by sophomore DB Gabriel Taylor’s two INTs. Overall, the Owls are averaging 29.1 points per game and are giving up 33.6 points per contest. Rice averages 370.9 yards per game, ranking eighth in C-USA and yields 370.1 yards per game, good for third in the league.
ANOTHER SCHOOL RECORD
Senior K/P Gavin Baechle set another school record when he made his 16th consecutive field goal against MT. Baechle nailed a 47-yard field goal in the second quarter and followed that with his 17th straight make on another 47-yard attempt in the fourth quarter. Baechle missed his first attempt of the season, but rebounded in a big way to hit his next 17 FGs.
EXTENDING HIS SCHOOL RECORD
Gavin Baechle nailed career field goals 52 and 53 against MT. Baechle set the school record last week against FAU and hitting career FG no. 51 and surpassing Reagan Schneider’s (2003-2006) total of 50.
BAECHLE LEADING THE WAY
Senior K/P Gavin Baechle is first in Conference USA with 17 made field goals and ranks third nationally. Baechle is 17-for-18 on the season. Baechle leads C-USA in field goals made per game (1.9). His 94.4 percent ranks second in C-USA.
TYRIN HAULS IN DOUBLE-DIGIT RECEPTIONS
Redshirt sophomore WR Tyrin Smith hauled in a career-high 10 receptions against MT. He tallied 117 yards and a score against the Blue Raiders. His previous high was eight catches down multiple times.
TYRIN BREAKING THE CENTURY MARK
Tyrin Smith recorded his fifth career 100-yard game against MT. Smith, a 5-7 speedster, tallied 117 yards on a career-best 10 receptions against the Blue Raiders. Smith ranks tied 16th on the program’s all-time 100-yard receiving list.
122 at Florida Atlantic – Oct. 30, 2021
127 vs. North Texas – Aug. 27, 2022
183 (career high) at New Mexico – Sept. 17, 2022
106 at Charlotte – Oct. 1, 2022
117 vs. MT – Oct. 29, 2022
Tyrin Smith leads Conference USA with 803 yards receiving. Smith ranks third in C-USA with 56 receptions and ranks third in yards per game (89.2). Nationally, Smith ranks ninth in receiving yards.
Tyrin Smith has now caught a pass in 21 consecutive games dating back to Sept. 4, 2021 against Bethune-Cookman (4 rec., 76 yards). Smith has also registered at least two receptions in his last 15 games.
UTEP’s defense ranks tied fourth nationally and leads Conference USA with 10 fumble recoveries. The Miners lead C-USA and rank tied second nationally with 13 forced fumbles. UTEP ranks fourth nationally in fumbles forced per game (1.4).
RETURN OF THE SACK
Redshirt junior DE Praise Amaewhule recorded his first sack of the season against MT. He now has 16.5 in career and needs 4.0 sacks to break the school’s all-time mark.
LEADER OF THE SACK
Senior DE Jadrian Taylor leads UTEP, Conference USA and is tied first nationally with 8.0 sacks after tallying one against MT. Taylor also registered a sack at no. 9 Oklahoma, 3.0 at Charlotte, another one at LA Tech and 2.0 against FAU. Taylor has 14.5 career sacks after posting 6.5 last season.
LEADER OF THE PACK
Jadrian Taylor leads UTEP and Conference USA with 10.0 tackles for loss. Taylor tallied a career-best tying 3.5 tackles for loss against FAU.
CAREER HIGH FOR CAL
Redshirt junior LB Cal Wallerstedt tallied a career-high and team-high 14 tackles against MT. It surpasses his previous high of 11 stops against FAU last week. Wallerstedt has tallied 25 tackles the last two games. It’s the first time he’s produced back-to-back double-digit tackle performances. Wallerstedt ranks third on the team with 69 tackles.
UTEP will have its second bye week (Nov. 12). The Miners will return to action on Nov. 19 against FIU in the home finale on “Senior Day”. The Miners and Golden Panthers will kick off at 2 p.m. in Sun Bowl Stadium.