UTEP-Western Kentucky preview: Miners seek back-to-back road wins against Hilltoppers

By Matthew Metz

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EL PASO -- UTEP (1-9, 1-5 C-USA) will play their final road game of the season at Western Kentucky (1-9, 0-6 C-USA) this Saturday, where the Miners will hope to get back-to-back conference road wins for the first time since 2005. 

On another hand, Western Kentucky is hoping to get their first conference win dating back to last season, as the Hilltoppers are in the midst of a seven-game Conference USA losing streak. 

Here are three keys to the game Saturday for the Miners to pull off a road win

UTEP vs. Western Kentucky details

Date: Nov. 17, 2018

Location: Houchens-Smith Stadium in Bowling Green, Kentucky

What channel is UTEP vs. Western Kentucky on?

UTEP vs. Western Kentucky will be broadcast on beIN Sports Network at 5:30 p.m. MT

How can I buy tickets to UTEP vs. Western Kentucky?

Click here to buy tickets to the UTEP vs. Western Kentucky game at Houchens-Smith Stadium in Bowling Green, Kentucky

UTEP vs. Western Kentucky preview

UTEP will revisit last year to plan for this year

In last year's matchup, Western Kentucky edged the Miners 15-14 in what could have been known as UTEP's closest chance at a win during their 0-12 season in 2017. It was a tough loss for the Miners, as the players sought a win following the resignation by former head coach Sean Kugler five games into the season.

First-year head coach Dana Dimel is aware of last season's finish and says that it adds some fuel to his squad this year. UTEP is 0-2 all-time against Western Kentucky, losing in 2014 (35-27) at WKU and falling in the Sun Bowl last season. 

"Always as a coach, I go back and look at last year’s ballgame and how the team fared against them because that’s the most-recent information that you have. I know we had plenty of chances to beat them last year, and played a really good football game against them," Dimel said. "That’s one that you just study because you study personnel. You don’t study schemes, but you study personnel. That was an encouraging game for UTEP last year.” 

Western Kentucky continues to struggle 

Under the direction of head coach Mike Sanford, the Hilltoppers have been struggling all season long. They are 0-4 when they play at home and have also scored less than 20 points in seven of 10 games this year, including five of six C-USA contests.

The Hilltoppers are averaging 365.4 yards per game (123.8 rushing, 241.6 passing), but continue to juggle between three quarterbacks at the helm of their offense. Sanford announced earlier this week that sophomore Steven Duncan will be the starter for Saturday's game following his start at Florida Atlantic last week, where he completed 25-of-42 passes for 228 yards in their 34-15 loss. Multiple reports have also tabbed Sanford on the hot seat after the Hilltoppers 1-9 record. 

"I know Mike (Sanford) has come in but I’m not familiar with what type of situation he came into," Dimel said. "So, I can’t really speak to that. I know he comes from a good, long lineage of coaching. I got to know him. I think he’s a good football coach and he’s done some good things early in his career. Of course, his dad was a longtime college coordinator and did a great job. So, I know that Mike (Sanford) has the lineage to be successful I just think he’s in a rebuilding phase right now for his program.”

UTEP needs to adjust to the weather change

The Miners have been blessed with sunny conditions and perfect weather all season long, but for Saturday's game at Western Kentucky, temperatures could drop to freezing temperatures. UTEP practiced in 40-degree temperatures this week in El Paso, but Dimel continues to say how important it is for his team to dress properly for this game. 

"The whole trip and the environment are going to be a little bit different for us," Dimel said. "It’s going to be colder than what our kids are accustomed to. It does get cold here (in El Paso) at times, we just don’t play in it. So, our kids aren’t used to it. "

Although his team isn't used to it, Dimel assures that the team will dress warm and be ready for Saturday's conditions. 

"It takes a lot of focus," Dimel said. "It’s really important to dress warm. There’s nothing about underdressing that proves toughness. You think and you play better when you’re warm. The kids got to make sure that they’re properly dressed and have the right gear on. That’s what we learned at Kansas State, that proper gear was really important. I coached at Wyoming and there were times your forehead was freezing off as a coach. As a coach, I have a lot of experience with that, and the biggest thing is keeping your guys warm enough so that they’re focused on playing and not focused on being cold. That is really an important part of the ballgame. It’s underestimated.”

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