EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – UTEP is continuing its preparations for its home opener on Saturday vs. Incarnate Word, after dropping their season opener at Jacksonville State last weekend.

Incarnate Word made the FCS Semifinals in 2022 and have reloaded under new head coach Clint Killough, who is just 30 years old and served as the Cardinals’ wide receivers coach a year ago.

The offense should be similar with Killough at the helm, but the personnel running it will be totally different.

“Last year, they had a tremendous, tremendous football team. I mean, a team that would have finished in the upper level of Conference USA, a team that went deep into the playoffs and was a really, really good football team,” said UTEP head coach Dana Dimel at Monday’s press conference.

Incarnate Word brought in a bevy of transfers from the FBS and Power-5 level in the offseason. They have nine players that played big minutes at those levels, including running back Tre Siggers and defensive end Steven Parker.

However, the most important of them all might be quarterback Zach Calzada. He didn’t play at all last year after transferring to Auburn, but in 2021 when he was at Texas A&M, he threw for over 2,000 yards and 17 touchdowns. He also engineered a huge Aggies upset of then-No. 1 Alabama, throwing for three touchdowns.

“They’ve got plenty of talent across the board at every position and will be a team, just because it’s their first game and they’ve got a bunch of new players playing together, it makes it a little bit tougher preparation for our coaching staff and for us to prepare for the game,” Dimel said. “We know they’re loaded with a bunch of D-1 talent and got a DI talented football team. The preparation for them will be one that we have to go back and study a lot of film of them at other places.”

Calzada upset Alabama, so a trip to the Sun Bowl to face UTEP likely won’t phase him too much. UTEP will have to play well against the Cardinals on Saturday based on the personnel they have on the roster.

Kickoff for Saturday’s home opener is slated for 7 p.m. at the Sun Bowl and will air on ESPN+.