EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – On the heels of nearly winning the program’s first bowl game in 54 years in 2021, a 1-3 start to 2022 wasn’t what UTEP had in mind.
But, that’s exactly where the Miners stand after a 27-10 loss to New Mexico last Saturday in Albuquerque. One of the most highly-anticipated seasons in recent UTEP history has instead seen the Miners stumble out of the starting blocks, with the class of the Mountain West Conference – Boise State – coming to the Sun Bowl on Friday night at 7 p.m.
Very little has gone right for UTEP in its first four games; an offense that impressed during the 2021 season ranks 121st out of 131 FBS teams in passing efficiency and 123rd in scoring offense. Head coach Dana Dimel’s offense has scored just five touchdowns through four games.
There’s plenty of blame to go around for the start, but it was Dimel that shouldered much of it for the Miners’ seven-turnover showing at New Mexico.
“As I go back and look, we probably should have played that game a whole different way offensively and tried to get the type of score that we had last year against them, a low-scoring ball game that the team that executes the best wins,” Dimel said. “But what we did is we got too aggressive, and we gave them opportunities. We obviously had way too many turnovers and they just kept growing as the game went along. I didn’t do a great job of managing that game and playing the type of style that gave us the best chance to win. So, live and learn from that, but not good management of a ball game there.”
Usually a balanced offensive attack, UTEP instead ran the ball only 21 times, compared to 46 passing attempts, something Dimel lamented on Saturday night as well. In the moments that they did run the football, UTEP had some success doing so, but Dimel said they went away from it too early.
Dimel is the one that calls plays on gamedays for UTEP and he’s certainly had success doing so in the past, but he admitted that the New Mexico game plan and play-calling wasn’t up to snuff. It was one of a few topics that Dimel said needed to improve heading into the clash with Boise State.
“If you call a good game, your team wins and if you don’t, your team loses. As an offensive play-caller, it’s really important that you remember that you play to win the game. Obviously, we haven’t done that this year as many times as we’ve lost, so your evaluation as an offensive play-caller is that you’re 1-3 right now. That’s got to get better so we win more football games.”
On Monday, the Miners’ players called a players-only meeting, in an attempt to right the ship and turn things around after the disappointing start.
Dimel wants a player-led program and the Miners coming together themselves to attempt to rally the season back to where they want it to be could be an important moment.
“It’s tough, but I think it really needed to happen because everyone is humbled and back down to earth,” said UTEP senior wide receiver Rey Flores. “Everybody really thought that we were going to come out and win the first four games. It hasn’t gone like we expected but we’re good, we settled and we’re ready to go.”
Against Boise State team that took down New Mexico 31-14 on Sept. 9, the Miners will no doubt have their hands full, especially on a short week. UTEP agreed to play the game on a Friday night to accommodate the national television audience on CBS Sports Network.
That speeds up their preparation for the Broncos (2-1), who will come into the Sun Bowl on Friday night as 15.5-point favorites. It’s something UTEP did a couple times last year though, for games vs. Boise State in Idaho and then late in the season vs. UAB.
“There’s less time for preparation, but at the same time, we just have to lock into their personnel, their blitzes and what they do as a team and do our part as players,” said sophomore running back Deion Hankins.
UTEP is in danger of falling to 1-4 if they lose to Boise State and the schedule doesn’t get easier after that with road trips to Charlotte and Louisiana Tech on the horizon Oct. 1 and Oct. 8, respectively.
First thing’s first for the Miners, though, and that’s the Broncos. UTEP and Boise State will kickoff at 7 p.m. on Friday night at the Sun Bowl.