Miners host Bulldogs in battle of one-win teams

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Miners host Bulldogs in battle of one-win teams

UTEP has a 37-43-1 record in homecoming games and has won their last five.

UTEP has a 37-43-1 record in homecoming games and has won their last five.

Aaron Montes

UTEP has a 37-43-1 record in homecoming games and has won their last five.

Aaron Montes

Aaron Montes

UTEP has a 37-43-1 record in homecoming games and has won their last five.

Javier Cortez, Staff reporter

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UTEP is set for a rematch against old WAC foes Louisiana Tech on homecoming Oct. 5. It is a must-win game for both schools in order to keep their season hopes alive.

Almost halfway through the season, the Miners stand at 1-3, and in most cases any team losing three of their first four games would be in panic mode. Whereas the Miners are slowly losing out on their chance of winning a Conference USA championship, a win over the Bulldogs could give the team a much-needed boost.

“They (Louisiana Tech) are a good athletic team with a lot of speed. They are a lot like us in the sense that they lost a lot of players from last year,” said head coach Sean Kugler. “They have very fast and active linebackers and they have used two different quarterbacks this season, so we need to be ready for either one.”

The Bulldogs and the Miners were both part of the Western Athletic Conference from 2001-04, and Louisiana Tech leads the series with a 6-1-1 record. UTEP holds a 37-43-1 record all-time for homecoming games, but have won their last five homecoming games. Their most recent one was against another team from the state of Louisiana, Tulane in 2012, which is also the last time the Miners were able to come away with a win at the Sun Bowl.

This week’s game against Louisiana Tech is the second conference game for the Miners, as they get deep into their conference schedule going into the second half of the season. In theory, the Miners are still in the hunt to represent the West in the Conference USA championship.

The Bulldogs are coming into this game at 1-4, with their only win coming against a Division 2 school, Lamar University, 27-14. Despite the Bulldogs’ unimpressive record they do pose problems for UTEP’s defense. The Miners rank 115th in the country, giving up 38.5 points per game, and last week the Miners gave up 250 rushing yards against Colorado State. The Bulldogs have two steady running backs in Kenneth Dixon and Tevin King, who are both averaging more than 5.5 yards per carry.

“Tackling has been an issue for our defense, we have given up too many long runs,” Kugler said. “We need to work a lot on our fundamentals, but also the players need to be willing and dedicated to get better.”

Saturday’s game will be full of give and take from both teams and should be another high-scoring game. Louisiana Tech, statistically coming into this game, is not intimidating by any means–they only average 16.4 points per game–but the Miners’ defense has thus far shown the inability to defend against the pass or run plays of any of their opponents. The Miners have allowed a touchdown on the very first offensive drive of the game in all of their first four games.

Despite the Bulldogs coming off their third-straight loss, their defense is the team’s strongest side of the ball, as they have only given up 25.2 points per game, and they rank in the top half in defense in the country. Unlike the Miners’ deficiencies on defense, they have proven they can put points up on the board, going for 30 or more points in three of their last four games.

At the end of the day, the Bulldogs’ lackluster offense will take advantage of UTEP’s bad defense, and Louisiana Tech’s defense will give in to the Miners’ prolific offense.

The Miner to watch in Saturday’s game will be none other than quarterback Jameill Showers. Last week against Colorado State, the junior quarterback accounted for all six UTEP touchdowns, throwing five touchdown passes on 365 passing yards and rushing for one more. The dual-threat quarterback will have the attention of the Louisiana Tech’s coaching staff this week.

Once again, the Miners have a great chance to get back on track with a win against a below-average opponent in Louisiana Tech, but one thing is for certain, if the Miners don’t play better defense, their chance of winning this game and salvaging their season is very unlikely.

“We are going to keep on working hard all week, we are excited to play at home in homecoming,” Kugler said. “Our fans have been outstanding the first two games and we are going to do our best to reward them with a win.”

Javier Cortez may be reached at [email protected]

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