Six games into the 2019 college football season, things are once again looking grim for the Miners. 

UTEP has not won a game since its home opener against FCS opponent Houston Baptist.

Although nobody expected this team to go to a postseason bowl game, they did believe that head coach Dana Dimel would make significant progress in year two. Although he will tell you his team is close to turning things around, it has not happened in the win column. 

Costly mistakes and bad penalties have hurt their on-field performance all season long.

What has been evident is that neither Brandon Jones or Kai Locksley are capable of delivering consistent results at the quarterback position. Without a leader, the Miners offense is often dull and underwhelming.

Although Dimel mentioned that sophomore quarterback Gavin Hardison could play for the first time against Louisiana Tech on Oct. 26, the plan is to redshirt the former Hobbs star.

Great expectations

Miners fans have shifted their focus to coach Rodney Terry and the men’s basketball team.

Thanks to the large haul of Division 1 transfers, expectations are through the roof for the 2019-20 squad. With the football team struggling to win games, the pressure for Terry’s Miners to win in season two is greater than ever.

In the seven years that Tim Floyd was head coach at UTEP, his best chance to go to the NCAA Tournament was his 2010-11 team. Many of his players on the roster had experienced the NCAA Tournament the previous season, and they were too talented a group to not return to the Big Dance. 

Unfortunately, that Miner team blew a 12-point lead to Memphis in the final six-plus minutes at a sold-out Don Haskins Center in the C-USA Tournament Championship game. UTEP lost the game and its NCAA Tournament hopes. Floyd would never get that close again while coaching the Miners.

Miner fans do not need to be reminded that it has been more than 27 years since a UTEP men’s basketball team won an NCAA Tournament game.

Despite Billy Gillispie’s dramatic turnaround in 2004 and Tony Barbee’s best team six years later, UTEP still bowed out in the first round of March Madness each of the three times they participated. 

Terry is trying to change that and has built a team that looks the part on paper.

 

Strong new talent

The good news is that UTEP has played well in both of their exhibition games. They came from behind to beat National Championship runner up Texas Tech 70-60 and followed that up with a one-point win against Grand Canyon University Saturday afternoon.

That game was a secret scrimmage closed to the media and the general public.

However, word leaked out on social media that newcomer Souley Boum had a terrific offensive performance against the Lopes and former Fresno State star Bryson Williams hit the game winning shot in the final seconds for the Miners. 

Unlike football, it can take just a handful of players to turn around the men’s basketball program. UTEP has so much new talent this season, the trick will be finding enough playing time for everyone.

The Miners were picked to finish fourth in C-USA by the league’s coaches behind Western Kentucky, UTSA and Louisiana Tech. Although some UTEP fans would be happy with a top four finish, Terry wants to deliver a memorable season that will bring Miner ball back to the Don Haskins Center.

Fans are dreaming of a trip back to the NCAA Tournament and hope this team lives up to the hype.  


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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