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Metz is the answer

The biggest question of the spring for the UTEP football team may have been answered earlier this week. The injury to Mack Leftwich’s arm during Friday’s practice may answer the quarterback battle question.

Leftwich’s injury means that Ryan Metz may get his second chance under center a lot earlier than he may have imagined. After his early woes from last season in his freshman year, Metz may get a chance at the starting job and prove his haters wrong.

Metz took over an injury-plagued team in 2015 that ended the year 5-7. In that time, Metz went from hero—after leading a miraculous comeback in the NMSU game—to bad guy—after throwing an interception in the FIU game—in the course of two-and-a-half games. Once Leftwich returned, the talk of Metz being the starter dramatically came to a halt. With Leftwich out, this is a chance for Metz to be the true quarterback that the Miners needed last year.

Metz had his break-out game after Leftwich was sidelined due to a concussion in the fourth quarter against NMSU. He helped the Miners rally from behind in the game to force an overtime with two hail Mary passes on the last drive. The Miners won that game in overtime, 50-47, on a pass from Metz to Cedric Lang to get their first win of the year.

After that, the quarterback question seemed to be answered, until Metz played  against UTSA where he threw four interceptions and two pick 6s. The result was a 25-6 loss.

Metz was given the start yet again when the team traveled to Florida International University, but his turnover woes continued as he threw a pick 6 early and was replaced by Kavika Johnson for the rest of the game.

Johnson was not the answer for the Miners as they fell to the Tigers 52-12. Johnson looked good under pressure in a game he was not expected to win. Metz was chastised and used as the whipping boy of the team.

Though his early struggles followed him into the off-season, Metz is a far better quarterback than people may think. What people forget about Metz is that he was a freshman who was thrown into the lion’s den and expected to lead the team to wins.

Metz was placed in a difficult situation as a starter since the first day. His heroics that helped lead the Miners to a win set up an unfair standard of play for the freshman, who up until that point had never started.

Metz showed the potential to keep the quarterback job when he threw for 275 yards versus Incarnate Word.

In that game, he threw four interceptions and there were two rain delays in the first half—a weather factor that would affect any quarterback. While some may say there is no excuse to be made for four interceptions, the now-sophomore quarterback deserves a second chance.

What people forget is that Metz also did not have standout running back Aaron Jones in the offense. The missing player, due to injury, made the offense one-dimensional and put more pressure on Metz to win the game through the air. With Jones’ availability for the 2016 year, Metz should be able to succeed with a run-first offense.

Although Metz still has a long spring ahead of him, the injury to Leftwich bodes well for him. The Johnson-Metz battle is sure to heat up, but ultimately the experience of last year is something Metz can use to make a push for the job.

Juan Carlos Navarrete  may be reached at [email protected].

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Metz is the answer