The other battle of I-10 happens this weekend in Sun City as UTSA travels west to UTEP. The Roadrunners look to build off their win over Rice, and the Miners look for something to build on. Keys to the Game:
Watch Dalton Sturm
Dalton Sturm is on pace for a record-setting season. He's already tied the great Eric Soza's school record TD mark, and he's on pace to set a school record for yardage, touchdown passes, and completion percentage. It's that last number that has us a bit concerned. Last season Sturm's efficiency dropped off as the season carried forward. This season, the trend is repeating itself.
We're not hitting the panic button yet, but its something to monitor as the season goes on, does Sturm's completion rate continue to dip below 60%? UTEP is an excellent opportunity to get back into the 60 percent stratosphere.
A flash in the pan?
Last week Tyrell Clay, a senior from Corpus, put together a career day with 153 yards on eleven carries. Clay's previous best rushing game was 72 yards against Texas State. Clay might offer a nice change of pace for UTSA's Jalen Rhodes. More importantly, Clay showed productivity between the tackles. This might be Clay's time to shine especially in a reserve role.
Expect the Unexpected
Mike Price and UTEP had a bye week, their first since Price took over the Miner program. Expect some changes to UTEP's anemic offense with two weeks to install and tweak. Price was one of the brighter offensive minds in college football at Washington State and in his first stint with the Miners. He helped pioneer a one-back scheme that Dennis Erickson used to win a national title at Miami. Price mentioned this week that UTEP's offense lacks an identity or it doesn't like its identity. He's a departure from Sean Kugler's style. UTSA should expect to see some of Price's influence on Saturday night.
Who's your QB
Ryan Metz and Zack Greenlee are both banged up, and we're not sure who takes the first snap under center, whether its either of them or Mark Torrez. UTEP adapted its offense for Metz and Greenlee, with Greenlee Brian Natkin got him moving and throwing on the run. His high ankle sprain and groin injury might keep him from being effective. Metz hasn't had a healthy shoulder since the Rice game. Torrez is a raw passer, but a heady player. So far the moment's been too big for the redshirt freshman. As of Monday unless he's playing coy, and I doubt he is, Price has no idea who'll operate his offense.
Consistency from Kevin Dove
Kevin Dove teases us, one week he runs like a 250 pound, ground churning, Jerome Bettis starter kit, then a week later he tiptoes and tries to play like a 180-pound jitterbug. The latter doesn't work, the former his exciting. We have a hunch that Price is going to spread things out this week, and use their real jitterbug, Walter Dawn, out of the backfield, especially with Quardraiz Wadley doubtful. If Dove can be the thunder to Dawn's lightning, UTEP might have something.
Frank Scelfo's offense is designed to give you the same look, the same motion, the same action, but build off those looks to spread the ball around. Think of a major league pitcher who keeps a consistent arm slot and windup, but throws various pitches from that windup to keep teams off balance. UTEP has to have great eye discipline this week because UTSA can beat you in so many ways. If the Miners lose discipline, the game could turn into a track meet. UTEP can't survive a track meet.
The Sun Bowl
That beautiful stadium nestled into the hills around El Paso is a great place to watch a game. The product on the field hasn't been up to snuff for several years now. A few weeks ago as the Miners welcomed Western Kentucky and re-introduced Mike Price, the Sun Bowl had a pulse. The home crowd engaged in the game and gave the Miners a home-field advantage for the first time in a while. The Miner faithful want something to cheer for; they want a team to get behind, can UTEP fit that bill Saturday night?
Notes and Numbers
The series between UTSA and UTEP is tied at two, the home has never won a game in the brief history.
Last year's game was an epic five overtime tilt that UTEP won in the Alamodome.
UTSA has yet to leave the state for a game, they travel outside Texas for the first time on November 4th.
Tyrell Clay's 73 yard run against Rice was the seventh longest rush in UTSA history.
UTSA is first in CUSA and 14th nationally in time of possession.
The Roadrunners are ninth nationally in 3rd down defense.
UTEP gave up 47 points per game in their first four games, they've dropped that number to 24 points a game in their last three.
Alvin Jones has recorded twelve double digit tackle games in his career.
Tight end David Lucero leads the Miners in catches with 16.