UTEP Takes On Louisiana Tech In Final Chance For Senior Class To Win At Home

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Photo: Tony Venegas/TexasHSFootball.com

Twenty-two seniors will retire their orange and blue uniforms Saturday, as the UTEP Miners (0-10) will square off against the LA Tech Bulldogs (4-6, 2-4 C-USA) in ‘Senior Day,’ which will also serve as the Miners’ last home game.

To say the least, the numbers are not on the Miners side for their last chance to win in front of their home crowd. The Miners are coming off a tough 45-10 loss at North Texas and still ranks among the worst teams in the nation.

“It was not a good trip and we didn’t play well,” interim head coach Mike Price said. “I felt like at halftime we held in there, did a nice job in the first half, kept up with them within striking distance. And then had a poor second-half performance from our defense, though our kicking game was pretty good. Again, our offense sputtered in second half and our timing isn’t there offensively. We’re not in a positive rhythm on offense.”

Photo: Courtesy of UTEP Athletics

In fact, for the fifth week in a row, the Miners rank as the worst offense in the nation. They’ve only amassed 2,148 yards of total offense throughout the year, with just 12 total touchdowns on offense. They average only 214 yards per game, which is 63 yards less than the second worst offensive team, Wyoming, who averages 277.8 yards a game.

During previous press conferences, Price has said that he has never been tasked with an offense that has been so inept as this one.

Only three players on offense have started each game this year, and all three are linemen— Logan Tuley-Tillman, Will Hernandez and Derek Elmendorff. Four different running backs have started this year with Walter Dawn Jr., Kevin Dove, Quadraiz Wadley and Joshua Fields. Seven different receivers have made at least one start as well.

The one position offensively that has plagued the team so greatly is the quarterback spot. Ryan Metz and Zack Greenlee have both made five starts each, but it seems like every week the question is, “who will start next?”

UTEP quarterback Ryan Metz (Ivan Pierre Aguirre, USA Today Sports)

“I’m thinking about what we’re going to do about the quarterback situation,” Price said. “Right now, I would say it will probably be similar the way it was in the game. However, it depends on Ryan Metz and see how he feels. But we’ll see how it goes in practice. It will be a real battle at the quarterback position if Ryan is healthy.”

Depleted and doing things in the spur-of-the-moment is not the way they want to come into Saturday’s game.

LA Tech is coming in frustrated and still vying for a bowl spot. They bring to the table a high-flying offense that averages 404.2 yards a game, which is fifth-best in C-USA.

Their quarterback J’Mar Smith is a threat and ranks 29th in the nation for passing yards (2,454) and he is currently completing 57 percent of all his passes.

Another thing to note, the Miners have never beat a team coached by LA Tech head coach Skip Holtz. They are 0-7 against Holtz since 2007 and the last time they beat LA Tech was in 2004, during the first season of the Price era.

“Louisiana Tech, they’ve been solid in Conference USA,” Price said. “They’re a typical Conference USA team, in the fact that they are physical, they resemble North Texas offensively, they’re fast, they’re athletic and well coached. They have big play ability, both offensively and defensively. They’re struggling a bit, having lost their last two games at home. They’ve lost three games by one point this year and are 4-6, needing two more victories in the last two games to be bowl eligible and could’ve easily won the game.”

Now it’s up to the Miners, and also Price, who has two weeks left with the team, to not let the team implode or self-destruct during the last two weeks.

“What needs to happen is they’re going to replace me in two weeks. It’s going to be a refreshing change in the athletic department and the football program. That happens in a growth of a program – you have highs and lows,” Price said.

Kickoff between the teams is slated for 1 p.m.

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