UTEP hopes to end dreadful season on high note against Southern Miss

By Matthew Metz

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The Miners (1-10, 1-6 C-USA) will get one last crack at a win this week, as they host Southern Miss (5-5, 4-3 C-USA) on Saturday at the Sun Bowl. However, Southern Miss is playing incentivized, as they are contesting a bowl berth with a win. 

"We need to be locked in," first-year head coach Dana Dimel said. "We don’t need to give gifts. We were into the gift season last week. That’s what cost us the game. We just gave them the football game. That was what was so disappointing. In order for us to pull an upset this weekend, we got to be the team that doesn’t turn the football over."

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

UTEP vs. Southern Miss details

Date: Nov. 24, 2018

Location: Sun Bowl, El Paso, Texas 

What channel is UTEP vs. Southern Miss on?

UTEP vs. Southern Miss will be broadcast on ESPN+ at 1 p.m. MT

How can I buy tickets to UTEP vs. Southern Miss?

Click here to buy tickets to the UTEP vs. Southern Miss game at the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas.

UTEP vs. Southern Miss preview

Locksley’s health remains uncertain

UTEP junior quarterback Kai Locksley has been battling injuries for about a month now and is likely doubtful against Southern Miss. Locksley threw three interceptions in just nine passes last week against Western Kentucky, where he was eventually pulled from the game and junior Brandon Jones finished the game at quarterback.

Dimel explained that Locksley had been limited in practice all week. Yesterday, Locksley tweeted “Sometimes u gotta listen & try to realize you’re not a superhuman, and heal. #2019” which makes it seem as if he will be sitting out against Southern Miss to focus on his offseason rehabilitation.

Locksley will also be having postseason surgery on his ankle, according to Dimel. 

"If he’s like he’s been the last few games, where he’s pretty much not able to move and to press off to get the throws the ways he wants to have them, with the accuracy the way he wants to have them and the rotation that he wants to have on the ball, then we’re going to start Brandon (Jones) because Brandon did a lot of positive things in the ballgame," Dimel said. "I think Kai has been improving so much, that when he’s healthy he competitively gives us more of an advantage than what Brandon (Jones) does. But that gap is closing for sure. There’s no doubt about it.” 

Wadley needs to put numbers on the ground

If the Miners have any chance at moving the ball against Southern Miss, they will need a productive game on the ground. With Locksley out and Jones likely in at quarterback, the Miners will have to rely on their ground game in order to win against the Golden Eagles. 

Wadley is the team’s leading rusher, totaling 1,041 yards on the ground with seven rushing touchdowns while averaging 5.4 yards per carry. But the Miners still find their most yardage through the air. Last week Jones totaled 340 passing yards, despite the team throwing five interceptions as a collective. If they designate more run plays, they might find more success on the ground than production through the air.

Remaining confident against incentive 

For the second week in a row, UTEP will be playing against a team with a deep motive to win. Last week, when rumors circulated around WKU head coach Mike Sanford being on the hot seat, the Hilltoppers responded with a 40-16 win at home, including a shutout 40-0 first half.

This week, the Golden Eagles are playing for a potential bowl berth. Southern Miss is coming off a big 21-20 win over LA Tech and a win over UTEP would push them over the six-win mark. 

"They’ve been building some success here with some victories down the stretch," Dimel said. "For us, it’s going to be going out and not just beating ourselves like we did in the first half of last week’s ballgame and having the team ready to play. If we can, try to shorten the game as much as possible this game. Try to shorten the snaps and try to make it a game we shorten as much as we can and still create some big plays on offense like we did in that ballgame (at WKU)."

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