LUBBOCK (AP) – UTEP coach Sean Kugler is expecting a team that operates like a luxury sports car Saturday when his Miners take on Texas Tech.
The Red Raiders’ fast-strike offense will be different than what UTEP faced in a 48-13 loss to Arkansas last week, showing his Miners a Ferrari as opposed to a tank they faced against the Razorbacks.
“Going from Arkansas to Texas Tech is like going from a tank to a Ferrari,” Kugler said. “They are totally opposite teams. (The Red Raiders) use the pass to set up the run, it’s opposite.”
Texas Tech quarterback Pat Mahomes was set to start his sixth game after earning Big 12 offensive honors for his four TD passes and 425 yards in the a 59-45 win over Sam Houston State. He had one interception.
Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury, while glad for the win, was disappointed by his receivers’ performances. The Red Raiders could have had an additional 173 yards passing.
“Could have had huge numbers had we not dropped eight passes, but I thought (Mahomes) protected the ball well,” he said. “Would still like to have some back, some decisions he’d like to have back. But for the most part, like I said, I thought he was pretty sharp.”
Kingsbury also was chagrined by an offense that didn’t put the Bearkats away. After holding them scoreless in the third quarter, the Red Raiders gave up two scores in the fourth.
Last year Texas Tech (1-0) got out of El Paso with a close win — 30-26 — and had to come from behind to do it. The Miners (0-1) face a different quarterback this time.
Here are some things to watch for when Texas Tech hosts UTEP:
MINERS’ SECONDARY: The Miners’ pass defense, which includes a freshman and two true freshmen, gave up four passing TDs and 308 yards to the Razorbacks. UTEP gave up five receptions of 20-plus yards preceding TDs. “We gave up too many chunk plays in the passing game,” Kugler said. “Those are lessons to be learned and learned quickly as we move on from the first game to the second.”
TIME OF POSSESSION: Though not as highly ranked this year in time of possession (tied for 53rd with 30:41) the Miners finished last year at No. 2 in the nation (34:57). The more they can keep the ball out of Texas Tech’s hands, the better UTEP’s chances. “They’re going to hold the ball and they’re going to pound you,” Kingsbury said. “They like to run the rock and do a good job at it. Lot of the things scare you.”
SPECIAL TEAMS: Texas Tech’s Jakeem Grant, the 5-6, 169-pounder who earned Big 12 honors as special teams player of the week, returned a kickoff 94 yards for a score against Sam Houston State. He got 136 yards on three kickoff returns. “He was all over the place,” Kugler said. “He made that touchdown on his own.”
PENALTIES: Penalties plagued the Red Raiders last year, and if the first game is any indication, things haven’t changed too much yet. The Red Raiders had 10 penalties for 69 yards. On two big gains on offense, penalties sent the Red Raiders backward. “That’s inexcusable,” offensive coordinator Eric Morris said. “It’s stupid, and we’ve got to get that fixed immediately.”
RED RAIDERS DEFENSE: In the opener for new defensive coordinator David Gibbs, Texas Tech got four turnovers — two interceptions and two fumble recoveries. The bad news was that the Red Raiders gave up 671 total yards to sit at the bottom of the Big 12. “You are what you put on tape on Saturday afternoons,” Gibbs said. UTEP junior RB Aaron Jones will prove challenging. He had 70 yards rushing on 15 carries and caught six passes for 83 yards.
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