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The pandemic interrupted the Miners’ football season, though a final road game is set for Nov. 28 at Rice.

The 2020 college football season has been a challenge for most Division 1 programs. 

UTEP is no exception. 

After playing five games without interruption, the Miners played just twice the past five weeks. The four postponements or cancelations are no fault of theirs. Southern Miss, Florida International and UAB all cited coronavirus concerns from inside their football programs, while North Texas was afraid to travel into El Paso for their game last month.

Head UTEP coach Dana Dimel and staff, along with the UTEP team, should be commended for not having a major COVID-19 breakout within the program while the city of El Paso has dealt with the enormous spike in positive cases over the last few months.   

The last time the Miners played a home game at the Sun Bowl was Sept. 19 against Abilene Christian. During their last three road games, UTEP’s offense has not been able to effectively move the ball and score points. Quarterback Gavin Hardison and running back Deion Hankins were off to a terrific start this season, but their production has slowed down in conference play. The team’s defense had played well for most of the season, but it could not stop UTSA last week and gave up 52 points to the Roadrunners.

 

What’s next

The Miners are off again and will play the final road game of 2020 at Rice Nov. 28. 

The team does have a pair of makeup games scheduled for Friday, Dec. 4 and Saturday, Dec. 12 against Southern Miss and North Texas, respectively.

However, these two games will most likely be played in Midland at Grande Communications Stadium without fans. The UTEP athletic department had arranged for the team to play UAB at the 15,000-seat high school complex before the Blazers backed out of the game. It is likely that UTEP will continue to use the stadium as their home field since El Paso is still among the worst COVID hot-spots in the country. The Miners are currently 3-4 after seven games and there is still a strong possibility that the team could end up in a postseason bowl game if they finish with five wins.

 

Basketball looms

As tough as the college football season has been, it is hard to believe that the 2020-21 college basketball campaign is less than a week away. 

In fact, college basketball will be the first major indoor sport to tray and play without a bubble since the start of the pandemic back in March. 

The NCAA hoops season officially begins on Nov. 25 and UTEP will host UT Permian Basin that night at the Don Haskins Center. 

The Miners released their basketball schedule on Nov. 17, and the men still have three to five games that could be added to their non-conference slate within the next week. Fans can look forward to UTEP playing a pair of tough non-conference road games against both Arizona and Saint Mary’s and there is a strong chance that they will play another Top 25 team on the road. 

Although the Battle of I-10 is currently scheduled for a pair of women’s games at the DHC, the UTEP and NMSU men currently do not have any arrangement in place for their annual home and home meeting. 

The Aggies were without a place to practice or play since New Mexico governor Michelle Lujan Grisham forbid the teams to work out in Las Cruces as part of the state’s public health order. 

However, NMSU announced this week that they had struck a deal with the Arizona Sports and Entertainment Commission. The men’s team will practice at the Arizona Grand Resort and Spa in Phoenix over the next five weeks and the university is working to lock down a facility in the Phoenix area to play their non-conference home games. As for the NMSU women, they will practice in Tucson and still play games in other states while they quarantine in New Mexico.    

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Since 1997, Steve Kaplowitz has hosted “Sportstalk” from 4 to 7 p.m. weekdays on 600 ESPN El Paso. You can email him at skaplowitz@krod.com. His column appears periodically in El Paso Inc.’s B-Section.

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Since 1997, Steve Kaplowitz has hosted “Sportstalk” from 4 to 7 p.m. weekdays on 600 ESPN El Paso. You can email him at skaplowitz@krod.com.

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