EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – After snapping a three-game losing streak last week against Rice, UTEP will look to close out the regular season with their eighth win of the season at UAB on Friday. The Miners (7-4, 4-3 Conference USA) and Blazers (7-4, 5-2 Conference USA) will feature two of the top defenses in Conference USA.
“There’s nothing more fun than playing on a Friday after Thanksgiving. It’s a great college football atmosphere,” said UTEP head coach Dana Dimel. “We have a wonderful opportunity to go to Birmingham and play — as everyone knows — a very good football team. They have tremendous defensive football statistics, and they are one of the top defenses in the entire country.”
It’s a short prep week for the Miners, playing their second Friday game of the season. Boise State took it to UTEP in a 54-13 loss to the Broncos on Sept. 10. However, this team feels like they can use the experience of playing in a short week to their advantage, something UAB has yet to do this season.
“It’s a quick turn-around, but Coach Dimel has a great schedule for us this week,” said UTEP sophomore defensive end Praise Amaewhule. “We’ve played a Friday game before, so it’s not something new. It’s something we’ve done before, and we just have to go out there and play hard. We have to compete and take all the little things serious.”
Defensively, the Blazers rank third in Conference USA in scoring defense (22.6 points allowed per game), while ranking first in total defense (325.2 yards allowed per game). Meanwhile, the Miners’ defense ranks eighth nationally in third-down conversion percentage (31 percent), 11th in red zone defense, and 32nd in total defense.
“UAB has been a powerhouse in our conference for the last so many years since I’ve been here,” said Dimel. “They have great athletes, have some good defenders on defense who have been with them for a while. They have really good speed across the defense. They play a really good brand of football at UAB.”
UTEP is already guaranteed their first winning season since 2014, but a win over UAB on Friday would mark the first eight-win season since 2005 under Mike Price. The Miners haven’t won nine games in a season since 1988 when Bob Stull led UTEP to a 10-3 mark.
Kickoff at Protective Stadium is at 12 p.m. MT. The game will stream live on ESPN+.
Game Notes (Courtesy: UTEP Athletics)
UTEP (7-4, 4-3 C-USA) at UAB (7-4, 5-2 C-USA)
Date: Friday, Nov. 26
Time: 12:00 p.m. MT/1 CT
Location: Birmingham, Ala.
Venue: Protective Stadium
Twitter Updates: @UTEPFB
Stream: ESPN+ (WATCH)
PxP: Curt Bloom
Analyst: Chad Pilcher
Sideline: Lynden Blake
Radio: 600 ESPN El Paso
PxP: Jon Teicher
Analyst: Mike Perez
Sideline: Kevin Perry
UAB owns a 6-1 record against UTEP. The Blazers have won the last five meetings. The Miners last defeated UAB in 2006 by the score of 36-17 at Legion Field. UTEP is 1-3 vs. UAB in Birmingham overall.
GOING FOR A RARE 5
UTEP is seeking its first 5-win Conference USA season since going 5-3 in 2014. The Miners also won five games in 2005.
UTEP won its seventh game for the first time since finishing 7-6 in 2014. The Miners have notched seven or more wins in a season for only the 19th time in 104 years of football. They posted a school-record 10 wins in 1988, eight on eight occasions (1948, 1949, 1953, 1954, 1965, 2000, 2004, 2005), and seven eight times (1930, 1931, 1932, 1937, 1950, 1967, 1987, 2014). UTEP has tallied seven wins this season for only the seventh time in 53 years.
400-PLUS YARDS TOTAL YARDS
UTEP’s 488 yards of total offense versus Rice was a season best. It’s also the fourth time the Miners have gone over 400 yards of total offense this. UTEP hit 452 at NM State, 472 against Bethune Cookman and 437 at Florida Atlantic. It’s the most game with 400-plus yards since 2016 when UTEP did it five times.
AWATT RUNNING WILD
Ronald Awatt recorded a career-high 184 all-purpose yards in UTEP’s victory against Rice. Awatt set career highs in receptions (two), receiving yards (65) and long reception (65) against the Owls. Awatt also racked up 119 yards rushing on only nine carries (13.2 avg.), including a career-long 74-yard run in the fourth quarter.
HARDISON’S AIR ATTACK
Gavin Hardison threw for a career-high 366 on 23-of-35 passing (65.7 percent) in UTEP’s win over Rice. He surpassed his previous high of 327 yards set at Florida Atlantic. Hardison tied his career high with 23 completions, matching that number from the FAU game.
A NOTE ON 366 YARD PASSING YARDS
Gavin Hardison is the only Miner to ever throw for 366 yards in program history. His performance is the 23rd best effort on the single-game list. It ranks in between Trevor Vittatoe (373 at Rice in 2007) and Nick Lamaison (365 vs. Stony Brook in 2011).
GAVIN’S 300-YARD GAMES
Gavin Hardison recorded his third career 300-yard passing game after tossing for 366 against Rice. Hardison threw for 327 at FAU this season, and threw for 302 at ULM on Sept. 26, 2020. Hardison is tied with Bill Craigo (1969-71) and Pat Hegarty (1987-88) for seventh on the all-time list with a trio of 300-yard career games.
LOOKING FOR 3,000
Gavin Hardison is 239 yards away from hitting 3,000 yards passing in 2021. Hardison would be the first 3,000-yard passer since 2009 when Trevor Vittatoe threw for 3,308 yards (third best in program history during a single-season). Jordan Palmer holds the school record with 3,595 yards in 2006. Prior to that season, Palmer threw for 3,503 yards – second best all-time in program history.
REELING IN RECEPTIONS
Dana Dimel was asked by local media members about getting Jacob Cowing the ball more following the North Texas game. Cowing responded with a career-high 11 receptions for 170 yards against Rice. Cowing’s previous high was nine catches against LA Tech earlier this season.
MORE ON COWING’S RECEPTIONS
Jacob Cowing has hauled in 62 receptions in 2021. His total ranks sixth-best on the program’s single-season list. Cowing surpassed Lee Mays total of 60 in 1999. Brian Natkin tallied 64 receptions in 2000, ranking fifth, while Jeff Moturi ranks fourth with 65 catches in 2007. Johnnie Lee Higgins Jr. leads the all-time list with 82 receptions in 2006.
THIRD-MOST RECEIVING YARDS
Jacob Cowing has registered 1,267 yards receiving, ranking third on the program’s single-season receiving yards’ list. Chuck Hughes holds the school record with 1,519 yards set during the 1965 season, while Johnnie Lee Higgins Jr. racked up 1,319 yards in 2006.
THE RETURN OF QUARDRAIZ
Quardraiz Wadley, who had been hampered by injuries, made his first start since the first game of 2020 against Rice on ‘Senior Day.’ Wadley rushed for 40 yards on 13 carries and a touchdown on a one-yard rush in the fourth quarter. Wadley’s TD was the 10th of his career.
THE RETURN OF INYANG
Dy’vonne Inyang made his return to the lineup after being injured, staring at strong safety for the first time in two games against Rice. Inyang responded with a career-high two pass breakups and chipped in with six tackles – third most on the team. Inyang ranks fourth on the team with 44 tackles and is tied for the team lead with two interceptions.