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Miners far exceed regular season expectations

Michaela Román

Coming off a two-win season last year, a three-win season would already be an improvement, that’s how low expectations were this year for UTEP’s football team. Seven wins later, the Miners are going bowling and all their troubles seem to have been mended from last year.

The Miners opened the season on the road against New Mexico with a win that had everyone on the UTEP bandwagon. UTEP even played Texas Tech to a standstill until late in the fourth quarter at home, which reaffirmed the fans’ belief in the team.

After two tough losses on the road by a combined score of 103-58, the typical statements that always surround this program were looming— they can’t play defense and they turn the ball over too much. The team was not playing well and aside from one or two players standing out offensively, UTEP had a losing record and more questions than answers.

The Miners’ struggles had a lot to do with the offense not meeting expectations. In the game against Kansas State, the offense was shut down for the first half of the game. The Miners did not manage to score a touchdown that half. The Miners were finally able to find ways to score in the second half but it was only against the Kansas State’s backup players.

Coming from Texas A&M, quarterback Jameill Showers joined this team with high expectations. That did not change his senior year, and as he struggled early in the year; his critics were at an all time high.

Another senior who faced struggles during the season was senior tight end Eric Tomlinson. Many believed this would be his season for many reasons, but an offense that veered away from the pass left him in the role of a blocker rather than that of a pass catcher. 

The only thing that remained consistent throughout this rough patch was the running game. At one point in the season, UTEP had the number one running team in all of college football and that offense was the only thing keeping the Miners in the conversation about how this team would fare.

The team, unlike past UTEP teams, found a way to continue to play and find ways to win. UTEP put together a three-game win streak to salvage the season, and more than a win streak they found their stride. UTEP relied heavily on role players on the offense and a strong defense that had a shut out and allowed no more than two touchdowns in two of the three games won. The Miners have learned from their past struggles, especially in their 55-3 loss to Louisiana Tech.

“That’s because they are winners,” Kugler said when asked about the Miners’ ability to play through adversity. “That’s what winners do, they find a way to win. They’ve learned how to win, and it’s something no one can take away from these guys.”

Among the players who helped the season get back on track was running back Aaron Jones. While just a sophomore, he’s playing like a veteran and was ranked number one overall for rushing yards at the beginning of the season, finishing in the top 30. He was tied in the top 25 for touchdowns overall.

Autrey Golden, who was listed as a running back, played the whole season as a receiver and kick returner. He found his place in the offense, playing receiver and becoming an addition to the team who really helped get the season back where it needed to be. He also returned two kicks for touchdowns, which not only broke the school record for his career tally of five, but also helped him get close to the NCAA record.

The Miners’ record through the first six games of the season was 3-3, and with a .500 record, the Miners at times seemed mediocre at best. The team showed signs of a team hungry for a bowl game during the second part of the season, winning four out of six games and finding their way to a bowl game.

Seniors who struggled in the early half of the season began to play a bigger role in the offense. The team collectively seemed more like a band of brothers and began answering the adverse moments that before would have them running away. The offense began scoring and the defense began playing much better. They managed to stop Southern Miss, a team who had an offense ranked number two in the country for passing yards and kept them to two touchdowns.

UTEP finished the season strong with an overall record of 7-5. They were almost unbeatable at home and played well on the road. This team responded to adversity better than teams from the past. UTEP has not won a bowl game since 1967; something this team seems capable of this year.

Juan Carlos Navarrete can be reached at [email protected]

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About the Contributor
Michaela Román
Michaela Román, Editor-in-Chief
Michaela is a Senior Digital Media Production major at The University of Texas at El Paso. As the Editor-in-Chief, and former Photo Editor of The Prospector, she has learned to stay organized, manage a staff of writers and photographers, meet deadlines, cover events and network with others. She also has freelance experience and a personal photography business. Michaela aspires to work as an editor for a large media outlet and one day go to graduate school to teach photojournalism.
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Miners far exceed regular season expectations