EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – UTEP (4-4, 2-2 Conference USA) will aim to grab its fifth win of the season when they host Middle Tennessee (3-4, 0-3 Conference USA) at the Sun Bowl on Saturday night.
UTEP is coming off 24-21 win over Florida Atlantic last Saturday. The Miners pulled back to a .500 winning percentage and will have the chance to go over .500 for the first time this season when they play Middle Tennessee.
UTEP is two wins away from becoming eligible for a bowl game. The Miners are looking to go to back-to-back bowl games for the first time since 2004 and 2005. They can get one step closer to that if they pull out a win against the Blue Raiders, but it won’t be easy.
“”We need to have a great ballgame against Middle Tennessee. Middle Tennessee is a team that has played a really difficult schedule. The teams that they’ve played in our conference are really good football teams and so they have lots of team speed,” said UTEP head coach Dana Dimel. “I mean, all you have to do is go back and watch their game against Miami where they just got after it from the very get go and won decisively against Miami. They’re one of the best teams in the country at causing turnovers.”
Dimel is right. Middle Tennessee grabbed a 45-31 win over, at the time, No. 25, Miami back on Sept. 24. The Blue Raiders also have a disruptive defense. MTSU is ranked in the top 20 nationally in five categories. The defense is No. 3 in defensive touchdowns (3), No. 9 in red zone defense (.690), No. 10 in interceptions (10), No. 17 in turnovers gained (15) and No. 17 in TFLs (37.0).
It will be vital for UTEP to protect the ball if they want to increase their chances of winning the game. The Miners have had at least one turnover in seven of their eight games this season. In the last three games combined, the Miners have turned over the ball six times.
“This is going to be a really big game to not turn the ball over, to win the turnover margin because they’re so good at causing turnovers. So that’s going to be really important for us.” said Dimel.
“They’re a good team. They’ve had some big games. I know they beat Miami and they’ve lost some close ones, too,” said UTEP senior wide receiver Rey Flores. “So, I think they’re with us, too. But I think if we just play our game like we did this past week, execute and not turn over the ball – we’ll win.”
UTEP hopes to use the momentum the gained from their big win over Florida Atlantic last Saturday to win their next game against MTSU.
“It’s a big win. It propels us. It gets us back to where we need to be,” said Dimel. “When you look at the start of the season and you look at the games that we’ve had to play, some we probably should have lost and some we won that we weren’t picked to win. So, this got us back in a fighting position to get us to a lot of what our goals were.”
UTEP is hoping to secure their fifth win of the season to get them closer to becoming eligible for a bowl game. The Miners and Blue Raiders have met four times in the all-time series. MTSU leads the series 3-1. The last time these two teams met, the Blue Raiders walked away from the Sun Bowl with a 48-32 win over the Miners back on Nov. 10, 2018.
UTEP is seeking revenge and hope to take themselves closer to achieving a big goal that was set before the season even started: qualify for another bowl game.
UTEP and Middle Tennessee will face off on Saturday, Oct. 29 at the Sun Bowl. Kickoff is set for 7:00 p.m. MT. The game will also serve as the “90th Homecoming Game” for UTEP.