Miners pony up for the Mustangs
Pair of one-win teams looking for first conference victory
Published: Thursday, October 4, 2012
Updated: Friday, May 17, 2013 13:05
After falling to 1-4 on the season and losing their Conference USA opener 28-18 at East Carolina, the Miners return home to face a familiar foe in the Southern Methodist Mustangs, at 6 p.m. on Oct. 6 at the Sun Bowl.
“We’re looking forward to playing at home. It’s going to be an advantage for us. SMU has played a hell of a schedule too. They played Texas A&M, Baylor and they played very well against TCU,” UTEP head coach Mike Price said. “They love to compete against us, we love to compete against them, and we’re glad they’re coming here.”
SMU currently leads the series 11-8, but UTEP has a 6-4 edge when playing in El Paso.
The Miners have won six out of the last seven home games against the Mustangs.
UTEP will attempt to get their second win of the season to prevent them from posting their worst starting record since 2002.
The Mustangs are a dangerous team both through the air and on the ground.
Junior quarterback Garrett Gilbert had 24 appearances, including 14 starts with the Texas Longhorns between 2009-2011, however he suffered a shoulder injury in his second game of the season and received a medical redshirt; he then transferred to SMU for the 2012 season.
“They’ve got one of the best quarterbacks ever to play high school football in the state of Texas. Garrett Gilbert has as strong of an arm as anybody playing the game of football,” Price said. “He has played in a lot of stadiums and he knows what he’s doing and June Jones is one of the best quarterback coaches in the country.”
So far Gilbert has completed 91 of his 184 attempts for 884 yards, four touchdowns and nine interceptions, five of them in the last game against Texas Christian University.
In the game against the Horned Frogs, Gilbert only completed 15 of 40 passes, many on missed opportunities by the wide receivers.
“There were a lot of dropped balls,” SMU head coach June Jones said. “That’s probably another 250-300 yards of offense because you’re converting first downs and you’re getting more plays. It’s frustrating, but you just have to get better.”
Despite only averaging 88 yards per game rushing, senior running back Zach Line is a big threat in their offense.
He’s accumulated 343 yards and three touchdowns on 75 carries thus far.
“He (Line) is a big, low running back and they give it to him on traps and draw plays,” Price said. “He has blended the run in there while Gilbert is catching up with his philosophy and getting better with throwing the ball every game.”
One of the biggest concerns for the Miners this season has been the kicking game.
Sophomore Steven Valadez has connected four out of six field goals and nine out of 11 in PATs, but this time he will be facing senior defensive end Margus Hunt. At 6-feet, 8-inches tall and 280 pounds, the Estonia native has the NCAA record of blocked kicks with 14, including one against UTEP in 2011.
Jones said this is a crucial game for both schools and lauded the work UTEP has done this season.
“Defensively they’re not even the same team at all. They’re believing in what they’re doing, in their system. They’re playing hard and they’ve got good schemes on both sides of the ball,” Jones said. “We’ve got to win one so we can win two. We’ve got to get one conference win this week and one next week on the road.”
The Miners have posted a 16-12 home record since joining C-USA in 2004 and have a 6-1 mark in home conference openers.
Their only loss came last season against the Houston Cougars 49-42.
“They’ve got those bookends and three senior linebackers who are awesome,” Price said. “Ja’Gared Davis is all over the field. He’s one of the best players in our conference. Their five guys up front are really good. We’ve got to block them. It’s going to be a challenge for us to move the ball against this solid defense.”
Edwin Delgado may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.