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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 15, 8:00 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Sun Bowl Stadium (51,500) -- El Paso, Texas. Television: None. Home Record: NMSU 1-0, UTEP 0-1. Away Record: NMSU 0-1, UTEP 0-1. Neutral Record: NMSU 0-0, UTEP 0-0. Conference Record: NMSU 0-0, UTEP 0-0. Series Record: Texas-El Paso leads, 52-35-2.
GAME NOTES: Losers of four in a row dating back to last season, the Miners of Texas-El Paso try to find a spot in the win column this weekend as they tangle with the New Mexico State Aggies in the annual I-10 rivalry series at Sun Bowl Stadium.
Due to hit the road for three of their next four games after this weekend, the Miners are trying to avoid their first 0-3 start to a campaign since 2008. The squad fought hard against fourth-ranked Oklahoma in the home-opener back on September 1 before bowing in a 24-7 final. A week later, UTEP tangled with Ole Miss and came up short in that meeting as well, 28-10.
As for the Aggies, a team which lost three straight and six of the last seven games to close out the 2011 campaign, they began this season on a positive note with a 49-19 beatdown of Sacramento State at home at the end of August. Unfortunately, the opposing talent stepped up last weekend and NMSU wasn't nearly as successful as it suffered a 51-24 loss at Ohio University. The Aggies, who bowed to Ohio last year by a score of 44-24, have now dropped five straight road tests.
The longest running series in UTEP history, the matchup with the Aggies has been played 89 times previously, with the advantage going to the Miners by a count of 52-35-2. The Miners have won three straight in the series, including a low-scoring 16-10 affair in Las Cruces a season ago.
The winner of this contest takes ownership of a couple of traveling trophies -- the Silver Spade and the Brass Spittoon.
Last season, the Aggies were easily handled by Ohio University and this time around was no different as NMSU was outscored 30-10 in the second half at Peden Stadium. The visitors managed a mere 206 yards of total offense, but gave up a whopping 584 yards to the Bobcats.
Andrew Manley tried to keep the Aggies in contention as he completed 12-of-24 passes for 132 yards and a score, but he was picked off once (returned 22 yards for a touchdown) and sacked four times. Backup quarterback Andrew McDonald was taken down for two more sacks which means NMSU now ranks 119th in the country in sacks allowed with five per game.
Tiger Powell scored on one of his 14 carries, but he generated just 41 total yards rushing, the team a mere 71 yards after the sacks were taken into account. Through two games, the Aggies are averaging just 86.0 ypg rushing (108th nationally), even though Powell has started off fast with three touchdowns on his first 21 attempts.
Manley was able to pad his stats in the opener against the Hornets and the same can be said for receiver Austin Franklin who caught eight balls for 236 yards and two scores in the first game of the season. Franklin now has 13 catches for 308 yards and three TDs, which means is he certainly someone that the Miners will have to keep an eye on this weekend.
Speaking of UTEP, the defense for the squad has been exposed quite a bit in the early going, giving up an average of 482.5 ypg. Luckily, Oklahoma and Ole Miss did most of their damage outside of the red zone in the first two weeks, but if the Miners don't tighten up the defense will be out of gas midway through the season the way things are going.
The Rebels averaged close to eight yards per play against UTEP and while Richard Spencer tried to keep the action from getting out of hand with his team-best 13 tackles, one forced fumble and two recoveries, the Miners need more of his teammates to step up and generate some major plays as well.
UTEP quarterback Nick Lamaison hit on 21-of-33 passes for 213 yards and a score last week, but having to pick himself off the turf following five sacks is no way to operate an efficient offense. Backup Carson Meger converted all but one of his seven attempts for another 61 yards, but he was picked off once in the losing cause.
The Miners are now 0-7 since the start of the 2010 campaign when attempting at least 40 passes in a game, but seeing as how the running attack was virtually non-existent against the Rebels (37 yards), does UTEP have any other choice but to put the ball in the air? The bottom line is that right now the offense is struggling and the team is producing just 8.5 ppg which is last in Conference USA and 118th in the country entering play this week so something has to give against the Aggies if UTEP hopes to come out on top for the first time this season.
The Aggies have proven that they can put significant points on the board, something that still eludes UTEP, so until the Miners get that fixed this is a game that could fall in favor of the visitors.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: New Mexico State 27, Texas-El Paso 16
09/12 10:36:25 ET
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