The UTEP Miners will open their 2021 season with a road-trip to independent New Mexico State at Aggie Memorial Stadium. New Mexico State played just two games last season, both in the spring, and split games with Tarleton and Dixie State to finish 1-1. UTEP finished 3-5 in the 2020 campaign but closed their season with five straight losses and was 0-4 in Conference USA play.
UTEP returns all eleven starters on the offense and it was an offense that was much improved last season, they finished 2019 as one of the worst offensive units in the country but took a big step forward last season, averaging 348.1 yards and scoring 23 points per game. With everyone coming back, including sophomore Gavin Hardison who completed 54% for 1,419 yards, five touchdowns and five interceptions. Deion Hankins figures to be the feature back after totaling 592 yars and nine touchdowns last season.
The Miners’ defense finished last season 76th in the country in scoring defense and they’ll return eight starters from last years’ team. They’ll return five of their top seven tacklers, including the big defensive lineman Praise AMaewhile who had a team-high 7 sacks and 9 PBU. They’ll also get back Dennis Barnes and Duron Lowe in the secondary, Barnes had five passes defended, and Lowe with the team’s only two interceptions.
New Mexico State was just 1-1 in a shortened spring season last year but will return just three starters from that team, all of them on offense. One of those starters coming back is junior Jonah Jackson who completed 60% of his passes for 358 yards and a touchdown in his two starts last season. Juwan Price led the backfield last saeson with 229 yards and a touchdown in his two games last season, averaging 6 yards per touch.
The Aggies defense allowed 36 points per game against the inferior competition last season to the team that they’ll face off against in week one of this season. Even though UTEP isn’t a team of killers offensively, they should be able to manage to find some sort of offensive success against the New Mexico State offense. These two have players every year, except last season, with New Mexico State winning three straight matchups.