Ryan Metz pretty much solidified himself as THE starter (health wiling)
For the first time this season, UTEP showed glimpses of a respectable passing game against a team not named NMSU.
Ryan Metz allowed his pass catchers to make plays by not bailing out of the pocket, and delivered hard, catch-able fastballs among his 19 completions which was a season high for a UTEP quarterback.
He targeted eight different pass catchers, and competed passes to seven different players.
Metz also had chunk plays of 24, 32, 42, and 29 with the first two coming on first down play calls. He also showed some explosive chemistry with his former Andress teammate Eddie Sinegal.
Speaking of Sinegal....
The freshman has seen more snaps at X-wide receiver the past two weeks, and showed off his route running, and YAC talents with 102 yards on six catches making him just the second 100-yard receiver under Sean Kugler.
Metz also stuck to the game plan of getting the ball to Hayden Plinke and Cole Freytag. He also showed his ‘cojones” and baller skills on that scramble which violently knocked him out of the game. (should’ve been a UTEP first down for hit out of bounds)
The negative: his decision making should be graded as average-to-below-average in this game, but could the continued game-time experience mold Metz into the play making quarterback UTEP desperately needs to emerge?
Sean Kugler appeared concerned about Metz’s health on his post game radio interview, but the northeast El Paso product didn’t leave any doubts on the field that he is UTEP’s top option in engineering an offensive revival.
UTEP’s defense continues to pack a punch against spread teams
UTEP’s speed, and physicality in the back end of their defense continues solidify the flip to the 3-4 scheme as the right move for the program.
Only two blown assignments completely gashed UTEP, and both were on aggressive blitzes in where Tom Mason was simply caught slipping with his blitz call.
It appeared LA Tech was going to pull an Army and score on every possession after their first two drives, but the Miner D went back to the basics only to be burned on the gamble.
The most intriguing part is UTEP is also playing with quite a few young guys like Mike Sota, Gene Hopkins, Jayson VanHook, Justin Rogers, Stephen Forester just to name a few who stood out and have played significant snaps.
Nik Needham is truly playing like an all-conference corner, and virtually shut down his side of the field with sheer physicality and tough nose play.
Most encouraging, UTEP played its three best defensive quarters without Alvin Jones who played just a handful of snaps early in the game.
As tilted as some scores have been this year, the UTEP defense has not allowed a 300-yard passer against a spread team, and continue to excel in the ever important pass deflection to forced incompletion rate.
Stopping the run has been a major issue, but that is where UTEP misses Alvin Jones the most besides his overall presence.
It’s been hidden by the inept UTEP offense, but the Miner defense, (outside of the Army game and second half of the Texas game) is respectably(?) good.
UTEP continues to beat UTEP
Whether it’s been a mixture of not being properly prepared, penalties, lack of execution, questionable offensive game planning, and/or poor field position.
UTEP continues to self inflict their issues.
During UTEP’s 2014 bowl run, sound mistake free play, sound technique along the line of scrimmage, and high football IQ were some of the identities that squad put together as the season wore on.
In a ball control offense without the big play explosion factor, not to mention UTEP’s current struggles, self inflicted mistakes will continually put you behind the eight-ball.
UTEP has sort of patched together an offensive line this season, and the lack of clean play upfront has plagued UTEP all year, and was on full display on Saturday.
These correctable areas fall squarely on the coaching staff who will be accountable in admitting those shortcomings if asked.
But now five weeks into the season, and possessing the identity of enabling those miscues to become apart of the norm makes it hard to feel optimistic about a mid-season come to Jesus moment in salvaging the season.