Miners head to Rice looking for first win of the season

Adrian Broaddus, Web Editor

The winless Miners (0-8) will put their 20-game losing streak on the line against Rice (1-8) on Saturday, Nov 3.

The Miners are coming off a 19-0 shutout loss to UAB, which was their second shutout loss of the season (Tennessee, 24-0).

The loss extended the Miners losing streak to 20 games in a row, tying the all-time Texas college football record low (TCU, 1974-75.)

Against Rice though, the Miners feel like it can be their shot to snap the streak and win for the first time in nearly two years.

However, the odds are not in their favor. UTEP has not won a road game since Oct. 26, 2016, when they beat out UTSA in a five-overtime thriller. And although Rice is 1-8, the Miners have dealt with massive injuries that will plague them for this upcoming week.

According to first-year head coach Dana Dimel, UTEP has lost 25 of its players that hold some sort of role on the team. In the injury mix is senior quarterback Ryan Metz and junior quarterback Kai Locksley. Metz suffered a severe concussion against La Tech, while Locksley re-injured his ankle last week against UAB.

“Going in with his ankle, we didn’t want to get him hurt running and he got hurt on a passing play,” Dimel said after the Miners were shut out 19-0 to UAB. “He was not 100 percent coming in. We’ll see. Have to play it by ear.”

Without the two, the Miners will need to look to junior Brandon Jones to lead the helm of the offense if neither Locksley nor Metz are cleared for Saturday’s game. Jones came into relieve quarterbacks in back-to-back outings. Against LA Tech, he completed 7-of-15 passes for 98 yards, and versus UAB he was 5-for-9 for 49 passing yards.

“I felt the same as last week (against LA Tech),” Jones said. “You want to win so badly. But I never doubted it. I knew we had a chance to win this. We were down two scores most of the game. I have to be better, it’s all on me.”

The Miners have been making constant moves up front as well. With injuries to freshman Zuri Henry and junior Darta Lee, they have been dipping into their bench and playing guys with limited experience on the offensive line.

“Overall, you can’t win a ball game with the offensive performance we had (against UAB),” Dimel said. “We were overwhelmed up front.”

Against the Owls, the Miners will need to find some way to formulate offense. They totaled just 121 yards of offense against the Blazers, who completely shut them out of contention. The run game for the Miners has been the main source of trouble as of late. With only 20 rushing yards against UAB, the Miners are coming off back-to-back low rushing games, failing to produce anything on the ground.

UTEP’s leading rusher, junior Quadraiz Wadley is not getting the number of carries he would like to, earning just four carries for 14 yards against UAB. If UTEP works Wadley on the ground, he could come up big for them against Rice.

For the Owls, they have been off the rails on an eight-game losing streak. They rank among the worst in the nation for both offensive and defensive efficiency. Rice has been out-scored 139-37 in C-USA games thus far.

And for graduate transfer linebacker A.J. Hotchkins, who has 84 total tackles on the year (15 against UAB), this is an opportunity for the team to capture its first win in nearly two years.

“I think next week is going to be crazy man,” Hotckins said. “We’re going to have a ton of fun. This team deserves a win. I think we play guys close every week and I think that we definitely deserve a win. I go into every game thinking we’re going to win.”

Kickoff against Rice is set for 1:30 p.m. MT.

Adrian Broaddus  may be reached at [email protected]