EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — UTEP is 5-1 for the first time in over a decade and one win shy of becoming bowl eligible for the first time since 2014. The Miners, who will host LA Tech on Saturday at Sun Bowl Stadium, isn’t thinking bowl game right now — they’re thinking bigger.
“We are taking it week-by-week and trying to go 1-0 every week,” said sophomore quarterback Gavin Hardison. “Going to a bowl game is one of our goals, for sure, but we want to take it further than that.”
It has been an unprecedented start for the Miners who have won as many games this season (5) as head coach Dana Dimel had won in his first three seasons combined. This is just the eighth time in program history that UTEP has started a season 5-1, and their first 2-0 start in Conference USA play since 2008. The Miners haven’t started 6-1 since 2005.
Breaking down doors and snapping streaks has been the theme of the season, and Dimel believes that can continue on Saturday against the Bulldogs.
“There are so many things that can be accomplished from a win,” said Dimel. “The bowl part of it is on everyone’s goal chart, and this win would get us to that number, but more importantly is the challenge to continue to play well at home.”
UTEP is 3-0 at the Sun Bowl this season, and they haven’t beat LA Tech at home since 1939. It’s a series the Bulldogs lead, 14-2-1, including the last eight meetings. Last year’s game was tightly contested in Ruston, but one the Miners dropped, 21-17.
“Right now, we haven’t accomplished anything,” said sophomore defensive end Praise Amaewhule. “We just have to focus on this week, focus on LA Tech and focus on beating them. Until we’re in that bowl game, we can’t think about that right now.”
The Bulldogs opened as a 9.0-point favorite on the road, but one thing has been clear so far this season: Las Vegas oddsmakers have underestimated the Miners just like the rest of the country. UTEP has won all five of their winnable games on the schedule, but the next step is for Dimel’s team to start pulling off some upsets. This week against LA Tech would be a great time to start.
“I think that’s how you change the whole landscape of the program — you win games that you’re not supposed to win,” said Dimel. “Someone told me [Las] Vegas had us picked to win 2.5 games this year. That was the over-under, and we’ve already done a little bit better than that. What the line says on this game doesn’t mean anything to me, but it is big for us to win at home.”
Kickoff at Sun Bowl Stadium is scheduled for 7 p.m. MT. The game will stream live on ESPN+.