clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

UTEP at North Texas Game Preview

Sixty minutes left in UTEP's season, do the Miners have a enough left in the tank for one more win?

It's been an interesting season for the UTEP Football program to say the least.

Injuries, bad losses, gritty efforts to pull out four wins, and the loss of arguably the best running back in program history quickly describes what has gone on in 2015.

For the Miners, one more sixty minute effort is on deck Saturday afternoon in Denton.

North Texas has also had a story book season, but one most Mean Green fans would like to forget as soon as the clock shows all zeros on Saturday.

After a big win against UTSA to end October, November has been a disaster for North Texas, much like their season.

They have scored only 20 points in their last three games, and have allowed 43.2 points per game this season.

The only positive this season has been the emergence of a capable backfield which their program can build on for next season.

Sophomore running back Jeffery Wilson has ran for 774 yards in nine games, and averages 5.5 yards per carry.

Wilson along with quarterback DaMarcus Smith gives North Texas a capable, and an athletic backfield.

Smith has had an up and down season, completing 48 percent of this passes, but does average 4.5 yards per carry. When you factor sacks on quarterbacks, Smith has to be contained as a runner.

In the pass game, Smith has, tight end Marcus Smith, and wideouts Carlos Harris, Darvin Kidsy, and Tee Goree who can all stretch the field and make plays.

On the defensive side, the Mean Green rank towards the bottom in every regular, and advanced stat category.

The big factor when it comes to Saturday's matchup is the 72.9 percent power run game success teams have against North Texas.

North Texas also struggles mightily against the pass as they rank no higher than 116th in the nation when it comes to passing down advanced stats.

The biggest question for UTEP is do the Miners have enough left in the tank for a five win season.

Freshman running back TK Powell had a big day against LA Tech, rushing for over-100 yards in his first career game in where he saw legit playing time and carries.

UTEP's offensive line did a tremendous job against the best front four in C-USA as UTEP ran for over 200-yards as a team.  Even a patched together M.A.S.H unit provided push, and production.

Sean Kugler said UTEP will continue to employ a two quarterback system with freshman Ryan Metz, and Kavika Johnson.

Defensively, strong fourth quarter performances continue to be a theme for the UTEP defense.

UTEP held LA Tech to just 22 fourth quarter yards, and forced five three-and-outs against LA Tech's explosive offense in the game.

Alvin Jones continues to have an all-conference type season, as he leads a UTEP front six has become a strength in the second half of the season.

Tight end Hayden Plinke will miss the North Texas game as he recovers from a broken foot, leaving Cedrick Lang as a major pass target for UTEP's young signal callers.

This is a game in where wide receiver Jaquan White can continue his productive year if UTEP opens up the pass.

White is averaging 7.9 yards per target, and is becoming a legit go-to-guy in UTEP's pass game.

Both teams have gone through hell at points this season, who will head into the off-season with a W?

Four Players to Watch

TK Powell, UTEP

Sean Kugler was impressed with Powell's performance on Saturday, meaning the talented walk-on should see more or the same amount of carries this week.  Powell is from the DFW area, and added familiar eyes in the seats could fire up the young freshman to have another big day.  His vision and cutting ability against LA Tech exposed a solid run defense.  Look for another repeat performance from Powell on Saturday. #Guarantee

Jeffery WIlson, North Texas

Wilson had a nice three game stretch against Western Kentucky, Marshall and UTSA in where he averaged 118.7 yards per game in that stretch.  What he does special is just run hard with elite vision.  I wouldn't consider him a full out burner, but he does have speed to get past the second level, and can be a physical runner.  UTEP's run defense has been solid in the second half the season, I would expect North Txas to pound away with Wilson early and often.

Alvin Jones, UTEP

Jones has been a flat out beast pretty much all season.  He's forced three safety's, and is fourth in the conference in tackles for loss.  UTEP needs a reckless head banger who can make plays in their defensive scheme.  And even playing with a torn labrum, Jones is and has been that dude for the UTEP defense.

Zac Whitfield, North Texas

The Mean Green's most talent defensive player is cornerback Zac Whitfield.  He has nine career interceptions, two coming this season along with four pass breakups.  At 5'9, it will be interesting to see if UTEP picks on him with a bigger wideout like Tyler Batson.  But he has the ability to get his hands on balls in the air.  Whoever is under center for UTEP has to know where he is at.

Three quick keys for UTEP

Establish the run

This is simple.

The weather will be nasty, but can UTEP's offensive be even more nasty in creating push for UTEP's running backs.

We all want UTEP to open up the playbook, but running the ball shouldn't be difficult against North Texas.

Keep North Texas in third and long

Disrupting plays on early downs has to key for the UTEP defense in killing any confidence North Texas may build with a positive play on early downs.

North Texas has a 10.7 percent sack rate on passing downs, and a 22.5 percent stuff rate on runs.

If UTEP can match those percentages, it will force North Texas into those long down situations.

Have fun

Let's be real, no one really cares about this game outside of El Paso, and Denton.

There's been more negative than positive this season for UTEP, but this game should be out just playing football one last time in 2015 and having fun.

Thanks to the seniors for their efforts in the UTEP football program.

Dear Football team, just go out and have one last ride and play loose, no pressure boys.