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Football is back, and the Longhorns will welcome UTEP on Saturday to kick off the 2020 season. The Miners began their season this past weekend, coming from behind to beat FCS Stephen F. Austin, 24-14. In 2019, the Miners limped through a 1-11 season, with the sole win a season-opening victory against Houston Baptist. Dana Dimel is beginning his 3rd season in El Paso and Texas was able to get a glimpse of what to expect on Saturday evening.

Offense

Dimel arrived at UTEP after spending 7 seasons on staff at Kansas State, where he served as the co-offensive coordinator. The Miners offense has several similarities to the Kansas State teams that gave Texas fits while Dimel was helping call the shots. Texas will not be facing a team who tries to spread them out with 5 receivers and throw the ball all over the field. Instead, the Longhorns will see an offense that will try to control the ball while picking and choosing their spots to take shots down the field. 

After playing musical chairs at QB for much of 2019, the Miners have started off this season with Gavin Hardison taking every snap in their opener. Hardison took a redshirt season in 2019 while playing in the final 3 games of the season. He is a transfer from New Mexico Military Institute and looked okay against the Lumberjacks, finishing 17 of 28 for 212 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He is not really involved in the run game at all and can probably best be described as a game manager. He had a few nice throws downfield in 1 v 1 coverage, but Texas should be able to pin their ears back and try to generate some turnovers. 

Deion Hankins and Josh Fields both had over 10 carries this past Saturday, with Hankins leading the way with 17 carries for 113 yards and a pair of touchdowns. UTEP finished the evening averaging 4.1 yards per carry, but it was tough sledding for the Miners until a few big runs from Hankins in the 4th quarter helped put the game away. At receiver, sophomore Jacob Cowing turned in a big performance with 7 catches for 116 yards, building off a strong freshman season. Cowing is very dangerous in space and is a missed tackle away from a huge play. 

Defense

The opportunities will be there for Texas to move the ball down the field in chunks. The Lumberjacks torched UTEP on their opening drive with the screen game and overall seemed to find more success in the passing game versus running the ball. Stephen F. Austin QB Trae Self finished the evening 14 for 21 for 133 yards, but did not get many opportunities due to the Miners dominating time of possession (37 minutes for UTEP) and the hesitancy for SFA to push the ball down the field.

The Miners defensive line played well for most of the evening, but they will not present many problems for Texas. This is the ideal game for Tom Herman to be breaking in new starters at RG and RT. There is nothing special about the Miners defensively and Texas should be able to work out any issues offensively before heading into Big 12 play.

Overall Thoughts

There is a reason Texas is currently a 43 point favorite. The Miners have won only 3 games under Dimel and the rebuild is still ongoing. While Texas has faced many disadvantages throughout the offseason, specifically when it comes to bringing in 7 new coaches, but they do have the advantage of kicking off the season against one of the worst FBS teams in the country and trotting out a senior QB. There is no reason Texas shouldn’t be in a position to play backups the entire 4th quarter.

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