For the first time in both school's histories, FIU and UTEP will meet on the football field this Saturday. FIU is making its longest road trip in a season since a 2004 trip to NMSU, making their Sun Bowl debut Saturday at 6 PM MDT.
It has been a tough season to say the least for FIU, they have started 27 players who are first time starters in their college careers, and like the Miners are 1-8 overall.
Head Coach Ron Turner comes from an NFL background like Sean Kugler, they both have gone head-to-head as assistants in the NFL four times.
Former Miner defensive coordinator Andre Patterson now coaches FIU's defensive lineman.
FIU ranks 114th in the FBS is passing, 118th in rushing and dead last 125th in points scored a game. They have scored only 90 total points this season and have only hit the 20 point plateau twice.
Lamarq Caldwell and Silas Spearman III are your running backs for FIU. Caldwell is the starter though Spearman has more carries on the season. Caldwell leads with 355 yards while Spearman III is not far behing with 328 yards on the ground, though combined they only account for five rushing touchdowns.
For the Miners true freshman Mack Leftwich will make his second career start, he completed 14 out of 20 passes last week and was allowed by the football gods to throw his first touchdown, but was sacked 8 times by a tough North Texas defense.
The Miners offensive line is going through injury and depth issues. Guard Jerel Watkins is still out with an injury and the Miners struggled blocking in between in the tackles last week, though they face a FIU defense that has only sacked the quarterback 12 times this season
Josh Bell should get some carries too as, Bloomquist also reports that Dowell is slowed by an injury and is questionable, as is tight end and senior Kevin Perry .
If UTEP can stop the run, something that has not happened at all this season, the defense should dominate and be able to bring exotic and numerous blitzes that the 4-2-5 can bring.
On paper this is a game the Miners should win, should being the key word. With all due respect to FIU, their cupboard is just empty and Ron Turner has his hands full trying to get this program on the right track.
We will also continue to see the youth movement as Kugler is moving forward from Price's players who are not buying in and also not fitting in the new scheme he is trying to build, going with freshman and younger guys who are buying in and working hard to improve the scheme is what seems he is doing at this point in the season.
That is evident with the quarterback switch and the indefinite suspension of UTEP's best defensive player Richard Spencer.
With the return of Patterson, I would also expect the FIU defense and possibly the entire team to be fired up early and play hard for former candidate to take over the UTEP program.
Hard to say what Miner team shows up and if everyone is still on board for this season. I think overall the game will be close, grind it out type of game with both teams trying to establish drives and yards via the running game.
UTEP cannot afford anymore special teams mistakes and give the Golden Panthers confidence and momentum, and possibly the lead on the scoreboard.
The UTEP defense comes up with some stops late in the game for the second win of the season.
Good luck and thank you to all the seniors.
UTEP 20 FIU 17
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