UNT-Hartford men’s hoops running blog

North Texas and Hartford will face off in the Mean Green’s final game in the Scarlet Knight Showcase here at the Super Pit this afternoon.

UNT is 2-3 after breaking through for its second win over a Division I opponent this season. The Mean Green knocked off Niagara earlier this week and can finish 2-2 in the tournament with a win today.

UNT is still trying to find its footing without Jeremy Combs, who is resting a sore ankle that has been bothering him for months. He is sitting on the baseline watching the rest of UNT’s players warm up.

Deckie Johnson is averaging 14.0 points per game to lead UNT. J-Mychal Reese has also been playing well of late and is averaging 9.8 points per game.

Jalen Ross is averaging 22.5 points per game for Hartford and is shooting 44.7 percent from 3-point range.

Hartford has some size with two players checking in at 6-10. Rickey Brice, UNT’s 7-1 center, could play a key role today. Forwards Derail Green and Shane Temara are coming off solid games. UNT needs both to continue to come on.

Stay tuned. I will update the blog all day.

Update 12:56 — Freshman guard A.J. Lawson is going to start today.

Starters for UNT — Rickey Brice Jr., Deckie Johnson, J-Mychal Reese, Derail Green and A.J. Lawson.

15:46 — UNT is up 10-6 at the first media timeout. A.J. Lawson and J-Mychal Reese each have 3-pointers for the Mean Green. All six of Hartford’s points have come on two 3s. UNT has hit four of its five shots from the field.

11:55 — UNT is down 16-15 at the second media timeout of the first half. Hartford is on a 5-0 run. The Hawks are 4-for-6 from 3-point range. J-Mychal Reese has six points for UNT.

7:23 — UNT is up 24-20 at the third media timeout of the first half. The Mean Green are on a 6-2 run. A.J. Lawson has four points during the burst. Lawson has nine points to lead UNT.

3:10 — UNT was up seven, but Hartford has scored five straight to pull within 32-30. A.J. Lawson has nine points to lead the Mean Green. Derail Green has seven. UNT has 10 turnovers.

11.6 — Hartford has pulled ahead 38-36 and just took a timeout to set up a final play.

Halftime — Hartford didn’t convert on its final possession of the half, but is taking a 38-36 lead into halftime. Derail Green and A. J. Lawson both have nine points for UNT. The Mean Green had a seven-point lead before Hartford got hot late in the first half. The Hawks hit eight 3s in the first half, while UNT connected on six. There were only two free throws taken the entire half. A.J. Lawson took them and hit both. Jalen Ross has 13 points for Hartford. Green’s nine points are a season-high.

15:27 — UNT is back up 45-43 at the first media timeout of the second half. Deckie Johnson hit back-to-back 3s to put the Mean Green back in front. A.J. Lawson has 10 points for UNT.

11:58 — UNT is back up 52-50 in a back-and-forth game here at the Super Pit. UNT has just gotten back-to-back dunks from A.J. Lawson and Allante Hoston. Lawson has 12 points for UNT.

8:01 — UNT is up 61-59 a little past the midway point of the second half. Hartford just scored and took a timeout. A.J. Lawson has 15 points for the Mean Green. Ja’Michael Brown hit a bit 3 for UNT’s last points.

7:45 — We had a quick turnaround from a Hartford timeout to the media timeout. Hartford forced a jumpball and will have possession coming out of this timeout. Jalen Ross has 24 points for Hartford.

3:37 — We are all tied up at 69-69 — or at least it looks like that is going to be the case. Jalen Ross hit a shot from straight on. Officials counted it as a 3 and are taking a look at the monitor. The call stands.

1:48 — Hartford is up 75-74 after scoring on a perfect slip to the basket by John Carroll. UNT just took a timeout

29.2 — UNT is up 77-76 and has 14 left on the shot clock. The Mean Green just took a timeout.

17.0 — Derail Green just hit a 3 to put UNT up 80-76. TO Hartford.

7.5 — UNT is up 81-78 after J-Mychal Reese hit one of two from the free throw line. Hartford will have a chance to work for a game-tying 3 here.

Final — Jason Dunne had his game-tying 3-point attempt go halfway down before popping out. UNT survives 81-78.

Five thoughts on UTEP’s win over UNT

North Texas running back Willy Ivery carries the ball on Saturday in the Mean Green's 52-24 loss to UTEP.  (El Paso Times/Rudy Gutierrez)

North Texas running back Willy Ivery carries the ball on Saturday in the Mean Green’s 52-24 loss to UTEP. (El Paso Times/Rudy Gutierrez)

North Texas fell to UTEP 52-24 at the Sun Bowl on Saturday night to finish the regular season at 5-7. Here are five thoughts:

1. Officially, UNT says it will have to wait to see if it lands in a bowl game

The big question after UNT fell to UTEP is what are the chances of the Mean Green getting into a bowl game as a five-win team? The official line from a UNT spokesman is that the Mean Green will have to wait until next weekend to see how things shake out. A few more games have gone final  since, putting UNT in.

2. All the injuries and suspensions caught up with this team

UNT was without starting quarterback Mason Fine, running backs Andrew Tucker and Anthony Wyche, wide receivers Terian Goree and Willie Robinson for its game against UTEP. Star running back Jeffery Wilson was clearly not himself after knee surgery. All those losses caught up to UNT in the end.

3. No matter what happens, this was a great season for UNT

UNT is now headed for its 11th losing season in the last 12 years, but that should not overshadow what the Mean Green accomplished this year. Remember, the Vegas over-under line for wins was two. UNT has won five games through the regular season. That is a huge step forward.

4. UNT just ran into a buzz saw

Aaron Jones is a really good running back who might have played his last game at UTEP tonight. He is expected to look into declaring for the draft. The Miners were looking to go out on a high note and hit UNT in the mouth from the start.

5. It will be interesting to see how much this season helps UNT

There isn’t much of a question at this point that Seth Littrell and his staff can coach. The question now is if they can recruit. UNT is sitting near the bottom of most recruiting rankings for Conference USA. Littrell is not a big believer in those rankings. I am. UNT is going to need to start bringing in top-line C-USA talent to compete with the top teams in the league. UNT is a hard place to recruit to because of its long history of losing in sports that matter. Fancy stadiums and buildings can only do so much. The next few months will be really interesting. If Littrell and his staff and recruit as well as they coach, UNT could be on to something. If they can’t, it’s going to be a continual battle for the Mean Green to be a consistent winner, something UNT hasn’t been since the heyday of Darrell Dickey from 2001-04. That’s not a popular opinion, but it’s the truth.

UNT-UTEP running blog

North Texas will face UTEP here in El Paso this afternoon.

The Mean Green appear to be a lock for a bowl berth at this point with the way things are playing out, but UNT still has a lot on the line in terms of its season goals.

The Mean Green are sitting at 5-6 and can become bowl-eligible for just the second time since 2004 with a win over UTEP. A loss would leave UNT at 5-7 and banking on its score on the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rate report to get it into a bowl.

UNT broke a three-game losing streak last week with a win over Southern Miss.

The Mean Green will have a couple of key players back in uniform today in running back Jeffery Wilson and quarterback Mason Fine. Alec Morris will start under center for UNT.

It will be interesting to see if UNT rolls Wilson out at any point. With the Mean Green all but locked in for a bowl game, I just don’t see it. He is still recovering from a knee injury.

The key to this one will be how UNT fares in slowing down UTEP star running back Aaron Jones. The junior is averaging 133.8 rushing yards per game behind a huge offensive line.

UNT has been a whole lot better against the run this season out of its 3-3-5 defense that puts more speed on the field.

UTEP has really struggled the last two weeks, losing games to Florida Atlantic and Rice. If the Miners would have won those two very winnable games, they would have been playing to become bowl-eligible today.

Now one has to wonder what the Miners mental state will be today.

There are no major scratches for UNT.

Stay tuned. I will update the blog all day.

Kickoff — UTEP won the toss and deferred. UNT will have the ball first.

15:00 — UNT will have the ball at the 25 to start.

13:07 — UNT moved the ball to the 50, but had to punt. UTEP will have the ball at its 25-yard line to start its first drive.

8:59 — UTEP is driving and has the ball at the UNT 45. Tillman Johnson is down for UNT. He has not gotten up yet.

6:21 — UTEP drove 50 yards on its opening drive and picked up a 48-yard field goal to go up 3-0.

4:00 — Jeffery Wilson is in the game for UNT.

2:54 — UNT has gone up 7-3 after Willy Ivery scored on a 14-yard run. Jeffery Wilson caught an 11-yard pass on the drive.

2:36 — Aaron Jones just went 83 yards for a touchdown to put UTEP up 10-7.

1:51 — UNT went three-and-out on its last drive. UTEP will have the ball at its 19-yard line after a great punt from Eric Keena.

End of the first quarter — UTEP is up 10-7 at the end of the first quarter and is driving. Aaron Jones just caught a 15-yard pass and is rolling up some huge numbers against UNT’s defense. He has 127 rushing yards so far.

13:57 — Aaron Jones just broke another long touchdown run, this time from 48 yards out. UTEP is up 17-7. Jones has 175 yards on 11 carries. UNT can’t find a way to contain him behind that big UTEP offensive line.

12:46 — UNT just went three-and-out and had to punt the ball away. UTEP has the ball back at its 29-yard line. UNT has 109 yards of offense so far. UTEP has held the ball quite a while. The Mean Green’s defense is going to get worn down at this rate.

11:24 — UTEP just had to burn a timeout when it didn’t have the right people on the field. The Miners are driving again and have the ball at the 50-yard line.

10:50 — UTEP just scored again on a Ryan Metz pass to Cole Freytag from 30 yards out. UTEP is up 24-7. Aaron Jones went down on that drive, but he looks like he is OK.

4:33 — UNT is driving and has the ball at the UTEP 5-yard line. Officials are reviewing a hit on Alec Morris, who slid down at the 11-yard line. UTEP was called for a late hit. Officials are reviewing if it was a targeting foul for targeting.

3:35 — UNT has finally answered UTEP’s scoring run. Thaddeous Thompson caught a 10-yard touchdown pass from Alec Morris at the end of a drive that took almost six minutes. UTEP is still up 31-14.

2:21 — UTEP had to punt on its last possession and got off an 18-yard shank. UNT has the ball at the UTEP 42.

1:32 — Here’s a big play for UNT. It’s fourth-and-1 from the UTEP 33.

:18 — UNT cashed in that short punt when Trevor Moore hit a 45-yard field goal. UNT has cut UTEP’s lead to 31-17.

Halftime — We have reached halftime with UTEP leading UNT 31-17. Aaron Jones had a monster first half for the Miners, rushing for 198 yards and two touchdowns. The Mean Green really helped themselves by scoring the final 10 points of the half after UTEP went up 31-17. Willy Iverty rushed for 92 yards and a touchdown. UNT had 183 yards in the first half. UTEP finished with 282.

15:00 — UTEP will have the ball at its 25-yard line to start the third quarter.

10:34 — UTEP had to punt on its last drive. UNT has the ball back at its 20-yard line. The 72 Mean Green hauled down Cole Freytag 2 yards short of a first down on third-and-13.

9:24 — UNT went three-and-out. Willy Ivery was cut down short on third-and-1. UTEP has the ball back at its 29-yard line.

6:58 — Well, there is a big turn of events. Fred Scott intercepted a UTEP pass, but the play was negated by a face mask call on Ashton Preston. Aaron Jones housed it from 58 yards out on the next play. The Miners are up 38-17. UNT is in a world of hurt now. Jones has 267 yards and three touchdowns on 18 carries.

3:11 — UNT just failed to convert on fourth-and-2 when UTEP knocked down Alec Morris’ pass into the flat.

2:12 — UTEP tight end Hayden Plinke just caught a 72-yard touchdown pass. He caught it over the middle and raced past UNT’s secondary for a the score to put the Miners up 45-17.

14:44 — UNT had to punt on its last drive after Alec Morris was sacked on third down. UTEP has the ball back at its own 5.

6:09 — Aaron Jones just went over the 300-yard mark on his last carry.

3:42 — UNT just scored on a Willy Ivery touchdown catch from Alec Morris. UTEP is up 52-24.

UNT falls 52-24.

Late night hoops rewind: UNT 80, Niagara 71

Final: North Texas 80, Niagara 71

Disclaimer: I flew out to El Paso tonight to get to the UNT-UTEP football game tomorrow and didn’t cover tonight’s game.

Where UNT stands: The Mean Green snapped a three-game losing streak and improved to 2-3 with their first win over a Division I team this season.

Now what?: UNT will face Hartford at 1 p.m. on Sunday in its final game in the Scarlet Knight Showcase.

Reese

Reese

Star of the day: J-Mychal Reese came up with his best performance of the season in UNT’s win over Niagara. The senior point guard scored a season-high 20 points to lead a trio of guards who powered the Mean Green. Senior Deckie Johnson and freshman A.J. Lawson both added 15 points. Reese handed out four assists and added two rebounds. He also hit all eight of his free throws and connected on two of his four shots from 3-point range.

Say what?:

“We are going to continue to get better throughout the season. We changed our offense up to create some space. We have to continue to build on this and I am really proud of our effort tonight.”

– Tony Benford, UNT coach following UNT’s win over Niagara

Our take: UNT desperately needed a win heading into its game Niagara and pulled through to snap a three-game losing streak.

The Mean Green are going to need to find a way to be productive offensively without injured forward Jeremy Combs and turned to its backcourt. Reese, Johnson and Lawson all came up big.

Reese and Lawson scored the first six points in an 8-0 run in the second half that put UNT up for good.

While UNT’s backcourt led the way, forwards Derail Green and Shane Temara both played key roles. Both scored eight points and grabbed eight rebounds.

Green has started to come on after a slow start.

Friday Q&A with Bret Bloomquist of the El Paso Times

UTEP quarterback Ryan Metz is sacked by Rice defensive end Brian Womac earlier this season in Houston. UNT will take on the Miners on Saturday in El Paso. (Associated Press/Eric Christian Smith)

UTEP quarterback Ryan Metz is sacked by Rice defensive end Brian Womac earlier this season in Houston. UNT will take on the Miners on Saturday in El Paso. (Associated Press/Eric Christian Smith)

We are fortunate today to welcome Bret Bloomquist to the blog to preview North Texas’ game against UTEP tomorrow in El Paso.

Bret covers UTEP for the El Paso Times. One can find Bret’s work on the UTEP section of the Times’ website and can also catch up with him on Twitter at @Bretbloomquist.

Here is what Bret had to say about tomorrow’s game:

1. UTEP appeared to have a good shot to be bowl-eligible by winning its last three games. What happened?

They are just all-around struggling, which is a surprise given that they won five games a year ago with a ton of injuries. They’ve been uncommonly healthy this season, they just haven’t put much together. An offensive line with four returning starters has struggled and it’s taken a long time to adjust to new offensive and defensive systems.

2. Do you expect UTEP to be motivated to play on senior day?

Last week was the first one where they really had nothing to play for, and they just didn’t show up, so that has to change. They usually do play better at home and there is motivation for the seniors, but historically they also struggle in season-enders.

3. UTEP has played three quarterbacks. What is the situation heading into this week’s game?

Ryan Metz is the quarterback. He was promoted there going into Week 5, got concussed and missed a game, but has been the guy there ever since. He’s played pretty well, the problem isn’t him.

4. Aaron Jones has posted another great season. What has made him so effective?

He’s a really good running back. He’s powerful, fast, has a great stiff-arm and can accelerate explosively. People seem pretty convinced he’s going to go pro after this season, though I don’t think he’s really on an NFL radar right now. Whenever he does go pro, I think he’ll make it. He’s the best Conference USA back I’ve seen and there have been some good ones in the past decade.

5. How do you see this game playing out?

The big issue will be how motivated UTEP is. If they can rally together for the seniors, they should be competitive. That 3-point spread would be about right. If they aren’t motivated it could go like the Rice game did last week.

Chalk talk — UNT vs. Niagara

North Texas and point guard J-Mychal Reese will take on Niagara on Friday at the Super Pit, where the mean Green will aim to pick up their first win over a Division I opponent this season. (DRC file photo)

North Texas and point guard J-Mychal Reese will take on Niagara on Friday at the Super Pit, where the mean Green will aim to pick up their first win over a Division I opponent this season. (DRC file photo)

Niagara at North Texas

When: 7 p.m., Friday

Where: Super Pit, Denton

Radio: KHYI-FM 95.3, KNTU-FM 88.1

Records: UNT 1-3, Niagara 1-4

Last game: Rutgers 66, UNT 53; Niagara 93, Drexel 74

Projected UNT starting lineup:

PG: J-Mychal Reese, 6-2, Sr. — Reese is averaging 6.3 points, 4.6 assists and 4.0 rebounds per game. The senior scored six points and added four assists in UNT’s loss to Rutgers in the Mean Green’s last outing, but shot just 3-for-11 from the floor.

SG: Ja’Michael Brown, 6-1, So. — Brown score just two points on 1-of-6 shooting in UNT’s loss to Rutgers, but did come up with three steals. The sophomore is averaging 5.8 points and 2.5 rebounds per game.

SF: Deckie Johnson, 6-4, Sr. — Johnson has been UNT’s most effective scorer throughout the season and enters Friday’s game averaging 13.8 points per game.  The senior scored 13 points on 5-of-10 shooting against Rutgers.

F: Shane Temara, 6-9, Jr. — Temara is expected to get the start against Niagara after scoring 16 points off the bench in UNT’s loss to Rutgers. The junior hit four 3s against the Scarlet Knights and is averaging 5.8 points and 4.0 rebounds per game.

F: Derail Green, 6-7, Sr. — Green is averaging 3.3 points and 2.5 rebounds per game and is coming off one of his more productive games against Rutgers.  The senior scored eight points and pulled down three rebounds.

Scouting Niagara:

Niagara opened the season with four straight losses before breaking through with a 93-74 win over Drexel on Wednesday. The Purple Eagles lean on their backcourt of Matt Scott and Kahlil Dukes. Scott is averaging 19.4 points per game, while Dukes is adding 14.2. Niagara is shooting 41.8 percent from 3-point range as a team and has five players with at least 12 makes from 3-point range on the season.

What you need to know:

UNT’s quest for its first win over a Division I team this season will continue on Friday when the Mean Green face Niagara in their second game without star forward Jeremy Combs. UNT coach Tony Benford elected to shut the junior down to allow him to heal from offseason ankle surgery before the Mean Green’s game against Rutgers.

UNT hung in without Combs early in its game against the Scarlet Knights on Wednesday and led by one at halftime.

Shane Temara and Derail Green both played well while helping to fill the void. Temara scored 16 points off the bench, while Green scored eight before fouling out.

UNT has now lost three straight since opening the season with a win over Sul Ross, a Division III school.

The Mean Green will look to break through Friday against Niagara.

Prediction: UNT will become bowl-eligible with win over UTEP

North Texas running back Willie Ivery celebrates scoring a touchdown last week in a win over Southern Miss. The Mean Green will take on UTEP on Saturday (Denton Record-Chronicle/Tomas Gonzalez)

North Texas running back Willie Ivery celebrates scoring a touchdown last week in a win over Southern Miss. The Mean Green will take on UTEP on Saturday (Denton Record-Chronicle/Tomas Gonzalez)

North Texas at UTEP

When: 3 p.m. Saturday, Sun Bowl, El Paso

Records: UNT 5-6, 3-4 C-USA; UTEP 3-8, 1-6

Last game: UNT 29, Southern Miss 23; Rice 44, UTEP 24

Last meeting: UTEP 20, UNT 17 (2015)

What’s on the line?

UNT can wrap up a bowl berth and just its second season with six wins or more since 2004 with a win over UTEP on Saturday. The Mean Green would still have a chance to play in a bowl game as a 5-7 team due to its score on the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rate report, but UNT’s coaches and players want to become bowl-eligible the old fashioned way.

UTEP appeared to be in position to make a late run at winning six games to become bowl-eligible a few weeks ago, but has struggled the last few weeks. The Miners have dropped three of their last four to fall to 3-8. UTEP will try to send its seniors out on a high note and spoil the Mean Green’s plans to reach the six-win mark in their season finale.

When UNT has the ball:

Alec Morris came through in a big way for UNT in its home finale against Southern Miss. The senior quarterback threw for 267 yards and two touchdowns. He also led UNT on a game-winning drive in the fourth quarter. UNT will need another big game from Morris today, when it will be without several key playmakers. Wide receivers Terian Goree and Willie Robinson have been suspended for the rest of the year, while running back Jeffery Wilson’s status will be a game-time decision. UNT will also be without starting quarterback Mason Fine.

UTEP has struggled defensively the last few weeks and allowed 44 points in a loss to Rice a week ago. The Miners are allowing 35.9 points per game.

When UTEP  has the ball:

UTEP features one of the best running backs in Conference USA in Aaron Jones, who is averaging 133.8 rushing yards per game. Jones has 13 rushing touchdowns on the year. The Miners have a huge offensive line that features players who weigh in at 300 pounds or more across the board.

UNT’s defense bounced back from tough losses to Louisiana Tech and Western Kentucky last week when the Mean Green allowed 23 points in a win over Southern Miss. UNT had allowed 45 points to both LA Tech and WKU. UNT is allowing 204.5 rushing yards per game.

Prediction:

UNT is in good shape in terms of receiving a bowl berth even if it doesn’t beat UTEP, but the Mean Green are determined to win their sixth game to be certain Saturday isn’t the end of their year. UTEP’s running game could give UNT some problems and the Mean Green will be without some key offensive playmakers. Despite that fact, UNT will roll.

UNT 37, UTEP 21

Late-night hoops rewind: Rutgers 66, UNT 53

Final: Rutgers 66, UNT 53

Disclaimer: I did not travel to tonight’s game.

Where UNT stands: The Mean Green fell to 1-3 on the season and has lost three straight.

Now what?: UNT will face Niagara at 7 p.m. on Friday.

Temara

Temara

Star of the day: Shane Temara came up big after UNT coach Tony Benford elected to sit Jeremy Combs for the foreseeable future to allow him to recover from offseason ankle surgery. Temara score 16 points and grabbed four rebounds. He hit four of his eight attempts from 3-point range. Derail Green also had one of his better games since transferring to UNT from Incarnate Word. Green finished with eight points. Deckie Johnson continued his consistent play while finishing with 13 points.

Say what?:

“We fought hard without Jeremy. When we get our whole team together, we will be pretty good.”

– Tony Benford, UNT coach following the Mean Green’s loss to Rutgers

Our take: What has started out as a tough season suddenly got a whole lot worse for UNT on Wednesday when the Mean Green announced that they are shutting down Jeremy Combs. The junior forward underwent ankle surgery in the offseason and hasn’t looked the same this season.

Combs missed UNT’s game against Rutgers. It doesn’t sound like he will be back any time soon.

The Mean Green were already struggling with Combs in the lineup. Take the 6-7 forward out and UNT is suddenly running awfully short on talent and firepower.

Seeing Temara and Green contribute in a major way was a good sign for UNT. It’s just hard to see how the Mean Green are going to get anything going on a consistent basis with so many key players out.

UNT is expected to have SMU transfer Keith Frazier and San Diego transfer Ryan Woolridge available after the first semester. If UNT can get Combs back around that time, there is a chance it could have a decent team.

UNT is going to be pretty far into its season by then. The Mean Green are already 0-3 against Division I competition and could continue to struggle while playing shorthanded.

Combs out tonight to rest ankle

Combs

Combs

North Texas forward Jeremy Combs is not playing tonight in the Mean Green’s game against Rutgers. Combs is resting a sore ankle.

Combs had ankle surgery in the offseason and has been working his way back into form.

He’s going to be out for a significant amount of time.

UNT is getting along fine without Combs so far and is up 25-24 at halftime.

Shane Temara has nine points and Derail Green eight for UNT. That’s a huge development for the Mean Green. Neither Temara nor Green have done much of anything this season until tonight.

 

Five things UNT fans should know about UTEP

UTEP running back Aaron Jones breaks past Houston Baptist defenders, including Garrett Dolan, left, to score on a long touchdown run  earlier this season in El Paso. North Texas will take on the Miners on Saturday. (El Paso Times/Victor Calzada)

UTEP running back Aaron Jones breaks past Houston Baptist defenders, including Garrett Dolan, left, to score on a long touchdown run earlier this season in El Paso. North Texas will take on the Miners on Saturday. (El Paso Times/Victor Calzada)

North Texas will face UTEP on Saturday in El Paso in a key game for the Mean Green. UNT is 5-6 on the season and can become bowl-eligible for just the second time since 2004 with a win over the Miners.

Here are five things UNT fans should know about UTEP:

1. Aaron Jones is still thriving for UTEP

UTEP features one of Conference USA’s elite running backs in Aaron Jones. The junior has consistently rolled up huge rushing totals and enters the final game of the Miners’ season with 3,813 yards on the ground for his career. He has 1,472 rushing yards and 13 rushing touchdowns this season.

2. UTEP has a huge offensive line

One of the reasons Jones has been so effective for UTEP is he has a huge offensive line clearing the way for him. All five of UTEP’s starting offensive linemen check in at 300 pounds or more. Left guard Will Hernandez checks in at 340 pounds.

3. The Miners don’t throw the ball a whole lot

UTEP ranks last in Conference USA with an average of 186.4 passing yards per game. Sophomore Ryan Metz has thrown for 1,204 yards and 12 touchdowns in 10 games. He has just 184 passing attempts on the season.

4. UTEP has been on a slide since its win over UTSA

UTEP pulled out a huge win over UTSA on Oct. 22 when the Miners went five overtimes before knocking off the Roadrunners 52-49. UTEP was 2-5 at that point and still had time to rally to become bowl-eligible. The Miners are just 1-3 since that win. UTEP knocked off Houston Baptist 42-10 on Nov. 5.

5. Spencer Leftwich is still on the staff at UTEP

Former UNT assistant coach Spencer Leftwich is still a member of UTEP’s staff and is the Miners assistant head coach. Leftwich was on UNT’s staff from 1994-2002 and again from 2007-09. UNT co-defensive coordinator Troy Reffett spent 14 seasons on the staff at UTEP.