EL PASO -- It's been 13 seasons since the Miners (1-9, 1-5 C-USA) have won back-to-back road games. On Saturday, UTEP will have its best shot for a win, as they take on the struggling Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (1-9, 0-6 C-USA), who are vying for their first conference win of the year.
But in order to do so, the Miners will have to learn to deal with their bulk of injuries, eliminate turnovers and play sound football in colder temperatures against the Hilltoppers.
"This is a great opportunity for us," said first-year head coach Dana Dimel. "The guys are preparing and doing well for us. That will be important to handle. Hopefully, we’ll have a better outcome because of that."
In the already large number of injuries that the Miners have suffered, they lost a few more the past week and will hopefully gain back some key players for this week's matchup. Dimel ruled starting offensive lineman Zuri Henry out for the season after UTEP's 48-32 loss to Middle Tennessee. Senior wideout Warren Redix will return to the mix this week, however.
Junior quarterback Kai Locksley is on pace to start against the Blue Raiders, but Dimel says he is "50-55" percent healthy with an ankle injury that he's been battling all season long.
UTEP enters Saturday's game as the worst in C-USA (No. 123 in FBS) in the turnover margin with a minus-9 showing this year. They had three turnovers against MTSU last week, including two interceptions by Locksley.
"We know we can execute at a high level, we just need to do it at a consistency for four quarters," Dimel said. "We have to eliminate turnovers. Turnovers are losing us football games. If we can eliminate that like we did against Rice, we can do well."
WKU enters this week riding a six-game losing streak and is 0-5 when playing at Houchens-Smith Stadium in Kentucky. They have been juggling through three different quarterbacks all season long, and will likely use sophomore Steven Duncan at the helm of the offense this week after his 228 passing yard performance last week against Florida Atlantic.
While it will be in the lower 40s in terms of temperature for kickoff on Saturday, the Miners will actually be able to practice in colder conditions. El Paso is expecting a cold front all week, to which Dimel calls an advantage for preparing against the colder temperatures.
"I think that’s good for our guys," Dimel said. "The whole trip and environment will be different for us. It does get cold at times but it will be similar to what we will do tomorrow [at practice]. It will be a good acclimation period with the guys."
UTEP and Western Kentucky will kickoff at 5:30 p.m. MT. Click here to buy tickets for UTEP-WKU.
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