UTEP will face NMSU in the Battle of I-10 on Aug. 28 at Aggie Memorial Stadium in Las Cruces.

After a calamitous college football season that was marred by the COVID-19 pandemic, UTEP and NMSU are ready for 2021 and are kicking things off with the Battle of I-10.

The heated rivalry, which was canceled last year, will resume Saturday, Aug. 28 when the Miners travel to Las Cruces for the 7:30 p.m. kickoff at Aggie Memorial Stadium.

Because of the virus, UTEP managed to complete only eight games in 2020, posting a 3-5 record. But that was nothing compared to NMSU, which cancelled its entire season.

The matchup will mark the 98th meeting in the rivalry, which UTEP leads 57-38-2. The recent momentum has clearly favored the crimson and white.

The last time these two teams met in 2019, NMSU took a 44-35 shootout over the UTEP. In fact, after beating the Aggies for eight consecutive years, the Miners have lost their last three games against NMSU.

Like with any successful football team, it all starts with the quarterback.

UTEP is set with starter Gavin Hardison, a sophomore who threw for 1,419 yards in seven games a year ago. He also threw five touchdown passes and had five interceptions. He averaged 202.7 passing yards per game and posted a 54.3 completion percentage.

NMSU has more questions about their quarterback position, considering no one on the roster has thrown a pass for the Aggies.

Jonah Johnson and Weston Eget are competing for the job. Johnson is a junior transfer from Fresno City College, while Eget is a redshirt freshman out of Santa Clarita, California.

Johnson appears to be the frontrunner based on his performance in two spring practice games against Tarleton State and Dixie State.

The Miners are expecting good things from their offense, returning 10 starters from last season.

“There are a lot of returners of course, but also a lot of new faces and I’m really looking forward to them stepping up and helping our football team,” head coach Dana Dimel said.

He is especially excited about his experienced offensive line.

“We lean on them. That’s kind of the heart and soul of what we have,” Dimel added.

“If we’re good up front we’re going to be able to do a lot of different things offensively. It’s nice to have those guys coming back,” Dimel said. “They’ve all done a nice job of getting themselves bigger, stronger and in better shape. That’s important for those guys as well.”

UTEP is also looking to running backs Deion Hankins and Quardraiz Wadley, as well as receivers Jacob Cowing and Justin Garrett, to carry the load.

Of course, not competing at all in 2020 has made NMSU as a bit of a mystery team.

They have a roster that will include 35 players who have not played a single game for the Aggies.

“To go through what these players have gone through the last year has been difficult to say the least,” said NMSU Head Coach Doug Martin.

“We have quarterbacks and receivers who hadn’t even thrown to each other in over 400 days because of the time off. But I believe in our players, and I feel we’re going to surprise a lot of people this season.”


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