Quarterbacks Ryan Metz, Zack Greenlee and Mark Torrez all engineered touchdown drives, and the defense registered four sacks in the annual UTEP Football Spring Game under the lights on Friday in the Sun Bowl.
“Kind of like our spring has been all along, both sides of the ball have shown tremendous flashes,” UTEP coach Sean Kugler said. “They are competing against each other. We got through the entire spring really with only one injury, and that’s [running back] Quardraiz Wadley. He has a shoulder injury, which we’re going to have to evaluate and see how that works going into the fall camp. Everybody else is completely healthy heading into fall camp, so we accomplished a lot this spring.”
Metz completed 12-of-17 passes for 94 yards, and was at the controls of the offense when Walter Dawn scored the team’s third and final touchdown of the night on a two-yard run. Greenlee finished 4-of-7 for 43 yards, including a nine-yard scoring run. Torrez was 3-for-9 for 20 yards, including a four-yard TD pass to tight end Josh Weeks.
“I thought Ryan was solid moving the ball,” Kugler said. “We got it stalled down there in the red zone, [and] he threw a nice fade ball there at the end for a touchdown. Ryan has had an outstanding spring. He is a leader and he works hard. Zack Greenlee moved the ball well tonight. Probably the guy that really had a great spring, and it’s not a surprise to me, is Mark Torrez from here in town. He’s got a lot of juice, he can run, throw, he’s got that moxie that you’re looking for in a quarterback. He’s going to be one to watch coming into the fall.”
Dawn led the Miners with 29 yards rushing on 11 carries. Ronald Awatt added nine rushes for 22 yards, and Kevin Dove had six carries for 21 yards. Even if Wadley can’t go, Kugler likes his depth at running back.
“I think we’ve got a lot of talent there,” he said. “We’ve got Ronald Awatt, Kevin Dove, TK Powell who was injured all spring and he’ll be back healthy in the fall, and then we add [incoming freshman] Josh Fields as well. We may add one more to that group. It’s a young group, but a very talented group. My biggest concern there would be more protection-wise when you have young guys like that, but we’ll be creative and make sure that we get that handled.”
Terry Juniel was UTEP’s top receiver with five catches for 47 yards, and Kavika Johnson chipped in with 29 yards on four receptions. Tight ends Weeks and David Lucero combined for four catches and 37 yards.
Two guys who have switched positions from last season, Dawn and Johnson, looked comfortable in their new roles.
“Walter Dawn is going to be a full-time running back and you saw him there stick the guy on third and one. Just because he’s small doesn’t mean he’s not tough,” Kugler said. “He can catch the ball. He’ll generate a lot of yardage back there catching the ball and also running the ball. He’ll be there full-time, and we’re leaving Kavika Johnson full-time at wide receiver. You saw what he can do tonight. He is going to be a talented player for us.”
Kugler said the Miners may add a player at wide receiver between now and the start of fall camp. “And Eddie Sinegal, right now he is suspended academically but we anticipate having him back in the fall as well,” he said.
Jerrell Brown, Alex Jean Charles, Josh Ortega and Barron Wortham Jr. recorded a sack apiece. Brown in particular was all over the field with four tackles, a tackle for loss and pass break-up. The defense was minus stalwarts Devin Cockrell and Dante Lovilotte.
Kugler said he has been very pleased with his team’s effort this spring.
“They compete against each other. They come out every day,” he said. “Really, going through spring ball, you would anticipate maybe having one bad practice. I think we only had one right there about the middle, we kind of jumped their tails about it and they responded well the next day. This team comes to work. As a head coach, this has been my most rewarding spring. We have had no off-the-field issues, knock on wood. These kids are taking care of business and they’re working hard in the weight room. I think they are ready to have a good summer and camp and they’re a hungry team. They feel like they’re kind of looked down upon and nobody gives them a chance, and that’s the way we like it.”
In fact, Kugler said this squad reminds him of his second team, the 2014 squad that finished 7-6 and played in the New Mexico Bowl.
“They’ve got a chip on their shoulder, they’re hungry, they work hard and there are no issues with these guys,” he said. “They come to work every day. I really like the team. This is the group we’re going to move into the season with, and I feel good about that.”