The ECU Pirates and the UTEP Miners will face off at 6:05 p.m. (MT) in the Sun Bowl on Saturday, both teams desperately searching for two victories to get them to bowl eligibility. The Miners are coming off perhaps their worst performance of the year, a 41-37 loss at Rice last Saturday.
The Pirates are trying to bounce back from a poor loss of their own. They lost 48-28 to #22 Southern Miss on their home field, but gave up 14 points on ints returned for touchdowns, and another 14 on a punt return and blocked punt. They held the Golden Eagle offense to under 300 total yards for the game.
The young series between these two schools is led 2-0 by East Carolina. That record also includes a 1-0 mark here in El Paso. The two teams last met in 2008 in Greenville, NC, a 53-21 win for the Pirates. The last contest in El Paso came in 2007, when ECU walked away with a 45-42 OT victory.
The Pirates boast one of the top passing games in the country, and the 2nd best in C-USA behind the #11 Houston Cougars. SR QB Dominique Davis leads the passing attack for ECU with a 70% completion rate for 2604 yards, 17 TDs, and 13 INTs. He will however, be working without his top target Lance Lewis and top RB Reggie Bullock.
Lewis has accumulated 600 yards and 8 TDs, on 60 receptions. Bullock has tallied 428 yards and 4 TDs, on 95 carries. Next in line to see some action versus the Miners will be SO RB Torrance Hunt, and FR WR Justin Hardy. Hunt has carried for 298 yards and a TD, on 71 attempts. Hardy has amassed 500 yards and 4 TDs, 48 receptions.
The Pirates enter the game ranked 11th in the nation in passing yards per game with 312 yards a contest. Unlike their passing attack, their run game ranks in the bottom 11 in nation at 110th, as they go for 96 yards a game. ECU ranks 74th in points per game with 26, but gives up 33 a game, good for 100th.
The Miners are still searching for that consistently effective QB play. Nick Lamaison has been good, but seems out of whack both when the rushing game is strong or weak. Lamaison has now completed 58% of his passes for 1495 yards, 11 TDs, and 9 INTs.
Mike Edwards continues to be Lamaison's security blanket through the air. Edwards now has 36 receptions for 559 yards and 3 TDs. Last week was by far Edwards' breakout performance. The JR WR registered 7 catches for 189 yards and 2 TDs. We need more of that for this offense to be successful.
The Miners continue to use a stable of running backs that includes seniors Joe Banyard (75 car, 550 yds, 3 tds), Leilyon Myers (79 car, 293 yds, 9 tds), and Vernon Frazier (47 car, 341 yds, 3 tds). The running game however, has been fairly ineffective the last two weeks. That will need to change if the Miners intend on winning games to become bowl eligible.
The Miner passing game has continued to slide over the past weeks, now ranking 72nd in the country at 222 yards per game. The run game that had been very effective has also fallen off recently, and now ranks 66th at 154 yards per game. UTEP averages 28 points a contest, good for 57th, while also giving up 28, good for 77th.
Both these teams are absolutely desperate for a win. Both come in at 4-5, two wins away from bowl eligibility, and both probably view this one as a must win. However, the Miners definitely have the advantage in this one. Not only are they playing on their home field, but ECU is playing without two of its better players.
Then again, advantages don't necessarily mean much. Most would've said the Miners had the advantage last week, and we all know how that one turned out. Still, this game is the Miners' to lose, and frankly, I don't think CMP can afford another loss in a must win situation. The city of El Paso would really be calling for his head then. I've got the Miners in this one. Don't let me down...again.
Projection: UTEP 34, ECU 28