UTEP looks to slow down undefeated 16th-ranked UTSA on national TV Saturday night


EL PASO, Texas – UTEP (6-2, 3-1 Conference USA), after coming off a tough loss at FAU, will face its biggest challenge yet of 2021. Undefeated and no. 16/18-ranked UTSA (8-0, 4-0 C-USA) comes to El Paso for a nationally televised game against the Miners on Saturday night in the Sun Bowl. The contest, sponsored by Las Palmas Del Sol, is set for an 8:15 p.m. kick on ESPN2.

The contest will feature one of the top defenses in the nation versus one of the more potent offenses nationally. The Miners rank no. 7 in total defense, while the Roadrunners average 39.4 points per game, ranking 11th in FBS. 

The Miners and Roadrunners can be heard on “The Home of UTEP Football” 600 ESPN El Paso with “The Voice of the Miners” Jon Teicher calling the action, former UTEP QB Mike Perez providing analysis and Mando Medina roaming the sidelines.

Tickets are available by calling The Eisenberg Family Ticket Office at (915) 747-UTEP, emailing tickets@utep.edu, or visiting www.UTEPMiners.com/tickets.

UTEP is coming off a tough 28-25 loss at FAU on Oct. 30. The Miners, trailing 28-10, rallied to make it a contest when Ronald Awatt scored a touchdown and added the two-point conversion with 2:50 remaining. Specialty kicker Mark Ramos connected on an onside kick in which the Miners recovered. Gavin Hardison followed with a 49-yard touchdown to Tyrin Smith with just over two minutes to play. UTEP got the ball back with about a minute, but couldn’t capitalize. Breon Hayward led the defense with 14 tackles, while Praise Amaewhule tallied a sack, giving him 5.5 in 2021. Smith registered his first career 100-yard game with 114 yards on four receptions. Hardison also threw for a career-best 327 yards on career highs in completions (23) and attempts (46).

“When I told the guys after the game [at FAU] in locker room is that the loss does not make this game less important. It makes it more important,” UTEP Head Coach Dana Dimel said. “If we want a chance to contend for a conference championship, this game becomes really important for us to do that.”

UTSA, prior to its bye week, won big at LA Tech, 45-16, on Oct. 23. Frank Harris tossed a pair of touchdowns to Zakhari Franklin, while Sincere McCormick rushed for three scores and 113 yards. Dadrian Taylor added a 51-yard pick six, while picking up five tackles.

“The challenge is there with them being an undefeated team,” Dimel added. “They played extremely well all season. They’ve been very consistent with what they’ve done and they’re playing really good football with what they’ve done. They’re playing good football on three segments of what they’re doing. They have a really talented team. They’re very experienced with a lot of players coming back from last year. For us, the challenge of trying to stop their running back that’s really super productive, physical and very good player. The quarterback is very athletic and mobile. Their receivers are dynamic and very well balanced. They have two good tight ends. Just very well-balanced on offense.”

Saturday’s Promotions

Saturday’s contest will feature “Band Night” and “Salute to Troops”. The matchup with the Roadrunners will feature UTEP’s annual celebration of the nation’s Armed Forces, including the U.S. Army post at Fort Bliss. Plus, the game will also feature a spectacular halftime performance by local marching bands.

The “Seats for Soldiers” campaign enables UTEP football fans to send military personnel and their families to the Miners’ football versus UTSA. Fans can purchase a $40 “Seats for Soldiers” package, which pays for four tickets.

UTEP (6-2, 3-1 C-USA) vs. #16/18 UTSA (8-0, 4-0 C-USA)

Date: Saturday, Nov. 6

Time: 8:15 p.m. MT

Location: El Paso, Texas

Venue: Sun Bowl Stadium

Twitter Updates: @UTEPFB

Sponsors: Las Palmas Del Sol

Stream: ESPN2

PxP: Clay Matvick

Analyst: Rocky Boiman

Sideline Reporter: Tiffany Blackmon

Radio: 600 ESPN El Paso

PxP: Jon Teicher

Analyst: Mike Perez

Sideline: Mando Medina

Miners Notables


UTSA owns a 6-2 record against UTEP all-time, including a 4-0 mark in the Sun Bowl. The Miners last defeated the Roadrunners on Oct. 22, 2016 when it took five overtimes to win, 52-49. Since then, UTSA has won the last four meeting by an average of 16.8 points. The Roadrunners have outscored the Miners, 139-72, during that span. UTSA defeated UTEP, 52-21, in the last meeting last season in the Alamodome.


UTEP last hosted a ranked team on Sept. 1, 2012 when no. 4 Oklahoma came to the Sun Bowl. The Miners last defeated a ranked team at home on Oct. 3, 2009 when they defeated no. 12 Houston 58-41. UTEP is 4-55 all-time versus AP Top 25 teams, including a 3-18 mark at home. The Miners’ two other home wins came against no. 7 BYU, 23-16, on Oct. 26, 1985, and no. 25 BYU, 14-3, on Nov. 1, 1997. UTEP last faced a ranked team on Sept. 12, 2020 at no. 14 Texas.


The Miners last played on an ESPN Network (ESPN) on Sept. 15, 2017 against Arizona in the Sun Bowl. UTEP last played on ESPN2 on Sept. 1, 2008 when the Miners hosted Texas. UTEP also played on ESPN at Houston on Sept. 10, 2010, and at the Gildan New Mexico Bowl on Dec. 20, 2014. UTEP also hosted Tulane on ESPN on Oct. 21, 2009.


The UTEP defense held Florida Atlantic to 280 yards on Oct. 30. The Miners have now allowed less than 300 yards in six games this season, their most since doing so eight times in 1966.


The Miners have held their opponents to less than 300 yards of total offense the last five games. The last time a UTEP defense did so was six consecutive games from Nov. 7, 1970 to Sept. 25, 1971. 


UTEP has started the 2021 season with eight consecutive games of at least 300-plus yards of total offense. It’s the most consecutive 300-yard games since going 11 straight games from Oct. 9, 2009 thru Sept. 18, 2010. The last time UTEP opened the season with eight 300-yard games was the 2000 season when the Miners put up 300-plus yards the first 10 games of the season.


UTEP has won six consecutive games in the Sun Bowl dating back to last season. The Miners defeated Stephen F. Austin (24-14 on Sept. 5, 2020), Abilene Christian (17-13 on Sept. 19, 2020), Bethune-Cookman (38-28 on Sept. 4, 2021), New Mexico (20-13 on Sept. 25, 2021), Old Dominion (28-21 on Oct. 2, 2021) and LA Tech (19-3 on Oct. 16, 2021) during that span. It’s the longest winning streak in the Sun Bowl since a six-game surge over the course of the 2014 and 2015 seasons.


Gavin Hardison set career highs in passing yards (327), completions (23) and attempts (46) at Florida Atlantic. Hardison added two touchdown passes against the Owls. It was Hardison’s second career 300-yard passing game. His previous high was 302 yards at ULM last season.


Gavin Hardison’s totals in 2021 (114 comp., 204 att., 1,876 yards, 10 TD) are all career highs. His 10 TDs are the most since Ryan Metz’s 14 in 2016, while his passing yards are the most since Jameill Showers threw for 1,858 yards in 2014. Hardison is also looking to be the first Miner to hit over 2,000 yards passing in a single season since 2010 when Trevor Vittatoe threw for 2,756 yards.


Tyrin Smith recorded his first career 100-yard game after recording 114 yards on a career-tying four receptions at FAU. Smith added a 49-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter that helped the Miners get within three points of the Owls after being down 18 points. Smith’s previous high was 76 yards on Sept. 4. Smith ranks third on the team in receptions (15) and receiving yards (313), while ranking tied for second with a pair of receiving scores. Smith leads the team in yards per reception (20.9 avg.).

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