EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – It’s been seven years, but UTEP (5-1, 2-0) is one win away from becoming bowl eligible. The Miners will look to chalk up win No. 6 when they host LA Tech (2-3, 1-0) on Saturday night at Sun Bowl Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. MT.
Even with the Miners’ early success, attendance has been a hot topic on-campus and in El Paso. UTEP is averaging less than 14,000 fans in their first three home games of the season. In order to remain Division I FBS status, programs must average at least 15,000 fans per game. While it’s unlikely UTEP will find themselves below that threshold at the end of the season, players and coaches believe they deserve to have a big crowd on Saturday night.
“The kids have done a good job of putting a good product out on the field for the people of UTEP and El Paso,” said UTEP head coach Dana Dimel. “We deserve to have everyone come out, support us and help us. We have a big game this week, and it would be really nice for everyone to get out there and support their Miners.”
There has been a lot of firsts for this year’s UTEP team. They have won three consecutive games for the first time since 2014 after beating Southern Miss last week, 26-13. The Miners are 5-1 for the first time since 2010 and 2-0 in league play for the first time since 2008. UTEP currently ranks No. 1 in total defense (300.7 ypg allowed) and scoring defense (22.0 ppg) in Conference USA.
LA Tech is coming off a 34-27 loss at No. 23 NC State on Oct. 2 prior to their bye week. The Bulldogs won their league opener, defeating North Texas 24-17 on Sept. 25. LA Tech averages 33.4 points per game, but are giving up 33.4 points per game.
“[LA Tech is] obviously very talented and their quarterback [Austin Kendall] is extremely talented,” said UTEP head coach Dana Dimel. “He’s played at two different Big 12 schools, and has a good resume. They have a running back [Marcus Williams] from App State that’s really talented – a nice addition for them. They have some good receivers coming back from last year who are really talented players. Defensively, they have a bunch of sixth-year players on their defense. A bunch of guys who are super seniors. They’re talented, and we know that. [Skip Holtz] has taken his team to multiple bowl games in-a-row and won most of them. Skip does a good job there and has a really good program. It’ll be a big test for us.”
UTEP (5-1, 2-0 C-USA) vs. LA Tech (2-3, 1-0 C-USA)
Date: Saturday, Oct. 16
Time: 7:00 p.m. MT
Location: El Paso, Texas
Venue: Sun Bowl Stadium
Stream: ESPN+ (Watch)
Radio: 600 ESPN El Paso
Miners Notables — Via UTEP Athletics
LA Tech owns a 14-2-1 record against UTEP. The Miners last beat LA Tech on Oct. 23, 2004, by the score of 44-27 in Ruston. UTEP last defeated LA Tech in El Paso back in 1939 (27-0). The Bulldogs are 7-1-1 in El Paso.
Talking 5-1 Starts
UTEP has bolted out to its first 5-1 start since the 2010 season and only the fifth occasion since 1968. The Miners previously won at least five of their first six games in 2005 (8-1, finished 8-4), 1988 (8-1, finished 10-3) and 1987 (5-1, finished 7-4) in that timeframe.
Turning It Around In C-USA
UTEP is out its first start of 2-0 in Conference USA action since 2008 and the fourth occasion since joining the league in 2005 (2006, 2007, 2008 and 2021). The effort has also allowed the Miners to surpass their total number of league wins from the first three years of head coach Dana Dimel’s tenure and to match their total from the past four seasons overall of conference competition. The Miners were a combined 1-27 in league games from 2017-20, including 1-19 under Dimel.
Putting Up The Points
UTEP has surpassed 25 points in consecutive conference contests for the first time in three years (2018), but that year the Miners were 1-1 in those contests. The last occasion that UTEP scored 25+ points in back-to-back league wins was a three-game surge in 2014.
Shutting Them Down
UTEP has given up a total of 34 points through the first two Conference USA contests. It marks the smallest combined sum through the initial two league contests since allowing 27 points in wins against SMU (37-20, 9/9/00) and Hawaii (39-7, 9/23/00). Coincidentally, that 2000 team will be honored in UTEP’s match-up against LA Tech on Saturday (Oct. 16).
UTEP returns home to play host to LA Tech on Saturday (Oct. 16). The Miners enter the game at 3-0 in the Sun City, something they haven’t done since a 4-0 start in the sun Bowl in 2010. UTEP has won those games by an average of eight points (28.7-20.7), while outpacing the opposition by 80 yards on average (382.0-302.0) of total offense.
All About That Consistency
WR Jacob Cowing has been Mr. Consistency since arriving on campus in 2019. He has caught a pass 24 straight games, with at least two receptions in the last 18 contests of the streak. The only time of his UTEP career that Cowing failed to make a catch came in his second appearance, a 38-3 loss at Big 12 power Texas Tech on Sept. 7, 2019.
Awatt Running Wild
RB Ronald Awatt rushed for a career-high 159 yards on 18 carries (8.8 avg.) at Southern Miss. He surpassed his previous high of 126 yards against Bethune-Cookman on Sept. 4. Awatt leads the Miners with 445 yards on 78 carries. He’s ranked fifth in Conference USA in rushing.
Most Yards in Four Seasons
RB Ronald Awatt’s 159 yards at Southern Miss were the most by a UTEP player since Quardraiz Wadley ran for 156 yards at Army on Sept. 30, 2017.
Controlling the Line of Scrimmage
UTEP posted 14 tackles for loss at Southern Miss on Oct. It’s the most since recording 15 against San Jose State (10/30/04). It was the third time ever in program history that the Miners had 14 or more tackles for loss. UTEP registered 14 against SMU (Nov. 16, 2002). It’s also the 23rd time ever that the Miners racked up double-digit TFL’s.
UTEP’s 16 sacks rank second in Conference USA behind Marshall (24). The Miners average 2.67 sacks per game, also rating second in conference. Miners leads the league in sack yards (122). Nationally, UTEP ranks tied 25th in total sacks, tied 33rd in sacks per game and 14th in sack yards.