El Paso, Texas will have a pair of 1-8 teams facing off tomorrow when the Miners host the Panthers. The University of Texas at El Paso football program, led by Head Coach Sean Kugler, are 0-5 in Conference USA play this season, as well as being one of the most recent victims to Heisman incumbent John “Johnny Football” Manziel in the 57-7 loss that the Miners took.
The Panthers will face the Miners for the first time ever but there are two coaches on the Panthers staff who have worked in the UTEP organization very recently. Defensive line coach Andre Patterson and linebackers coach Tom Williams both worked on the sidelines for the Miners in the 2012 season. Both coaches were unavailable for comment on their former team.
The Miners will also go into the game led by freshman quarterback Mack Leftwich, who will be making his second start at the collegiate level tomorrow. Leftwich had 14 completions on 20 attempts for 128 yards and a touchdown with only a single interception in the Miners 41-7 loss to North Texas University last week.
“We have enough film to work off of them and we have to go out and game plan on what we have seen and the tendencies that they have,” Head Coach Ron Turner said.
“It has not affected our preparation a bit,” Graduate linebacker Markeith Russell said. “He seems like a great athlete, number 16 is the key on who we as a defense need to stop.”
For the Panthers, quarterback Jake Medlock will get the start after sitting behind E.J. Hilliard in losses to both East Carolina University and a 48-0 shutout by the Blue Raiders of Middle Tennessee State University last weekend.
“It was the first time ever that a coach had really benched me but it was a learning experience,” Medlock said. “It helped me mature, I was dealing with stuff and it helped me to get through it.”
“E.J. [Hilliard] had a chance and just made too many mistakes and didn’t play well enough so we have to make a change,” Turner said. “It is the same reason that he went in there was with Jake. We are going to keep going and looking until we can find someone out there who can go out and execute the offense.”
Turner also went into speaking on how he addresses his quarterbacks when he alerts them of his decision.
“I tell both of them that this is where we are and it can change each week,” Turner said. “Neither of them are on a short leash or anything like that and every decision we make is based on performance. They need to go out there and show that they can do their job.”
The Panthers defense will face a running-back who is in the top 50 in the nation for rushing yards and second in both total yards and average yards per game for freshmen in Aaron Jones. Jones averages just over 90 yards a game and has 811 yards on the season. Comparing that to FIU, the Panthers only have a total of 682 yards on the season between seven running-backs – running-backs Lamarq Caldwell and Silas Spearman III are the leaders on the team – while the Miners have 1663 yards on the season between nine running-backs.
UTEP is currently at the bottom of C-USA West Division and FIU is second to last in the East Division above only the Golden Eagles of Southern Mississippi University.
The game will take place at the Sun Bowl and will kickoff at 8pm eastern time.