The time has come to put all the talk of the first four games of the season behind us. As head coach Mike Price said at his weekly press conference, it's time to forget about the "preseason." It is now time to focus on the true season, the start of the Conference USA season.
Conference play does not open with an easy match up for the Miners this year. They have to travel to East Carolina to take on a strong Pirates team that already notched a huge win on the road at Southern Mississippi.
For UTEP to do the same in their season opener, they are going to have to depend on the on-again, off-again play of senior quarterback Nick Lamaison.
Lamaison, at times, has shown flashes of brilliance and given cause as to why he was brought here. He has shown fans why he was chosen starting quarterback but there have also been the times he has made everyone question why he was chosen to begin with.
The totals for Lamaison through the first four games can be a bit misleading in some areas but solid in others. He is 70-127 with no interceptions for 811 yards through the air. With a mediocre completion rate of 55.1 percent, he has 7 touchdowns with the longest being 62 yards and he has been sacked 13 times.
If you want to look at his numbers positively, he had 4 touchdowns against NMSU and 2 against Wisconsin. Not to mention the two scores last weekend were his longest of the year with 40 and 62-yard strikes.
He will need to continue to build from the last two performances as he will face an East Carolina defense that is susceptible to the pass.
Pirates opponents are 90 for 158 with 2 interceptions for 1251 yards passing. This translates to a per catch average of 13.9 yards and an average of 312.8 yards per game.
It doesn't take a genius to see the ECU defense is susceptible and If UTEP wants to walk away with a win, it's going to have to come from the passing game and fans will really get to see what Lamaison is made of. He has a chance to get a win in what some have said is the most pivotal game of the year. This game could either spring board the Miners to a win and a possible winning season or it could send UTEP spiraling quickly toward a losing season.
Nick Lamaison needs to find a way to play the way he did in the third quarter against Wisconsin when he put together the best drive of the year and looked like a pro doing it.
If he doesn't Saturdays flight back home will be even longer than it really is.
And it is a long flight back to El Paso.
Chad Middleton, also the producer for 600 ESPN El Paso's SportsTalk, can be reached at email@example.com or you can follow him on Twitter at @chad600espn. Make sure to follow Miner Illustrated on Twitter at @minermaniac for more up-to-date news and information about UTEP.