EL PASO- Here’s a stat for the books: UTEP is one of just two winless teams in all of FBS. The only other team is Georgia Southern, the Sun Belt affiliated team, who has been in arms reach with their league opponents, giving them some hope at a win down the line.
The Miners on the other hand, have not been close against their opponents, averaging a -24.8 scoring margin.
This Saturday, the Miners (0-9) will try again, with only three chances left, to get their first win of the season as they travel to Denton to take on the North Texas Mean Green.
“Not a happy camper around here. It’s not going like we thought it was going to go. The defense played pretty good at times. We made a field goal. But we’re still struggling on offense and we need to get better, much better, we have a long way to improve. It’s more complicated that I had thought.”
First the Miners have to shake off a 30-3 loss to Middle Tennessee that Price called a “rough trip.”
Against the Blue Raiders, the Miners gained just 137 total yards of offense and just put up a field goal in the game. To make matters worse, starting running back Quadraiz Wadley, who just returned to the gridiron from a knee injury, suffered a clavicle injury to his neck and is out for this week against North Texas.
Quarterback Ryan Metz also has a sore shoulder and the coaches will be “analyzing” who will be starting at quarterback this week, according to Price.
“Rough weekend, rough trip,” Price said. “I don’t think we moved a step ahead. I think we took a step back as a team. A loss we want to forget as soon as possible.”
The loss and lack of offense set the Miners back to the worst team in the country for total offense, averaging just 213.0 yards per game. They’re the second worst team in scoring, averaging 11.4 points a game, and the third worst team in FBS for rushing yards, with only 86.9 a game.
“This is a highlight for me,” Price said, when asked if this was his most challenging offensive team to work with. “I don’t have the magical powder I used to have.”
One positive takeaway from the game was freshman Joshua Fields hitting his second consecutive career high after rushing for 87 yards off 17 carries. On their lone scoring drive, Fields ran the ball for 61 yards on eight attempts.
“Josh Fields is the guy now,” Price said. “Played very well in two games. Very pleased with him. He’s only a freshman.”
Now the Miners will have to set the loss aside and focus on a North Texas road trip that will look entirely different than when the Miners played them before.
North Texas is vying for a spot in the Conference USA Championship game, and will clinch their place with a win over UTEP. They are currently the C-USA West Divisional leaders, partially due to their offensive explosiveness.
“Touchdown Tommy (defensive coordinator Tom Mason) has a big load this week,” Price said.
Indeed, the North Texas offense requires much defensive attention because of their air raid attack. They are led by sophomore quarterback Mason Fine, who is second in C-USA for passing yards per game (288.8), passing yards (2,599) and is tied for first in passing touchdowns (18).
“He’s a sophomore but he’s a really good player,” Price said. “You have to stop Mason Fine.”
This North Texas team also likes to score points. They currently average 35.9 points a contest, which ranks them second best in the league.
Their defensive pressure will also be an issue for the Miners as they like to bring up safeties close to the line and aggressively attack their opponents.
“Defense is different than anything we’ve seen,” Price said.
While North Texas is hunting for their program’s first-ever spot in the C-USA Championship, the Miners will fight for their first win of the season.
Kickoff will be at 3 p.m. MT and will be televised on ESPN 3.
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