The Miners and Aggies face off again, this time out in Las Cruces. 2017 will mark the 95th time the rivals have met. This year the Cowboys have most of the on-field advantages. A few keys to Saturday night for the Miners.
Run the dang ball
Last two weeks the Miners ran for 43 yards, total. That includes 17 yards last week. UTEP won't win a single game in 2017 unless they can find a rushing game. The Miners passing attack isn't dynamic enough to carry the team, not even close. Sean Kugler fired his offensive coordinator, Brent Pease on Monday and replaced him with tight ends/special teams coach Brian Natkin. UTEP will be the last shot out of the Brent Pease roman candle. Natkin's job will be to use the Miners' greatest strength, their offensive line, and push people around. On the season, three games, no Miner back's carried the ball more than 20 times. That's no way to find a rhythm. Replacing Aaron Jones is hard and doing it by committee is a wise choice, but someone needs to sit at the head of the table. Whether it's Walter Dawn or Kevin Dove, the Miners need to give one of the backs a chance run consistently.
Beware, Tyler Rogers
New Mexico State has an outstanding quarterback. The best since, well, ever as far as we can tell. Tyler Rogers is a 66% passer and threw for 300 or more yards in each of New Mexico State's three games. In those games, close losses to Arizona State and Troy and a win over New Mexico, Rogers embraced the spotlight. His completion percentage and yards per game are both on a definite uptick from 2016. If Rogers gets going, UTEP's chances will be no better than they've been the first three weeks.
Introducing Mark Torrez
Local product Mark Torrez starts his first game as a Miner. The redshirt freshman saw his first significant game action last week against Arizona. Torrez looked good in spots, but overall his 6 for 21 passing night didn't inspire much confidence. Then again Torrez came in against a Power 5 defense after the avalanche occurred. UTEP can't ask Torrez to win the game; he'll need help from his rushing attack and receivers. Torrez is the best running threat the Miners have at the quarterback position. UTEP can use that to move the pocket and introduce options in broken field situations.
Notes and Numbers
- UTEP holds a 57-35-2 advantage in the series and is in the midst of its longest winning streak in the series, 8 games.
- UTEP ranks 12th among FBS teams for fewest penalties.
- Torrez ran for his first career touchdown last Saturday night.
- Alvin Jones sits seventh on UTEP's career tackle list with 266.
- NMSU senior running back Larry Rose, from Fairfield, TX ranks third among active FBS rushers with 3,846 career yards.
- Rose is third in the NMSU record books in rushing yards and carries and fourth in touchdowns and total yards.
- Eight of New Mexico State's ten largest home crowds have come when UTEP is in town.