UTEP relishes underdog role as it heads into New Mexico Bowl vs. Fresno State


EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – In search of its first bowl win since 1967, UTEP will face Fresno State in the New Mexico Bowl on Dec. 18 in Albuquerque.

Bowl wins haven’t happened very often in El Paso, but one thing the 2021 Miners are comfortable with is being underdogs.

“We don’t really take notice of being an underdog,” said senior wide receiver Justin Garrett. “We have to continue to work and play with a chip on our shoulder. People still won’t give us a shot, so we have to give them a reason to.”

UTEP opened as a 13-point underdog to Fresno State on Sunday night; by Monday evening, the line had dropped to favor the Bulldogs by 11 points. This is familiar territory for the Miners; they were underdogs in no less than eight games this year and still went 7-5 to qualify for the first bowl game in seven years.

They’re comfortable with the feeling and facing a Fresno State team with an interim coach in Lee Marks, plus a freshman backup quarterback, perhaps UTEP can pounce for a win.

“We’ve been big underdogs all year, we’ve gone into games as over 10-point underdogs and we haven’t left a game yet that we went in as over 10-point underdogs that I didn’t feel like if we played well we shouldn’t have won the game,” said head coach Dana Dimel. “It doesn’t scare us, it’s just where we are and what it is.”

With Fresno State head coach Kalen DeBoer taking the Washington job, the Bulldogs appear to be zeroing in on a familiar name to be their next head coach. Multiple reports have said that Jeff Tedford could be returning to Fresno State; he coached the Bulldogs from 2017-2019, winning the 2018 Mountain West Conference championship, before resigning due to health issues.

DeBoer has moved on and taken multiple assistant coaches with him to Seattle. With Tedford seemingly healthy again, it appears he’s the man for the job in Fresno. However, it’s unknown how much, if any, he’ll be involved for the bowl game.

UTEP and Fresno State will square off in the New Mexico Bowl at 12:15 p.m. MT on Dec. 18 in Albuquerque. The game will air on ESPN.

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