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Miners look to bounce back in Lubbock against Texas Tech

The+last+time++UTEP+football+started+0-2+was+back+in+2012.+The+Miners+would+go+on+to+finish+3-9+that+season.+
Jorge Salgado
The last time UTEP football started 0-2 was back in 2012. The Miners would go on to finish 3-9 that season.

Since the conference was established in 1996, the Miners have never won a game against a Big 12 team, with a 0-12 all-time record. Saturday, the Miners (0-1) will travel to Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock to face the Texas Tech Red Raiders (1-0).

While head coach Sean Kugler and his squad come into the game seeking an upset in their second of three games on the road, Kliff Kingsbury and the Red Raiders are on a quest for their 11th consecutive 2-0 dating back to 2004.

Last season, Aaron Jones lifted the Miners to a 26-23 lead over the Red Raiders with less than five minutes left in the fourth quarter. However, ex-starting quarterback David Webb led a game-winning 75-yard touchdown drive to win the game 30-23 for the Red Raiders.

“I don’t think I have to remind (our players), they remember it,” Kugler said on Monday at the UTEP football media luncheon. “Each year is a different year, each year is a different team. We’re going to approach this as a different game. We’re going on the road in a hostile environment, and we’re going against a quality Big 12 team. I don’t have rearview mirrors–I don’t look backwards. I look forwards and I want my team to have the same mentality.”

This year, the Miners will have to contend with sophomore quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who stole the 2015 starting role as the primary signal caller and comes into Saturday’s game with a win in the Red Raiders season opener against Sam Houston State, 59-45. Mahomes threw for 425 yards and four touchdowns.

Mahomes and his offense return with nine starters from last season, but this high-powered passing team can also do damage on the ground. With a 1,000-yard tailback in DeAndre Washington, the Red Raiders boast one of the most versatile offenses in the Big 12.

That is exactly what the Miners’ defense is looking to prevent–points. Last season, the defense improved from allowing 39.4 points per game to 28. However, after allowing 48 total points to Arkansas in their season opener, 28 of them coming via passing plays, the Miners are looking to redeem themselves against this pass-heavy offense. In the Miners’ 48-13 loss against the Razorbacks, Dashone Smith led the team with seven tackles.

The Miners also might be dealing with a potentially huge loss on defense. Senior cornerback Traun Roberson’s availability for this weekend is still up in the air. For the Miners to have a chance at slowing down the Red Raiders’ offense, the Miners will need Roberson.

“It gives you some experience back there, a fifth-year senior, he’s a communicator,” Kugler said. “I think we’ll have him back for the Texas Tech game and we need him back.”

Although the defense allowed six touchdowns to the SEC team, it was the squad’s offense that couldn’t seem to get rolling. Standout running back Aaron Jones led the team in both rushing and receiving and totaled 153-total yards, but he and the offense only saw the end zone once.

Three quarterbacks came into play against the Razorbacks, starter Mack Leftwich, true freshman Kavika Johnson and Andress high school graduate Ryan Metz. The switching of the play callers was a tactic that, according to coach Kugler, will be used throughout the season.

Nevertheless, Jones was impressed with Leftwich under center in the Miners’ season opener.

“He was calm behind center and that’s what we really need,” Jones said. “He did a really excellent job of keeping everybody calm. The crowd noise was really loud, and he did a really excellent job of echoing the calls and changing up the snap count as well.”

Leftwich, who completed 9-of-14 for 64.3 percent, threw for 120 yards and one interception, is still Kugler’s man for the starting quarterback position.

A key plus the offense brings into Lubbock Saturday is their time of possession. Last season, coach Kugler’s offense was able to rank second in time of possession in college football, and on Saturday, the Miners won the clock battle by the slightest of margins against Arkansas (30:41 to 29:19).

In last year’s meeting, the Miners held the ball 18 minutes longer then the Red Raiders. Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury said time and time again in his weekly press conference with the Lubbock media that UTEP “is going to hold the ball and pound you.”

For Kugler and his Miners, controlling possession is the most important factor for a win Saturday.

“The formula is going to be the same,” Kugler said. “We have to control the clock versus this team, we have to have efficient drives, and for us to do that we have to be efficient in our run game and we have to be efficient in our play action passes off the run game, because they are such a quick-strike scoring offense.”

Saturday will show whether the Red Raiders’ high-powered spread offense is still good enough to beat out the Miners’ slow and methodical ground approach.

Adrian Broaddus may be reached at [email protected] .

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About the Contributor
Adrian Broaddus, Sports Editor
Adrian Broaddus is the sports editor for The Prospector. He is a junior multimedia journalism major with a minor in political science.   Adrian was born and raised in El Paso, TX, and is a graduate of Franklin high school. He entered college in the fall of 2015 in hopes to better his career in journalism.   Along with sports, Adrian enjoys writing music reviews, perspective columns and news stories on politics.   Although he is pursuing his degree in journalism, Adrian would like to go to law school and be an attorney while doing part-time work in journalism.  
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Miners look to bounce back in Lubbock against Texas Tech