The Miners take their talents to South Beach to battle Florida International University in an attempt to erase the memory of their 25-6 loss to UT San Antonio last week.
Quarterback Ryan Metz, in particular, will be looking to improve on his one touchdown, four-interception performance against UTSA. Prior to that, Metz had thrown for five touchdowns to only one interception.
“I just need to try and relax more and I guess get back to my roots, being confident out there,” Metz said. “When I was out there, you know, New Mexico State I guess I was more relaxed and this past week I think that got away from me. I just have to go out there and really have some fun, it’s what it all boils down to.”
Limiting turnovers has been an area of focus for the Miners heading into their game against FIU.
“We just have to protect the football and play smart and everybody’s have to do their job,” UTEP head coach, Sean Kugler said. “Keeping hits off the quarterback, the running backs having an efficient run game…where we’re certainly not in a situation like last week, throwing the ball 50 times. That’s not Miner football.”
The Miners have been outscored 206 to 116 through five games. UTEP opponents have also scored 51 points off turnovers compared to the Miners’ 10.
“I thought they really played a great game last week, certainly not well enough for us to win,” Kugler said. “We have to clean up a lot of things offensively going into this game, but I think that’s something defensively that we can build on.”
Building on that performance will be key for UTEP if it is to have any success against FIU. Both teams are looking to even their record at 3-3, with the Miners looking toward a bye week.
The UTEP defense had its best performance of the season last week, allowing less than 350 yards in total offense for the first time this season, but the players know they can do more.
“Going out there and getting three-and-outs and get the ball to our offense and get that momentum built up,” linebacker, Jimmy Musgrave said. “That’s what we need to do the whole game and we need to start producing turnovers. That’s something we’ve been focusing on, hopefully we get that going this week.”
The Miners will also have to improve upon their worst offensive performance of the season, scoring only six points with less than 300 yards of total offense, in addition to the five turnovers. Players simply talked about their need to make plays when the opportunity arises.
“Just catch the catchable balls, run good routes and like I said at first, he [Metz] puts the ball in the right place, you have to bring it in,” receiver Autrey Golden said. “Ever since Coach Kugs got here, we know that this team likes to run the ball. We just need to run the ball and be able to open up play action for everybody else to be successful.”
Kugler remains optimistic while lauding the efforts of his banged up team, as they continue their search for the first conference win of the season.
“We had a good week of practice, kids really worked hard,” Kugler said. “Like I’ve said before, I have a lot of admiration for this team…backs against the wall, unbelievable amount of injuries, but they just keep working, they keep competing, they keep fighting. From a head coach’s stand point, I can’t ask for anything more.”
This marks only the second meeting between the programs, as UTEP won the first meeting 33-10 at the Sun Bowl in 2013.
Kickoff is set for 10 a.m. on Saturday at FIU stadium in Miami, Fl.