UTEP did a few things that caught my eye in leading to the win, here is what I think helped notch a W.
Early Pass Rush Had Heinicke Flustered
All week hearing about ODU's patch work along their offensive line this season made me think UTEP could have a chance at putting some major pressure on Taylor Heinicke.
UTEP sat in dime for most of the game, especially early on, and matched their season sack total in the first quarter with three sacks.
This is very encouraging from the defensive line standpoint as UTEP didn't show very much blitz early in the game outside of Alvin Jones who also recorded the first sack of his UTEP career. UTEP brought mostly three to four on the night and had four quarterback hurries officially. (I think there was more IMO)
UTEP's early relentless pass rush yielded ODU to negative 17 yards in their first six plays, and forced Heinicke into a 3 of 9 start in the first half.
Heinicke just was not comfortable with his foot work proving that, as UTEP did a good job of breaking the pocket down lead by another disruptive game from Roy Robertson-Harris.
Robertson-Harris played almost the perfect game, Kugler wasn't too fond of his personal foul, though the 6'7 monster almost had a pick six in the second half, and lead the charge on the huge fourth down stop late in the fourth quarter.
Cooper Brock lead like a senior in his first start with six tackles and sack, though it was a total group effort and after two weeks of non-existence, the defensive line really got after it early and took Heinicke out of his comfort zone.
The men upfront played one of their best games of the season.
On the two, nine minute drives, UTEP used three or four different blocking schemes with multiple runs from all directions and packages, and just flat out dominated the line of scrimmage.
Despite losing Derek Elmendorff who was moving cats into the second level, and pounding linebackers before he went out with an apparent shoulder injury, the Miners showed off their depth and physical will throughout the game.
Credit is also due to center Eric Lee who has done a good job of line calls as the anchor of the unit.
UTEP also improved their screen, and down field blocking game, which I think will be used more against an aggressive, and physical front seven UTEP will face in a few weeks against UTSA.
It takes more than just heart and power to block for nine minutes twice in a game, UTEP showed some athleticism, a determination to execute the call, depth, and showed the top physical condition those guys are in to get the job done.
UTEP needs to shore up their pass protection off the edge, but the interior lineman really got after it last night.
Raise your hand if you were worried about the secondary going up against ODU's efficient pass attack. (raises hand)
UTEP's secondary played some tough man-to-man coverage in their best coverage game of the season.
Ishmael Harrison, and Wesley Miller were the statistical MVP's, but it was total group effort when it came to coverage. Miller had a huge pass break up in a key spot, and lead UTEP with four solo tackles.
Harrison was matched up Zach Pascal, who is a very physical and athletic receiver, and also one of the Monarchs' top targets, Ish took Pascal out of the game and out of his game. He had two pass break ups, and matched Pascal's physical play, limiting him to only three catches for 39 yards despite only practicing once this week.
Very encouraging, and good to see out of a guy who has battled shoulder problems this year, Harrison proved my point of him being UTEP's best cover corner with his performance last night.
When UTEP was in man, the coverage was stride for stride and you can tell the secondary had a solid week of practice in preparation for the pass attack. Kugler talked about not letting up chunks in the pass game, and I feel UTEP did a pretty good job of that.
At the end of the third quarter, Henicke was 7 out 17 for just 97 yards, great team effort in coverage from all the secondary parts that should build huge confidence going forward.
Autrey Golden and The Offensive Diversity
UTEP finally did what I have been asking from the staff in the previous 17 games of the Kugler regime: use some pre-snap diversion to open up the offense.
Patrick Higgins broke his record for pre-snap motion in his recent tenure as offensive coordinator, and it worked to perfection.
Using guys like Autrey Golden, the speedy freshman Ziere Banner and other slash type of receivers UTEP has, the Miners faked the fly sweep out of a spread look, and had ODU running from sideline to sideline in confusion, while UTEP would run downhill in the opposite direction most of the time.
A much needed wrinkle in where UTEP uses it's speed to disguise who is getting the ball and where its going, while also keeping a defense from going to a simple base.
There was a buzz when Autrey Golden was moved to receiver this week, and for good reason.
The electric play maker had 169 all-purpose yards, and came up with some huge scores in the passing game down the stretch of the fourth quarter.
In all actuality, Golden could have had a another receiving touchdown on the early jailbreak screen that set up UTEP's second score, and was two yards short of the goal line on a 37 yard fly sweep that set up UTEP's first score of the night.
Having Golden play the role he will man the rest of the year makes defensive coordinators game plan for UTEP instead of just stacking the box, which should help open the two power run game at times.
UTEP also took a few shots down field, I particularly like the first down try to Ian Hamilton when UTEP was in the red-zone on the first nine minute drive.
The Miners also missed a golden opportunity for points down field when Showers missed a wide open Jarrad Shaw early in the third quarter, but its good to see UTEP stretching the field.
Kugler talked about getting play makers the ball in better situations to grab yards, he was obviously talking about Golden.
Expect 10-15 touches a game from Golden in clean up style play calls, because Golden solidified his true home run threat this week.
Gameball(s): Autrey Golden, Josh Bell