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Rice at UTEP: Two teams looking for early season positives square off Saturday

NCAA Football: Texas El Paso at Oklahoma Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Two teams will be facing each other this Saturday knowing neither exactly was impressive enough to have the other shaking in their boots. In fact, both teams are chomping at the bit to get out of the 0-1 schneid at the bottom of the C-USA West cellar. With both teams getting spanked by offenses that chalked up a combined 118 points against them while they themselves only scored 14 points only adds intrigue to this C-USA opening matchup.

What do you all want to see different come this Saturday when UTEP plays Rice that perhaps you didn’t see in the season opener? Considering nothing really went right, you can spin this any way you want it. Now I’m going to tell you WHAT HAS TO GIVE….

  • The UTEP offense has to set the tone early and often with heavy, and effective doses of the running game. The only gripe I have had with this offense is it seems too 1980 NFC East-ish where you run it more than you pass. At some point in the season this team will have to find its identity on both sides of the ball. It will need to start on the offensive side as the Miners are ranked 124th in the country in total offense after week one. Seeing this offense struggle last week makes you only appreciate more how much Aaron Jones meant to this team. I don’t believe in a running back by committee as much as I hate quarterback carousels. It doesn’t allow your offense to have a steady flow where it can carry over to the next game or the game after that. Whoever is the guy to take the reins of this offense will need to start gaining Coach Sean Kugler’s trust. The quarterback position is where it needs to start against the Owls. Ryan Metz doesn’t need to throw for 300 yards and 4 TD’s, but he will need to manage the game way better if he expects to hang onto the job. If Walter Dawn can take some pressure off with some big plays as well, this will make executing a little easier for his signal caller. Either the Miners turn into that team that runs it to death every game, throws it like there’s no tomorrow, or has a nice balanced offense. Think everyone prefers ANYTHING at this point to get the team that first win. In the long run IDENTITY will be what they need to establish on the offense side in the post Aaron Jones era.
  • The defense doesn’t need to shutout everybody they play this season, but a bend-but-don’t break mentality could be serviceable down the road. This defense could possibly be the team’s Achilles heel as on paper as they don’t come across as a unit that will lead the conference in sacks or interceptions. One thing you can do to compensate for the lack of playmaking on the defensive side of the ball is play fundamentally sound football: stuff the run, play excellent coverage, and more important wrap up when you tackle. Some will laugh when they read what I wrote since it seems so simple to do. The simplest things are the ones you tend to forget the most during those moments in the trenches on the field. The Owls enter Saturday’s game ranked 116th in the nation after one game. If there ever was an even playing field here it is for the Miners to impose their will in the home opener. Basic fundamentals could help this defense make a grand improvement from week one to week two, but without Alvin Jones for a half, can this defense make a 360 degree turnaround in just a week?

Come out to support your Miners this Saturday!!