EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – It’s come down to one final game for UTEP: a do-or-die showdown in the Alamo City for the right to go to a bowl game.
The Miners (5-6, 3-4 Conference USA) have to win their last game of the season in order to become bowl eligible, but it won’t be easy in the slightest.
UTEP will put its bowl game hopes on the line at C-USA regular season champion UTSA (9-2, 7-0) on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. MT in San Antonio. The Roadrunners are currently 17-point favorites in the game.
“I’m excited to have our team to where we are right now and have a chance to get ourselves to back-to-back bowl games. I’m really looking forward to that opportunity,” head coach Dana Dimel said at his weekly press conference. “The challenge is there for us, but I’m very much pleased that we put ourselves in a position to be able to do that because it would be a really special feat for us to be able to accomplish that.”
UTEP has made it to a bowl game in back-to-back years just four times in the history of the program and hasn’t done it since 2004 and 2005.
In an up-and-down year in which the Miners have dealt with injuries and inconsistent play all over the field, getting to end the season on a high and in a bowl game would be big.
For the second straight game, UTEP has been quiet about who will start at quarterback vs. UTSA. Gavin Hardison injured his ankle vs. Rice on Nov. 3 and missed the Miners’ 40-6 win over FIU because of it.
In his place, Calvin Brownholtz stepped in and has played very well since taking over. Brownholtz led a pair of scoring drives at Rice, then engineered the win over FIU in which he accounted for three total touchdowns (two through the air, one on the ground).
If the Miners have to turn to Brownholtz again, they trust that he’ll be able to get the job done and hopefully keep them in the game.
The defense will also have to step up vs. UTSA, though. Led by veteran quarterback Frank Harris, the Roadrunners have scored over 30 points in all but one game this season and have a bevy of receivers that could feast on the Miners’ secondary.
“We’re going to face the best passing offense in the league because of the quarterback and the receivers. Those guys are so good at what they do,” Dimel said. “So, it’s going to be really important that we play well. We’re young at corner, but we’re getting better all the time. I’m excited to see what they can do and how they can hold up. Some of that’s going to come to our front putting some pressure on the quarterback and doing a good job getting to the quarterback and trying to disrupt him a little bit so we don’t hang our corners out to dry.”
UTSA also has a lot to play for. The Roadrunners are locked into playing for the C-USA championship on Dec. 3 and also have an outside shot of making a New Year’s Six game as the highest-ranked Group of Five team, if things break their way in the last two weeks of the season.
The Miners will have their hands full in the AlamoDome on Saturday, against a team they haven’t beaten since a triple overtime affair in 2016.