Despite 1-3 mark, Miners should still contend for C-USA
Published: Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Updated: Friday, May 17, 2013 13:05
Before the season, I was expecting for UTEP to go 1-3 through their non-conference schedule, facing three Bowl Championship Series (BCS) schools, but despite only beating New Mexico State, the Miners have impressed early on and played better than expected.
The Miners’ ability to challenge teams like Oklahoma, Ole Miss and Wisconsin could be an indication that those teams are not as good as many thought, but I would like to think that it’s primarily because UTEP is much better this year. The real season starts now for the Miners.
In the very first game, UTEP was able to hang on within the Sooners midway through the fourth quarter, down by only three points, but a failed fake punt enabled the Sooners to pull away and win 24-7.
The Miners offense struggled through the air, only gaining 48 yards passing and missing three field goals, however sophomore running back Nathan Jeffery, was the star of the game as he rushed for 177 yards in 21 carries and got the Miners sole touchdown after recovering a blocked punt.
The team had a big improvement in the passing game in Oxford, Miss. against the Ole Miss Rebels. Quarterbacks senior Nick Lamaison and junior Carson Meger combined for 274 yards, but this time it was the running game that struggled without Jeffery, who was out of this game with a groin injury.
The Miners were able to move the ball downfield, but came out empty handed in their first three trips to the red zone or as head coach Mike Price likes to call it the “orange zone.”
Finally on the rivalry game against the Aggies, the Miners were firing on all cylinders as they were able to score touchdowns in their first four possession to take an impressive 27-0 lead in the second quarter, and never looked back getting a 41-28 win over their I-10 rivals.
The last hurdle for the Miners before opening the conference play was a road game against the defending Big Ten conference champions, Wisconsin Badgers.
The Miners put themselves in a position to come out with the win, a couple of penalties and a fumble on a kickoff prevented UTEP from pulling off the upset.
They have a game coming up that could determine how well they can do in Conference USA, when they play one of the east division favorites, the East Carolina Pirates, Sept. 29 at Greenville, N.C.
The Miners need to take advantage of the tough non-conference schedule they had for this season, the experience and confidence they built this past month should give them an edge over conference rivals.
These first few weeks, I have been able to talk to a good number of players and coaches, they all feel they have enough depth and talent to win the conference championship.
With SMU, Houston, Rice and Tulane struggling early on the season, it appears that the Golden Hurricane of Tulsa should be the biggest obstacle for the Miners. If they are able to stay healthy, focused and find success in the red zone, they will have a legitimate chance.
Edwin Delgado may be reached at email@example.com.