Miners look for back-to-back wins against Southern Miss


Andres Martinez

The UTEP Football will look to win back-to-back games for the first time in four weeks.

Juan Carlos Navarrete, Staff Reporter

The UTEP football team will be back on the road when they take on Southern Miss this Saturday, Oct. 31. The Miners are coming off a 27-17 win over Florida Atlantic University–their first conference win of the season.The Miners are 3-4 and 1-2 in Conference USA, and are currently in fourth place. A win on the road could change all of that, but also help them get to .500 and be two wins away from bowl eligibility.

It will not be a walk in the park though for the Miners as Southern Miss is 5-3 and 3-1 in conference play and are in second place. The Miners will have to play  a team ranked in the top 60 in all categories, and a team that has not lost a game in three weeks.

“Southern Miss, in my opinion, very well could be best team in Conference USA,” said head coach Sean Kugler. “They are playing like it in all three phases. They are running the ball extremely well.  They are passing the ball extremely well.  They are averaging 505 yards a game, which is second in Conference USA behind Western Kentucky, which we all know how explosive their offense is.”

Southern Miss is coming off a dominant 44-10 win over Charlotte. The Golden Eagles are ranked second in Conference USA for total offense as well as ranked second for total defense.

Southern Miss will pose a challenge to the Miners’ defense. The Golden Eagles have been able to move the ball on other defenses and it is something coach Kugler is emphasizing in practice before the game.

“Ultimately against a team like Southern Miss, much like last year, we’ve got to hit home on our pressure,” Kugler said.  “If we do pressure, or if we’re not pressuring, it puts pressure on the front to make sure that they hit home with just a four-man rush.  We did get pressure on them last year and it resulted in some turnovers and big plays for us, and we’re going to have to do the same to have a chance to beat these guys this year.”

The Miners on offense looked as cohesive as they have all season last week. The quarterback play from Mack Leftwich was a big improvement on what has been an under performing offense this season; the sophomore had three touchdowns and zero turnovers.

“I thought Mack (Leftwich) was extremely accurate in this game,” Kugler said.  “The main thing we talked about was protecting the football, no turnovers.  In 39 pass attempts Mack had no interceptions.  The running backs were very good, running hard and running physical and not turning the ball over.  We had no turnovers in the game offensively.”

The team looked like a completely different offense, something they have been trying to change since week two, and the only difference is this time they got the win.

The Miners were able to move the ball well last week and is something they will hope to replicate next week. The Miners were able to end drives with scores rather than punts and that is something they had not done all season.

Considering it is the start to the second half of the season, the Miners are riding on a high note with a strong win, but if they hope to reach a bowl they will have to win contested games such as the against Southern Miss.

This could also be the game where Autrey Golden can break the NCAA record for kick off returns. He has played the Golden Eagles twice and both times he returned a kick for a touchdown.

The Miners will definitely be taking part in what may be the hardest game of their conference. A win can really turn the season around that already feels a lot better now in the second part of the season than in the first.

Although the Miners are still 3-4 against Southern Miss, a win could change the course of the season and help the Miners keep moving. The Miners would get one game closer to their ultimate goal of the six wins, which will create bowl eligibility. A win on the road and the Miners’ season could turn around for this football team.

Juan Carlos Navarrete may be reached at [email protected]