UTEP enters their second game of the 2015 season off a 48-13 loss to #18 Arkansas, and will look to put up a better showing against the red hot offense of Texas Tech who comes in off a 59-45 victory over Sam Houston State.
The Red Raiders are led by sophomore quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who the Miners did not see a year ago in El Paso. Davis Webb started that game, and a few after that, but following an injury midway through the season, Mahomes took over and now enters as the regular starter under center.
He threw for 1547 yards, 16 touchdowns and just 4 interceptions in his freshman campaign, and is off to a great start this year, passing for 425 yards, 4 scores, and a pick in week one against SHSU. At 6'3 and 220 lbs, Mahomes is a not just a passing quarterback.
His size and speed make him a threat to run the ball as well, and he isn't the easiest to bring down. Week one saw him rush for 48 yards on just 5 carries, and considering defenses are kept off balance with the pass game, Mahomes should always be considered a threat to make a play or two with his feet.
Although Tech will not run the ball a ton, senior running back DeAndre Washington is a guy that rushed for better than 1100 yards in his junior season, and is off to a nice start with 74 yards on 13 carries after one week.
The offensive line could be an area that the Miners may be able to expose. Unlike in week one, Tech's line averages a more 'normal' 6'4 and 305 lbs. While they are experienced, with four seniors and one junior, UTEP's defensive line will be able to match up better, and may potentially be able to make more of an impact in containing the run, and putting some pressure on Patrick Mahomes.
The Miner secondary, however, will have their hands full. 5'10 junior Devin Lauderdale is perhaps the best receiver this unit will see all year, and he won't be easy to contain. He opened with an 8 catch, 150 yard, 2 touchdown performance in week one. Senior Jakeem Grant and Ian Sadler will also be a couple to keep an eye on, as well as a number of other as the Raiders have no issue spreading it around.
There's no question Texas Tech has never been known as much of a defensive team, and this year should prove to be more of the same. In last week's contest against Sam Houston State, the Red Raiders gave up 627 total yards, with 320 coming through the air, and 317 on the ground.
Of course, we don't exactly expect the Miners to go out and throw for 320 yards, but they should be able to capitalize on the porous run defense. A year ago, that unit ranked 124th nationally, and the Miners were able to exploit that to the tune of 268 yards and 3 touchdowns, including 5.2 yards a clip.
Tech will lineup in a base 3-4 defense, but will shuffle things around going into a 4-3, and perhaps even a 4-2-5 at times. Regardless of the setup, their strength lies in their front seven. The Raiders field 4 seniors and 3 juniors in those seven, with two sophomore and two juniors in the defensive backfield.
Again though, this a unit that has been shredded, not only in week one, but this a defense that ranked 125th nationally in total defense in 2014. The Miners will have their opportunities to make some plays, the question will be whether on not they capitalize on them.
KEYS TO THE GAME:
Keep the Tech offense off the field
This will be a something that will be harped on all season long. The best defense for this team, is their offense. That's not a knock on our defense, but one of our biggest strengths is our ability to control the pace of the game. That will be crucial in this one. Tech will look to score on every single play, and the less opportunities they have, the better it will be for the Miners. Simple as that.
Win the turnover battle
Week one saw the Miners commit three turnovers and finish -3 in that category. Those turnovers essentially gave Arkansas 17 points, and while we won't say that was the difference in the game, another turnover margin like that potentially could be the difference in this one. This game should turn out to be much like the one a year ago in El Paso. If we can find a way to win the turnover battle in this one, we very well may give ourselves the chance to pull it out in the end.
Be mentally tough
This will not be an easy game by any stretch of the imagination. Tech will get theirs. Period. The thing we cannot do, is give them any more than they get on their own by committing costly and untimely penalties, giving away the football, missing tackles, and not taking advantage of our opportunities. Being sound in those areas starts with being mentally tough, and if we're able to do that, we will great improve our chances of coming away with the win.
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