Photo courtesy UTEP Athletics
Miner Football will open the 2021 campaign on the road with the 98th installment of the “Battle of I-10” at NM State on Saturday, Aug. 28 in Las Cruces, New Mexico.
“There’s a lot of excitement in this game,” UTEP head coach Dana Dimel said. “How could you not be excited about this game? This is our rivalry game, so there’s great excitement for our team. We have a lot of guys on our roster that weren’t here the last time we played New Mexico State. A lot of our top players were younger players at that time, so there’s a good group of guys who have just never lined up against them on our team with the addition of talented players we’ve brought into our program. They haven’t had a chance to really play against them and this will be their first opportunity to do so, so we are excited about our first opportunity of the season.”
The Miners are opening their season versus NM State for the first time since 2016, and are kicking off the campaign in Las Cruces for the first time since 2005. UTEP ended the 2020 campaign with a 3-5 overall mark, while the Aggies were 2-10 in 2019 and 1-1 in the spring of 2021.
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. MT on Saturday at Aggie Memorial Stadium in Las Cruces.
UTEP vs. NM STATE ALL-TIME
- The winner of the annual matchup between UTEP and NM State will take home a pair of traveling trophies. The older of the two is known as the Silver Spade. It is a replica of an old prospector’s shovel found in an abandoned mine in the Organ Mountains near Las Cruces and has been traded between the schools since 1955. A second trophy is officially title the Mayor’s Cup, but is commonly referred to as the Brass Spittoon, and was added in 1982.
- On Saturday, the Miners and Aggies will meet on the gridiron for the 98th time in history in a rivalry that dates back to 1914.
- UTEP leads the all-time series, 57-38-2, while the Miners are looking for their first win in the series since 2016. NM State leads the series, 21-19-1, in games played in Las Cruces.
- Overall, UTEP is 5-3 when opening the season against its I-10 rival (3-1 home, 2-2 away) with wins in five of the last six season openers versus the Aggies.
- UTEP and NM State are facing off for the first time since the 2019 season after the Aggies did not play any games during the fall of 2020. The scheduling quirk means the Miners and Aggies are playing back-to-back games in Las Cruces for the first time since 1988-89.
- The last time the Miners won at NM State was on Sept. 19, 2015, with a 50-47 victory in overtime.
- UTEP will play a school-record sixth consecutive game away from El Paso when the Miners travel to face the Aggies on Saturday. After playing at home in two of their first three contests in 2020, the Miners were on the road for their last five matchups. Prior to this season, the Miners had never played more than five consecutive road games in their history.
- UTEP is kicking off a campaign on the road for the first time since 2017, and for the first time under head coach Dana Dimel. The Miners are 8-31-2 when opening a season away from home. The Aug. 28 start to the 2021 season ties the earliest in school history. The Miners also opened the 2008 season on Aug. 28 at Buffalo. UTEP is 6-4 all-time in games during the month of August (4-0 home, 2-4 road).
- Due to the uniqueness of the COVID year, UTEP returns all 11 starters on offense and eight on defense from last year’s squad. UTEP’s returning players accounted for 81.4 percent of the team’s rushing yards, 100 percent of the passing yards and 90.7 percent of the receiving yards last season. Defensively, the Miners return players who were responsible for 69.6 percent of the tackles, 73.4 percent of the tackles for loss and 92.3 percent of the sacks from a year ago.
- El Paso’s own Deion Hankins set UTEP freshman records for rushing yards (592) and rushing touchdowns (9) last season. He led Conference USA and rated second in the country in rushing TDs by a freshman. His 84.6 rushing yards per game rated third nationally among all freshmen.
- UTEP improved most on the defensive side of the football last season, and it started with stopping the run. The Miners dropped their rushing defense from 201.2 yards per game in 2019 to 140.4 in 2020, and their total defense from 430.8 yards per game to 381.2. Despite playing four fewer games in 2020, UTEP’s tackles for loss (47) and sack (13) totals both exceeded their 2019 numbers (39 and 12, respectively). The Miners ranked in the top-50 nationally in rushing defense (39th) and total defense (46th) a year ago.
- Gavin Hardison enters his second season as the Miners’ starting quarterback after throwing for 1,419 yards (202.7 avg.) in 2020. He became the 12th player in school history to throw for 300 yards in a game at ULM, where he finished 13-of-25 passing for 302 yards. With 246 more passing yards, Hardison will eclipse the 2,000-yard mark for his career.
UTEP (0-0) at NM STATE (0-0) | Twitter Updates: @UTEPFB
Date: Saturday, Aug. 28 | Time: 7:30 p.m. MT | Location: Las Cruces, N.M. | Venue: Aggie Memorial Stadium
TV: KVIA-ABC 7 / Bally Sports AZ / FloFootball / Comcast NM
PxP: Adam Young | Analyst: Danny Knee | Sideline: Sam Shields
Radio: KLAQ 95.5 FM
PxP: Jon Teicher | Analyst: Mike Perez | Sideline: Mando Medina