UTEP Miners vs Arizona Wildcats Game Preview

The Arizona football squad prepares to host the University of Texas at El Paso on September 16th. Set against the backdrop of a starry Saturday evening, the game is scheduled to kick off at 8 p.m. Following their recent narrow defeat to Mississippi State University on the road in Starkville, Mississippi, the Wildcats are hungry to reclaim victory.

In contrast, Northwestern, one of the underperforming power five teams in college football, handed them a resounding 38-7 loss during their last outing. Though the first quarter showed promise with a tied score of 7-7, the Wildcats struggled to muster any further offensive momentum, leading to their eventual defeat. Gavin Hardison, the quarterback for UTEP, completed 17 of 25 passes for 191 yards, securing one touchdown but suffering two interceptions. It’s imperative for Hardison to minimize interceptions in the upcoming game, and the defense needs to tighten up as well.

Historically, Arizona and UTEP have faced each other infrequently, with their last encounter dating back to the 2017 season and only one meeting in the past two decades. Nevertheless, their rivalry spans over a century, with this season’s match marking the 51st encounter. The Wildcats have enjoyed dominance in this rivalry, boasting a 37-11-2 record against the Miners. They currently hold a 12-game winning streak, commencing with a 14-6 victory on September 25, 1971, in El Paso, Texas. Arizona averages 25.12 points per game and boasts a strong home record of 21-7 against UTEP.

Their most recent clash resulted in a one-sided 63-16 victory for Arizona, largely credited to quarterback Brandon Dawkins. Dawkins displayed remarkable efficiency, going 18-for-21 with 155 passing yards and three touchdowns. However, he truly stole the show with his exceptional 133 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns on just 14 attempts. In contrast, UTEP’s offense managed only 17 rushing yards and 201 passing yards among three quarterbacks.

UTEP’s current season performance stands at 1-2, with their sole victory coming against the University of the Incarnate Word, albeit in a hard-fought 28-14 contest. Their season began with a narrow 14-17 loss to Jacksonville State University. In their recent outing against Northwestern University, they started strong with an 80-yard touchdown drive but ultimately succumbed to a 38-7 defeat, marked by two interceptions.

Gavin Hardison, the redshirt senior quarterback, has struggled with an average of around 165 passing yards per game and four interceptions across three games. While he has the ability to run the ball, his rushing efficiency is notably low. UTEP’s key offensive players, including Deion Hankins and Tyrin Smith, aim to contribute significantly to the team’s success this season.

Defensively, UTEP faces challenges following the loss of key players like Jadrian Taylor and Cal Wallerstedt. These departures leave a void in the defensive line, and UTEP must adapt to fill this gap effectively.

One intriguing storyline to watch is the return of Jacob Cowing to Tucson. The former Miner and Arizona native has made a significant impact since transferring to Arizona, and he will look to regain his form as a go-to target for quarterback Jayden de Laura. Jacob Manu, the sophomore linebacker, has emerged as a defensive leader, leading various defensive statistics.

As the Wildcats prepare for the game, their determination to bounce back above .500 for the season is palpable. With the odds favoring them, and considering their previous dominance in this series, Arizona has a strong chance of securing victory. The Wildcats are heavily favored at -923 on the moneyline, while the Miners stand at +600. The over/under for the game is set at 56 points.

Story by Christian Molinar