From the moment Dana Dimel was introduced as UTEP’s Head Coach he has been adamant on his 5-year rebuild of a program that was at rock-bottom of college football.
Gradually, the Miners have demonstrated slow but steady progress toward becoming a winner. Fast forward to year four of the Dimel regime and the upstart Miners find themselves 2-0 for the first time since 2005 and there is a buzz around Miner football.
The Miners first two victories come against foes who had major program shutdowns due to the COVID 19 Global Pandemic. 1-10 Rival New Mexico State came into the season rebuilding after having a limited 2 game Spring Season, and FCS Bethune Cookman did not play a game in 2020 before proving to be a pesky foe for the Miners.
This coming Friday Night at 7:30 The Miners get a major upgrade in competition as they travel to Boise Idaho to play one of College Football’s most consistent winners, in arguably one of the most electric environments, the Smurf Turf of Albertsons Stadium.
Boise State is 122-7 on their home field since 1999. The Miners may catch a little break as Boise State comes into Friday’s game 0-1 for the First time since they lost their opener to Ole Miss in 2016 after losing to UCF on the road 36-31.
The Broncos are now led by former player Andy Avalos who is a Defensive leaning coach and the former Defensive Coordinator at Oregon. Although Avalos’ debut at his alma mater was probably not what he envisioned, the Broncos looked dynamic at times during their loss to UCF.
Boise Jumped out to a 21 nothing lead on Thursday night, but had defensive lapses before the half that continued into the 2nd half allowing UCF to climb back into the game. At the same time UCF found their rhythm offensively the Broncos offense could not move the ball. Despite the struggles the Broncos found themselves driving with a chance to take the lead late in the 4th Quarter that ended when QB Hank Bachmeier would throw an ill-advised interception. This loss is likely a game that the Broncos would find a way to win.
UTEP comes into Friday night’s contest with 2 shorter days to prepare than the Broncos have, having played on Saturday night. Although the Broncos have a new Coaching Staff they have never had the rebuilding experience UTEP has had as all of their coaches have left the program for promotions at Power 5 Conference school leaving the successor (in this case Avalos) with the pieces to enjoy success right out of the gates including an energized fanbase that will pack Albertsons Stadium on Friday night and give the Miners the most hostile environment they are likely to play in all this season.
The Miners will need to rely on their veteran offensive line and running game to take pressure off of young Quarterback Gavin Hardison. Dana Dimel acknowledged the fact that he is encouraging his young Quarterback to take what the defense gives him, which was evident this past Saturday night where Haridson checkdown a lot of routes and had shorter completions in comparison to the season opener at New Mexico State.
It might have been a blessing in disguise for the Miners to have to grind out a gritty victory against Bethune Cookman rather than having their first adversity come on Friday night on the Blue Turf. To stay in this football game the Miners will have to limit mistakes including penalties, and turnovers, and get the ball into the hands of their playmakers.
Defensively the Miners success will ride on their talented front seven. Their Defensive line needs to get pressure on Bachmeier. One strength the Miners have displayed in their first two games is solid open field tackling. This will be essential as Bosie has players that are dynamic in space like Wide Receivers Khalil Shakir and Stefan Cobbs. The Bosie running game struggled profusely against UCF only amassing a net 20 yards on the ground and 1 touchdown. Coach Avalos will likely be looking at improving the rushing attack for Friday.
Although Coach Dimel may be downplaying the importance of this game, an upset victory or even a respectable loss could be the momentum the Miners need to sustain a successful season in the Micro. In the Macro with the changing landscape of college football this could be an audition for the Mountain West Conference for the Miners depending on how all the dominoes fall.
A close game could mean a September 25th Sun Bowl Sell-Out when Mountain West member and longtime rival the New Mexico Lobos come to visit the Miners. All in all this performance is the most important to date in the Dana Dimel Era.
Chris Gomez Reporting