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Lobo Pack: UTEP Game Preview

Out in the West Texas town of El Paso....

New Mexico State v New Mexico Photo by Sam Wasson/Getty Images

What:

New Mexico Lobos vs. UTEP Miners

When:

Saturday September 25th, 2021, at 7:00 p.m. Mountain Time.

Where:

Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas

Coverage:

Fans can stream the game on ESPN+ (Subscription needed). Radio coverage will be on the Lobo Sports Radio Network. Flagship station is 770 AM/96.3 FM KKOB in Albuquerque.

Series:

UNM leads the all-time series with a record of 42-33-5. Last meeting was back in 2014 when UTEP won 31-24 in Albuquerque.

Breakdown:

In what could be a pivotal game for the New Mexico Lobos this season, they travel to meet the UTEP Miners on Saturday night in a renewal of a rivalry that dates back to 1919. These two have not met since 2014, but it is the second most played contest for UNM.

Both of these teams come into the contest with a 2-1 record on the season. New Mexico lost their last game out, getting beat 34-0 by Texas A&M last weekend. UTEP has had a couple of weeks to prepare for this one after losing to Boise State back on September 10th by a final of 54-13, in a game that the Miners turned the ball over six times.

With the way the UNM schedule looks on paper, a win could very well position the Lobos to make a run at a bowl game in December. Leaving El Paso at 3-1 would mean that the Lobos would only have to win three games in Mountain West Conference play. While a loss could all but cripple their shot, given how strong the MWC is this season.

What To Expect From UTEP:

Head Coach Dana Dimel has the Miners playing balanced football. Through three games this season UTEP is averaging 194 yards rushing and 221 yards passing per game.

Quarterback Gavin Hardison has been up and down this season to date, throwing for 655 yards with five touchdowns, but he has also thrown four interceptions.

Hardison loves to look for two receivers mainly. The first is Jacob Cowing, who has 13 catches for 293 yards and three touchdowns. The second is Justin Garrett, who has 11 catches for 154 yards and a touchdown so far on the season. Combined the Cowing and Garrett duo account for 60% of Hardison’s completions on the year.

Not to be left out is the Miners running game. Ronald Awatt has been the main backer in the first three games, gaining 244 yards on 45 carries this season with two touchdowns. The Miners will also use Willie Eldridge sparingly. Eldridge has 128 yards on 23 carries this season.

On defense, the Miners are licking their wounds following a 54-13 drubbing at the hands of Boise State. On that night the Miners allowed 461 yards of offense, with 340 yards passing.

Strong safety Dy’vonne Inyang is the leading tackler for the Miners defense, having been credited with 16 tackles. Inyang will be all over the field looking to cause havoc on the Lobos offense. Lobos fans should expect his name to be called a bunch.

This is a defense that has struggled to force turnovers, they have forced just three on the season. It would behoove the Lobos to take care of the ball and try to exploit the UTEP defense the way that Boise State did.

What To Expect From New Mexico:

The Lobos are hoping to bounce back in a huge way after being shutout last week by Texas A&M. The big positive coming out of that game is that a ton of key players stayed healthy in a game that UNM wasn’t expected to win anyways.

With UTEP’s defense allowing 340 yards passing to Boise State, UNM quarterback Terry Wilson, Jr. has got to be licking his chops. Wilson threw for 382 yards against New Mexico State a week prior to their visit to Texas A&M. The Lobos will be looking to throw it all over the Miners.

The Lobos will try to establish their running game as much as possible with Bobby Cole and Aaron Dumas, who is from El Paso. However, we’re at the point of the season where UNM needs to win no matter how they do it.

On defense the Lobos will need to pressure Hardison a ton. Hardison has not shown to be very mobile this season and a ton of blitzes that get in on him will work wonders for UNM’s chances.

Thoughts From Coach Gonzales:

“Dumas was our most productive RB on Saturday,” Gonzales said during his media conference this week. “He’s adjusted pretty quick to speed of the game. We have a pretty good one-two punch going there with Bobby. Excited to see him go play in his hometown.”

“Great opponent this week,” Gonzales said of UTEP. “On offense they’ll try to pound us into submission. They believe in what they’re doing.”

Final Thoughts and Prediction:

Coach Gonzales did say that they had a more physical practice this week, which most time translates into being more physical on the field. That will definitely help. It will be crucial to not allow Hardison to pick apart the Lobo secondary with Cowing and Garrett. If UNM can get pressure on him the way Boise State, did I feel it will cause Hardison to make similar mistakes that he made that night in Boise.

Terry Wilson, Jr. gets another shot to put up big numbers, and I think he will get those. The question will be: Will it be enough for a win? I think it will be. I expect a close game throughout, but New Mexico to pull it out. Give me the Lobos-27 Miners-23.