UTEP-Middle Tennessee preview: Miners searching for winning streak

By Mary Scott McNabb

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Coming off their first win in 20 straight games dating back to the 2016 season, UTEP (1-8, 1-4 C-USA) wants to secure back-to-back victories for the first time in more than three years, as they host Middle Tennessee (6-3, 5-1 C-USA) this Saturday, Nov. 10, at the Sun Bowl. 

Here's everything you need to know about the Saturday matchup.

UTEP vs. Middle Tennessee details

Date: Nov. 10, 2018

Location: Sun Bowl Stadium, El Paso, Texas

What channel is UTEP vs. Middle Tennessee on?

UTEP vs. Middle Tennessee will be broadcast on ESPN 3. 

How can I buy tickets to UTEP vs. Middle Tennessee?

Click here to buy tickets to the UTEP vs. Middle Tennessee game at Sun Bowl Stadium, El Paso, Texas

UTEP vs. Middle Tennessee preview

Just how healthy is Kai Locksley?

Coming into Saturday's matchup, junior quarterback Kai Locksley's health will be something to monitor throughout the game. Locksley is seeking his third straight start for the Miners, but is nowhere near 100 percent healthy. 

Last week, Locksley's 193 passing yards and two touchdown runs helped the Miners in their 34-26 finish against Rice, but he was in-and-out of the mix during the second half. Locksley's been dealing with a significant ankle injury throughout the past month that will require surgery upon the conclusion of the season. 

Although head coach Dana Dimel plans to have Locksley as the true starter come Saturday, Locksley's been practicing lightly this week. Should he not play, it will be junior Brandon Jones at quarterback for the Miners. 

"Brandon Jones came in and did some good things again," Dimel said. "I’m really pleased with Brandon (Jones). Metzy (Ryan Metz) is still out right now with what he’s doing. (Mark) Torrez and (Alex) Fernandes will be backing up Kai (Locksley) and Brandon (Jones). We expect Kai (Locksley) to start and Brandon (Jones) to be ready. Those other two will have to step in if we get down on those two guys.”

Starting quick is a key for the team

During the losing streak, Dimel talked about the importance of his team leading early and sustaining the lead. It worked for UTEP in their first win against Rice last week.

The Miners had a 27-0 lead at Rice. It was only the third time UTEP has scored the game’s first 27 points versus a C-USA opponent since joining the league in 2005. They also scored quickly in the first three minutes of the game, which was UTEP’s quickest score versus a C-USA opponent since Nov. 5, 2011, at Rice (Nick Lamaison 74-yard pass to Mike Edwards, 13:57 on the clock). 

Nonetheless, starting fast against the top team in the C-USA East Division will be key for the Miners on Saturday. The Blue Raiders have also held opponents to just 13.3 ppg in their last three games (Charlotte, Old Dominion and Western Kentucky). Against Rice, starting fast meant everything coming together for the Miners. 

"The first half was played at a high, high level of football by our team. It was kind of everything coming together like we talked about," Dimel said.

Pass defense versus Brent Stockstill

Middle Tennessee senior quarterback Brent Stockstill continues to add to his already decorated career with the program. Stockstill became Middle Tennessee's all-time career leader in passing yards (10,897), passing yards per game (272.4) and touchdown passes (94). He's making a statement on the national scale too. He's fourth in passing yards, third in passing yards per game and first in passing touchdowns among active FBS players.

Junior wideout Ty Lee, one of Stockstill's main targets, leads the team in catches (41) and receiving yards (463). 

However, the Miners enter the game with one of the better secondaries in the conference. They are currently fourth in C-USA and No. 25 in FBS for passing yards allowed (188.3 per game). Senior corners Nik Needham and Kahani Smith have been leading the way for the Miners recently, and they've totaled three interceptions in the last two games. 

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