Miners and Aggies both desperate for win in Battle of I-10

Junior+running+back%2C+Aaron+Jones+who+suffered+an+injury+in+the+second+quarter+against+Texas+Tech+last+Saturday%2C+will+not+play+in+the+Battle+of+I-10.+

Adrian Broaddus

Junior running back, Aaron Jones who suffered an injury in the second quarter against Texas Tech last Saturday, will not play in the Battle of I-10.

Juan Carlos Navarrete, Staff Reporter

The UTEP Miners will try to turn their season around on the road in the 93rd edition of the Battle of I-10 against New Mexico State in Las Cruces this Saturday, Sept. 19.

For the Miners and the Aggies, the start of the season has been a rough one, both teams are now 0-2 and are at risk of having the season slip out of their hands.

The Miners are coming off two straight blowout losses against Arkansas and Texas Tech. Last week, UTEP came out flat footed in Lubbock when defending Texas Tech quarterback Pat Mahomes scored a combined six touchdowns in the Red Raiders’ 69-20 win over the Miners.

Along with Mahomes four passing touchdowns and two rushing touchdowns, the sophomore threw for 360 passing yards.

“We did not play well at Texas Tech–that was obvious in any phase,” said UTEP head coach Sean Kugler.  “The thing I was disappointed in the most as a head coach was the dumb penalties in the game. We pride ourselves in not being penalized.”

The Miners will have to be on their game as they take on NMSU for their third-straight game on the road. UTEP is the only Football Bowl Subdivision team that has yet to play a game at home; something the Miners will have to overcome.

Although the Miners have won their last six games against the Aggies, each game is different and this game will have two teams looking for their first win of the season as an added motivation.

UTEP will be without their best player in running back Aaron Jones, who left the game against Texas Tech with an ankle injury, and will have to sit this game out.

The loss of Jones is an obvious blow to the Miners’ offense, but UTEP will have to play without him this week, and it is something coach Kugler is preparing for.

“I’ll be dead honest with you that should not affect your team the way that it did,” Kugler said in reference to Jones’ departure from the Texas Tech game. “It deflated our team in many ways–that it did–and to be honest it deflated me, and at that point I have to be better than that as head coach and rally the troops.”

The Miners will now be forced to throw the ball more now that Aaron Jones is out, which will be a true test for quarterback Mack Leftwich. The redshirt sophomore was named the starting quarterback a week before the season began. While he has played well, he has not led the team to a win.

“We haven’t had the production out of that group,” Kugler said referring to the offense. “Not lacking confidence in that group. Just by schematics, the first two games, trying to maintain possession of the clock, more of a short passing game, that will have to change again. I feel very capable and I feel confident that those guys are capable.”

The Miners will travel to Las Cruces on Saturday for their game against the Aggies to attempt to turn the season around. No one needs to overstate the fact that these two teams do not like each other, and the motivation for winning may be as great as watching the other team lose.

“We know what this game is about,” Kugler said. “It’s a big game for them, it’s a big game for us. The team that goes out there and competes the hardest and the team that does not turn the ball over usually is the team that wins this game.”

Juan Carlos Navarrete can be reached at [email protected]