Earlier today, we took a long look at the highlights from the UTEP Miners 31-24 win over the FCS Stony Brook Seawolves. Now, it's time to take a look at what went wrong. When you need a late rally and OT to beat a team that lost to Brown, Lafayette, and Liberty last year you might have a lot to pick from.
I think you know what I'm starting with...
1. The Rush Defense: The Miners gave up 179 rushing yards on the ground in the first half. While UTEP's defensive front tightened the noose in the second half and gave up only 52 rushing yards in the second half, it doesn't take away from the fact that SBU's Miguel Maysonet and Brock Jackolski rushed for 199 yards on 31 carries. That's an absolutely disgusting 6.4 yards per rush. Perhaps the only thing worse than the rush defense was the.....
2. The Rush Offense: Twenty-three carries. Thirty six yards. 1.6 yards per carry. I believe it might be time to retire UTEP's marketing slogan "Minerstrong" until we see improvement up front from both the offensive and defensive lines. For the record, UTEP started James Martin at LT, Paul Santillan at LG, Eloy Atkinson at C, Nathan McCage at RG, and sophomore Brander Craighead at RT. These players have varying levels of experience but none of them can even really be called a veteran at this point. Atkinson is perhaps the most experienced as he had 4 starts last year. McCage started 2 games last year. Santillan saw action in seven games last year as a backup at guard on both sides. Brander Craighead redshirted as a sophomore after losing his redshirt late in his rookie season. Martin was tossed into the starting lineup when James Nelson went down. Going into the season we knew this line would be young and raw. But, I'm not sure we expected anything like 1.6 yards per rush against Stony Brook.
3. Turnovers: When you have a new QB learning a new system and no running game, you are going to have some ugly plays. UTEP's Nick Lamaison tossed two interceptions and lost a crucial fumble. Vernon Frazier also lost a fumble. Against Stony Brook, UTEP barely survived four turnovers. Against SMU or anybody else on their schedule, the Miners will not be so lucky.
4. No Buzz around CMP Anymore: There were just over 28,000 fans at the Sun Bowl Saturday night. Compare that to UTEP's past two home openers. The Stony Brook attendance was down just under 19% from the crowd that saw UTEP play Buffalo in 2009. Overall, attendance was down 38.7% last season from where it was in 2005.
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There's simply no denying that the city of El Paso is losing interest in UTEP football. And, winning squeakers against FCS schools isn't going to help.