The opening game against New Mexico State for UTEP Miners quarterback Zack Greenlee looked much prettier on the stat sheet than it must have felt, as head coach Sean Kugler announced on Wednesday evening that his starter will be out for one to weeks.
As a result, Greenlee will miss this Saturday’s road game against the Texas Longhorns.
In going 15 of 27 through the air for 229 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions, the Fresno State transfer had an excellent debut, but suffered a litany of injuries — a slight tear to his MCL, a separated shoulder, and a broken finger.
The starter for UTEP will be sophomore Kavika Johnson, a 6’1, 205-pounder who is best described as an athlete after playing quarterback and tailback last year and starting the 2016 season at wide receiver, catching two passes for 26 yards.
Johnson was able to avoid throwing any interceptions as a freshman, but only attempted 53 passes, completing just 50.9 percent of those attempts — he’s clearly much better as a runner and is limited as a passer.
When Kugler first announced the injury to Greenlee, he said that sophomore Ryan Metz will also play. At 6’4 and with a completion percentage of 59 percent last season, Metz is clearly much more comfortable standing in the pocket and throwing the football, but despite his accuracy, his decision making was suspect as a freshman — he threw seven interceptions against only six touchdowns.
Basically, there’s a reason why these players lost out to Greenlee upon his arrival, as both have significant limitations at the position and Greenlee is a talented player who had some impressive moments at Fresno State.
So the Greenlee injury is a significant loss to the Miners, but the likely dual-quarterback system Kugler and offensive coordinator Brent Pease will use against the Longhorns could could cause some issues for Vance Bedford’s defense since the film of the Aggies game is much less useful and Johnson could complement star running back Aaron Jones with his legs in a way that Greenlee could not.
Kugler tends towards the conservative and could veer in further in that direction because of his loss at quarterback — expect the Miners to run the ball as much as possible and drain the play clock while doing so.
It’s possible for Texas to run away with this game, but Kugler isn’t going to allow the ‘Horns a chance to score 40 or more points if he can help it.