UTEP turns the page to North Texas following back-to-back losses


EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – Coming off back-to-back losses, including a 44-23 drubbing at the hands of nationally-ranked UTSA at home on Saturday, UTEP returned to the practice field on Monday ready to turn the page.

The Miners (6-3, 3-2 Conference USA) are now in third place in C-USA West and a Division title is probably out of the question now. However, there’s still plenty for UTEP to play for in 2021, including a myriad of options for bowl games.

Representatives from the Bahamas Bowl, Independence Bowl and New Mexico Bowl were in attendance for the UTSA-UTEP game on Saturday.

Additionally, winning its final three regular season games of the year would get the Miners to nine wins for just the third time in program history and first time since 1988, when UTEP won a program-record 10 games. Even winning two out of three would get UTEP to eight wins for the first time since 2005; eight-win seasons have only happened at UTEP 10 times in 84 seasons of Miner football.

It’s all predicated on how UTEP is able to bounce back and end its two-game losing streak, beginning Saturday at North Texas (3-6, 2-3 C-USA). The Mean Green have won two games in a row over Rice and Southern Miss, respectively and have been improving ever since a mid-October blowout loss at Marshall.

“It’s an opportunity for our football team to get to seven wins, to get to a 7-3 record after 10 ball games,” said UTEP head coach Dana Dimel. “To me, that’s really something to strive for. Our football team is ready to go out and perform, get things fixed that we didn’t do well last week and continue to try and improve.”

UTEP enters the clash as a 1.5-point favorite, looking for revenge after a tough loss in Denton in 2020. Missing starting quarterback Gavin Hardison and five defensive backs due to transfers and COVID-19, the Miners still hung tough, losing 45-43 to close the 2020 regular season last December.

The Miners are in an entirely different situation this time around, with so many positives still on the table. Dimel said at his press conference on Monday that he was pleased with how his team attacked practice following the loss to UTSA.

“We’re still in a great position in our season and I though our guys did a great job of grabbing a hold of it today,” said Dimel. “Losing doesn’t come easy to our guys. I can see it in their eyes in how they react to losses and come back to prepare. We have to make sure to look at what we’ve accomplished so far and what we could still do if we get us some good wins down the stretch here.”

To avoid a late-season tailspin, Saturday in Denton is beginning to seem like a must-win situation for UTEP. Lucky for them, star wide receiver Jacob Cowing will play after suffering a shoulder injury vs. UTSA. Both Cowing and Dimel told KTSM that his injury wasn’t serious and he’d be good to go vs. the Mean Green.

UTEP’s defense might not be so lucky. Already without safety Justin Prince because of a broken foot, likely until the bowl game, Dy’vonne Inyang did not play last week vs. the Roadrunners after suffering an injury in practice.

Inyang did not practice on Monday and isn’t currently listed on the Miners’ two-deep depth chart. However, Dimel said on Monday that he liked how Inyang was progressing and the possibility of him playing at UNT was on the table, based on pain tolerance.

UTEP and North Texas will kickoff at 2 p.m. MT in Denton, as the Miners look for their first win over the Mean Green since 2016. The game will air on ESPN+.

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