Dogs, Miners tangle in El Paso

When UTEP takes the field at the Sun Bowl Saturday night against Louisiana Tech, the Miners (5-1, 2-0 C-USA) will be trying to accomplish something that hasn’t been done in seven years in El Paso.

With a victory Saturday night, UTEP would become bowl eligible for the first time since 2014 in a contest that can be seen streamed on ESPN3. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. CT. The game can be heard on the LA Tech Sports Network (107.5 FM) with Malcolm Butler and Teddy Allen providing the call of the game.

Tech (2-3, 1-0 C-USA) is coming off a bye week after the Bulldogs fell 34-27 to No. 23 ranked NC State on Oct. 2 in Raleigh. UTEP has won three straight games, including league victories over Old Dominion (28-21) and Southern Miss (26-13). The Miners lone loss came to Boise State (54-13).

Bulldog head coach Skip Holtz knows that his team will face quite the challenge on Saturday night against a much-improved Miners program.

“UTEP is a really talented football team,” said Holtz. “Dana (Dimel) has done an unbelievable job with this program. They won five games in three years and here they are they’ve won five games in six weeks. They are a 5-1 football team.

“They are doing it the old fashion way. They are running the football and they are stopping the run. They have three tailbacks that are all good size and run downhill. They are hard to stop; physical runners. Doing a nice job of controlling the ball and taking some possessions away from you.”

UTEP has won three consecutive games for the first time since 2014 after winning at Southern Miss, 26-13, on Oct. 9. The Miners are also 2-0 in league play for the first time since the 2008 season. UTEP’s 5-1 start is the first since 2010. 

In C-USA, the Miners rank no. 1 in total defense (300.7 ypg allowed) and scoring defense (22.0 ppg). Nationally, UTEP ranks 16th in total defense. 

“They are built to stop the run,” said Holtz. “They will play a lot of man coverage. It’s not a scheme game as much as its an execution game. They play a physical brand of football. They are bought in and are playing with a lot of confidence right now.

“They had a young team for a couple of years, took their lumps, and now its paying dividends. UTEP is always a hard place to play. We know playing on the road against a good football team will be a great challenge.”

Holtz isn’t the only coach involved in this game that believes the match-up will be a challenging one. UTEP’s Dana Dimel has seen plenty from watching tap on the Bulldogs.

“[LA Tech is] obviously very talented and their quarterback is extremely talented,” Dimel said. “He’s played at two different Big 12 schools, and has a good resume. They have a running back from App State that’s really talented – a nice addition for them. They have some good receivers coming back from last year who are really talented players.

“Defensively, they have a bunch of sixth-year players on their defense. A bunch of guys who are super seniors. They’re talented, and we know that. [Skip Holtz] has taken his team to multiple bowl games in a row and won most of them. Skip does a good job there and has a really good program. It’ll be a big test for us.”

LA Tech owns a 14-2-1 record against UTEP. The Miners last beat LA Tech on Oct. 23, 2004, by the score of 44-27 in Ruston. The Bulldogs are 7-1-1 in El Paso. 

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