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Texas vs. UTEP: First look at the Miners

Texas will face the Miners as a ranked team for the first time since 2013

UTEP v Texas Tech Photo by John Weast/Getty Images

Texas enters Saturday’s meeting with UTEP fresh off of the most significant performance of the Charlie Strong era and once that vaulted the Longhorns of the ranks; from unranked to No. 11. To build upon that momentum, this weekend’s matchup with the Miners is one Texas can’t overlook.

In week one, UTEP didn’t have much of a problem with New Mexico State; largely due to the effort of standout running back Aaron Jones, who had his way with the Aggies defense to the tune of 249 yards and two scores, including a 75-yard burst. In short, Jones is tremendously talented and is the heartbeat of UTEP’s offense; you stop him and the offense sputters. UTEP likes to control the tempo of the game by slowing things down tremendously, as seen in the 37:24 time of possession against NMSU. The Miners have ranked No. 1 in Conference USA in time of possession for the last two seasons and ranked No. 2 in 2013, so expect UTEP to give every effort to keep Sterlin Gilbert’s offense sidelined. UTEP is able to do so by converting third downs at a high clip, as the Miners did in their opener by converting 11-17; four of which came on 3rd and 10 or longer.

UTEP has won the time of possession battle in 31 of 38 games since head coach Sean Kugler took the reins.

In total, between offense, defense and special teams, UTEP returns 17 starters, while nine players made their first career start (six on offense, three on defense) against NMSU.

UTEP has a handful of playmakers that can disrupt things at time for Texas, but for the most part, the Longhorns should have their way if the offense can execute remotely close to as efficiently as it did for much of the Notre Dame game and Vance Bedford’s defense can get of the field on third down. But as Sean Kugler noted, the vast majority, if not all of UTEP’s players were never recruited by Texas, and now that Texas has a target on its back again with a No. 11 ranking, expect the Miners to play every snap with nothing to lose.

Series History

· Texas is 4-0 all-time vs. UTEP.

· Texas’ largest win came in the last meeting (2009) with a 64-7 victory.

· The Longhorns compiled 638 yards of total offense in last meeting.

Texas Tidbits

· The Longhorns are ranked for the first time since 2013; No. 11 ranking is highest since 2012.

· Tyrone Swoopes is now seventh among QBs in school history with 845 yards rushing.

· Shane Buechele’s 280 yards passing is a true freshman record; 313 total yards is also a freshman record.

· A Texas win would mark Charlie Strong’s 50th career win as a head coach.

Must know notes about the Miners

· UTEP is 1-0 to start the season after a 38-22 win over New Mexico State.

· Head coach Sean Kugler is 14-23 at UTEP. He is a UTEP alum, has 11 years of NFL coaching experience, and also was the assistant head coach/offensive line coach of Boise State’s undefeated 2006 team that upset Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl.

· The Miners’ 518 yards of offense against NMSU was most of the Kugler era.

UTEP is 0-15 all-time vs. Big 12 opponents since league formed (1996).

UTEP Players to Watch

· Junior RB Aaron Jones – leads NCAA in rushing after Week 1 (249 yards; a career-high and third most in UTEP history). Jones missed most of 2015 due to injury and received a medical redshirt. He rushed for 1,321 yards and scored 14 total touchdowns as a sophomore in 2014.

· QB Kavika Johnson & Ryan Mets – starting QB Zach Greenlee passed for 229 yards and 3 TDs in opener, but suffered a slight tear in his MCL and will reportedly miss 1-2 weeks.

· Senior receiver Cole Freytag – recorded four catches for career-high 95 yards

· JUCO transfer Terry Juniel leads nation in punt return yards after Week 1 (104)

· Junior LB Alvin Jones (twin brother of Aaron) recorded a career-high 12 tackles against NMSU; led team in tackles in 2015 (93)

Interesting Texas – UTEP Connections

· UTEP RB coach Cornell Jackson and Texas DB coach Clay Jennings were on Baylor staff together in 2007, coaching the same positions they do now

· UTEP assistant HC/OL coach Spencer Leftwich was grad assistant at Stephen F. Austin while Texas' special teams coordinator/TE coach Jeff Traylor was walk on player in 1989

· Leftwich was OL coach at North Texas in 1997 while Jennings was grad assistant.

· UTEP safeties/assistant special teams coordinator Don Tanowsky was TE coach/recruiting coordinator at LSU in 2009 while Brick Haley was DL coach

Sean Kugler comments on Texas

· "You can go down every position and you see you NFL guys," Kugler said. "They've all bought in; it's going to be difficult. Matchup-wise, we don't match up with them across the board."

· "I'll be honest with you: [to win] we'd have to play perfect."

· "The freshman QB is very accurate, a strong arm,' Kugler said. “A true freshman, Notre Dame, national television, he's a different cat. He was extremely good. The big QB presents his own problems."