This week is not going to be an ordinary game. Yes, it's only week three of the 2012 college football season, but when the Miners take the field Saturday night at the Sun Bowl to take on NMSU in the Battle of I-10, this could be the most pivotal game of the year for the Miners.
This is the game the Miners need to find an offense.
In the first two games against Oklahoma and Ole Miss, the Miners had several chances to come away with a victory, but in each contest UTEP failed to find a consistent attack and have only scored one touchdown on the season.
Against Oklahoma, a wonderful run by Nathan Jeffery was wasted in the second half when the ball count' make it into the end zone and even worse, the Miners gave up a field goal. Add on to that other missed field goals and a fake punt call on fourth down in the fourth quarter seemingly doomed UTEP in the Sooner game.
Last week, against Ole Miss, there was a little more of the same from as fans saw another missed field goal, Miner turnovers and an offense that failed to convert in the red zone. The passing attack came alive, but the running game disappeared. Add in a defensive effort that did not look like the previous week and you have a loss to Ole Miss.
Given all that, something desperately has to change this week. UTEP will need to put together a complete game against the Aggies on Saturday if they expect to come out of the Sun Bowl with a much-needed victory.
Just like the other games, UTEP's offense is the key to getting the win. Forget about Dakota Warren and the missed field goals. What I am talking about is scoring touchdowns when they have opportunities in front of them and believe me, they are going to need to take advantage of them this week even more than before.
Why? Andrew Manley and the Aggies have put up 73 points so far this season. While Sacramento St. and Ohio are not Oklahoma and Ole Miss, NMSU has shown they know how to put the ball in the end zone. UTEP can't afford to give up points early, waste opportunities early and expect to come out with a win.
That's just not going to happen.
On the flipside, NMSU's defense has allowed its opponents in its first two games to score a total of 70 points. Sacramento St. put up 19 and Ohio posted 51 on the Aggies.
UTEP for the year has tallied 17 points, two less than Sacramento St. scored against NMSU in one game.
Concerned? You should be because getting the ball in the end zone has been easier said than done for the Miners.
Hopefully Jeffery is healthy for the game and if so, UTEP will have its running game back and that should open up the passing game for Nick Lamaison or Carson Meger.
If not and there is no balance or attack to the Miner offense, fans are gong to see a lot of what we have seen the first two games.
Chad Middleton, also the producer for 600 ESPN El Paso's SportsTalk, can be reached at [email protected] 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.