UTEP football: Miners host Middle Tennessee riding a fiery first win

By Matthew Metz

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EL PASO -- It’s been just over 48 hours since the UTEP football team (1-8, 1-4 C-USA) was able to hoist a win under their belts and snap their 20-game losing streak, and now the team will have to regroup and prepare to host Middle Tennessee (6-3, 5-1 C-USA) on Saturday.

The team’s 34-26 win over Rice featured one of the most celebrated locker rooms that the coaching staff has seen, according to first-year head coach Dana Dimel.

 “I think that might have been the most joyous locker room that I’ve been around,” said Dimel, who has been a part of coaching staffs at Kansas State, Arizona, Houston, among others. “Water thrown all over the place, Gatorade thrown all over the place, that was fun. I want the guys to have fun. They’re enjoying the game of football.”

It was the team’s first win since Nov. 26, 2016, which puts the Miners in a comfortable situation moving forward with four games left on their season.

“[Celebrating at Rice] showed to me how much they care—to see that kind of passion they show how they play but coming up that tunnel how crazy, the kind of noise after a victory was unbelievable,” Dimel said. “It was important in showing how invested the guys are and what it meant to them.”

Dimel admitted today, however, that junior quarterback Kai Locksley did not play 100 percent healthy against the Owls. Moving forward, his ankle injury will be something to keep an eye out for.

“Kai played a really good ball game considering the circumstances he was under,” Dimel said about Locksley, who threw for 193 yards and had two rushing touchdowns in the win. “He didn’t practice most of the week and when he did, he came in and moved the ball extremely well. He tweaked his ankle in the game and he’s in no better or no worse condition than last week. He’ll probably practice more this week.”

Dimel says that Locksley is the starter for Saturday’s game against the Blue Raiders, with junior Brandon Jones as the backup. Senior Ryan Metz is still out with the head injury that he suffered against Louisiana Tech.

As his team dusts off a much-needed win, Dimel says that moving forward, he expects to see execution and consistency among his team.

“That’s always important that they got a win and keep their consistency,” he said. “I thought they went out this morning and I want them to come out of practice and handle some prosperity that they had. I liked today, I like what we saw.”

The Blue Raiders enter Saturday’s game in first place of the C-USA East Division. They are currently riding a three-game win streak under head coach Rick Stockstill. Coincidently, Stockstill’s son, Brent Stockstill, is the quarterback of the Blue Raiders and averages 272.4 passing yards per game. Brent is also fourth in passing yards, third in yards per game and first in passing touchdowns actively in FBS.

Through their recent three-game win streak, they have held their opponents to scoring just 13.3 against them.

“Their senior quarterback that has been playing outstanding. Defensively, they’re built for speed,” Dimel said. “I think they’re very similar to LA Tech—that’s where I would put them. UAB is playing on a totally different surface. They just beat UTSA 52-3. Our team is doing some really neat things right now. I would put MTSU right up with Louisiana Tech.”

Kickoff between the two is set for 1 p.m. MT at the Sun Bowl. Click here to buy tickets for UTEP-Middle Tennessee.

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