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UTEP’s long awaited football season is here

Annabella Mireles.
PhotoWide receiver Mister Chavis, cornerback Walter Neil, and defensive back Verenzo Holmes celebrate after a touchdown Oct. 2, 2021. Prospector File Photo.

Coming off a heartbreaking loss to Fresno State University in the Pub G Bowl last season, the Miners are looking to improve upon their 7-5 record from the 2021 season. UTEP has both new familiar faces returning on offense and defense.

Last season the Miners offense was ranked 70th overall, led by returning junior quarterback Gavin Hardison and senior running back Ronald Awatt. Another player returning to this offense and to watch for, is sophomore wide receiver Tyrin Smith. The unit looks to improve this season as Coach Dave Warner talked about the offensive progress throughout the past couple of practices.

“I think we (offense) have been good; you get the middle camp of like this, towards the end, it gets a little bit old,” Warner said in an Aug. 16 post-practice interview. “They have gotten better. We need to be more consistent make the right choices and right decisions.”

Hardison returns as the starting quarterback for the Miners. Last season he was able to throw for 3,217 yards and complete 198-of-357 passes. The high passing yard-age was the fifth-most in a single season in UTEP history.

Awatt led the team in rushing with 844 yards on 159 carries and averaged 65.0 yards per game. Smith also had a good year last season for the Miners offense, catching 33 passes for 570 yards, along with four touchdowns.

Smith also had a good year last season for the Miners offense, catching 33 passes for 570 yards, along with four touchdowns. 

The new players to watch for on the offense are sophomore transfer offensive lineman, Aluma Nkele and transfer junior offensive lineman Sedrick Luke.

On the defensive side, the Miners return most of their starters including key players such as senior defensive tackle Kelton Moss, junior linebacker Keenan Stewart, senior defensive end Praise Amawhule, and senior linebacker Tyrice Knight.

Sophomore transfers cornerback Latrez Shelton and defensive back Josiah Allen are new to the team and bring their talents to help the Miners in the secondary.  

Allen is a player to watch as he brings over his talent from Sacramento City College. Allen played in all 10 games as a freshman, compiling 51 tackles, 45 solo tackles, six assisted tackles, five pass break-ups, and one interception. 

The defensive unit ranked 40th overall and their redzone defense ranked 25.

“I feel good. We got a lot of good players back,” Coach Bradley Dale Peveto said after a post practice interview on Aug 16. “I like our depth. They have worked very hard and they have had a great year off-season in the summer, spring and fall camp.”

Moss was another key part in this defense and defensive line. He recorded 23 tackles, one pass breakup, one quarterback hurry, and a fumble recovery. Amawhule led the Miners with 13 tackles for losses, 10 quarterback hurries, and three forced fumbles, he ranked second on the team with seven pass breakups, ranked second on the team with 5.5 sacks, and started all 13 games at defensive end.

Knight leads the linebacker unit this year and looks to solidify a good line backing core unit. Knight started all 13 games at linebacker, added two sacks, an interception, three pass breakups, two quarterback hurries, two forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery. Finally, he was an honorable mention All-Conference USA. 

UTEP’s upcoming schedule has key conference match ups and notable out-of-conference teams that come into town. 

University of North Texas Mean Green comes into town at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 27 at the Sun Bowl. The Mean Green are looking to ruin any hopes of a season opener against the Miners. The two players to watch for are starting junior quarterback Austin Aunnes, and sophomore wide receiver Daveron Brown. 

Next on the schedule is New Mexico State University (NMSU) who comes into town the following week at 7.p.m. Sept. 10 at the Sun Bowl. The Miners were able to take down the Aggies very easily last season with a final score of 35-10.  

This season the Aggies have a new coaching staff after Jerry Kill was named their new Head Coach, coming from Texas Christian University (TCU).  

The players to watch out for are senior linebacker Chris Ojoh, named to the Rotary Lombardi Award watch list and the Bendarik Award watch list. The other player is senior wide receiver Dominic Gicinto. Gicinto averaged 10.6 yards per catch and had 47.5 all-purpose yards per game last year. 

UTEP will then face the University of New Mexico at 7 p.m. Sept. 17 at University Stadium. This season the Lobos have players to watch for, and those players are sophomore tight end Tyler Bruckler, who is being named to the Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award. Next, is junior linebacker Ray Leutele, Leutle posted a record stat in every category that was tackle-for-losses, sacks, forced fumbles, interceptions, and pass break ups. 

The Lobos’ offense and defense were dead last in both categories in lists of rankings. 

The Miners will return home to face Boisie State University at 7.p.m. Sept. 23 at the Sun Bowl. Last year, the Broncos overwhelmed the Miners with a final score of 54-13. The Bronco’s defense was ranked 45th overall and only allowed 364.4 yards per game last season.  

Boisie’s offense, however, was ranked 78th overall, averaging 381.1 yards per game. Senior quarterback Hank Bachmeier returns to start for the Broncos, along with senior wide receiver Stefan Cobbs.  

Cobbs recorded the second most receiving yards, which totaled out to 420 yards, with five touchdowns scored. Bachmeier led the team in passing yards with 3,079 yards, going 252-for-401 with 20 touchdowns. 

Next is Louisiana Tech University, LA Tech is coming off a 2-9 record overall and 2-6 in conference play. The Bulldogs offense was ranked 77th in the country.  The Bulldogs are led by wide receiver Smoke Harris, who led the team in receptions and receiving touchdowns. Defensively, the Bulldogs ranked 106th. 

Finally, the Miners face University of Texas at San Antonio at 1:30 p.m. Nov. 8 at the Alamodome. Last year in the Sun Bowl, the Miners came up on the losing side of things against the Roadrunners with a final score of 44-23. Redshirt senior Frank Harris leads the Roadrunners as the key to the offense. Last year, Harris set records for passing yards for UTSA, which totaled out to 3,171 yards, while also recording 398 yards in passing and 27 touchdowns. 

The Miners have a chance to improve upon last season’s record and to finish better in the conference. The offense and defense will need to find their pace in a hurry as the Miners schedule begins with tough components.

Stats provided by UTEP Athletics, UTSA Athletics, UNM Athletics, Boisie State Athletics, UNT Athletics, LA Tech Athletics.

Daniel Alec Lopez is a contributor and can be reached at [email protected]

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About the Contributors
Daniel Alec Lopez
Daniel Alec Lopez is senior Digital Media Production. Daniel joined The Prospector in 2019 as a contributor for multimedia, sports, and entertainment.  After graduation, Daniel hopes to relocate somewhere else in Texas and work in broadcasting or any kind of journalism job. 
Annabella Mireles.
Annabella Mireles., Photo Editor
Annabella Mireles is a junior at the University of Texas at El Paso majoring in digital media production and minoring in film. She is the photo editor at the Prospector newspaper and Minero magazine as well as owning her own photography business. She plans on pursuing photography full time.
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UTEP’s long awaited football season is here