What does UTEP football need to fix on offense before NMSU game? Everything
For all the problems the UTEP football team has with throwing the ball, they do have a pretty good idea of where they need to start fixing things.
In sum, as Saturday’s rivalry game with New Mexico State looms, they need to fix all of it. A passing attack that through three games hasn’t done anything well needs to get better at everything.
“I think it comes from just execution, more than anything, with what we’re doing from every position that’s involved with the passing game,” coach Dana Dimel said. “So that’s basically the whole football unit. We’ve got to be better on our pass protection. We’ve got to be better on our route running. We’ve got to be better on our quarterback play.
“Our backs have to do a good job in their protection when they‘re staying in to protect. So all segments of our passing game need to improve. To me it’s just a matter of execution with what we’re doing.”
Actually, it won’t take much to improve. UTEP is completing 42 percent of its passes for 3.5 yards per attempt. For the starter Kai Locksley, those numbers are 41.8 and 3.2 as the junior college transfer learns to play at the FBS level.
UTEP Coach Dimel has 'unrelenting positivity'
There’s no secret to what he needs to do to get better. After Monday’s practice, he and Ryan Metz stayed 15 minutes late with a group of receivers, working on routes.
“We continuously work it through practice, work it after practice,” Locksley said. “Guys are confident, that’s the No. 1 thing I love about this team, we know what we’re capable of.
“The first three games we haven’t quite executed it, but it’s not been like teams are locking us down. It’s been self-inflicted areas. That’s the positive thing.
“We’re growing each week, getting more familiar with each other. We have all new players on the offensive line. I’m learning.”
Dimel’s operating mode at UTEP has been unrelenting positivity, and that’s the plan here.
“I met with coach Dimel after the game Saturday. I’m my biggest critic. I felt like I wasn’t doing what I was supposed to do,” Locksley said. “But coach Dimel said he has confidence in us. It’s all about to come together.”
To a player, UTEP believes it has the talent to be able to pass the ball. The team believes it is close to a breakthrough. There isn't a lack confidence.
Is UTEP football close?
“As receivers, we just need to come together, help each other out, encourage each other more, not get down on mistakes,” said junior Kenyan Foster, who has been promoted to the starting lineup. “We’re making mistakes here and there. If we keep up the positive energy around the locker room, keep a positive energy in the group, that passing game will be helped out a lot.
“I think we’re confident. We know we have it there. It will come soon.”
“We need to relax and trust each other,” senior Warren Redix said. “If we trust each other, the quarterback trusts us, we trust the line, we click at the same time and execute, we’ll be fine.
“I feel like everybody is confident. It’s just execution-wise, being assignment sound.”
The hope, then, is that familiarity spawns some improvement, that continuing to play together and getting Locksley some more experience will pay off.
“We have to focus on what we do, take it one step at a time,” senior Kavika Johnson said. “As a team, it starts with carrying your own weight. Up front we have to run a great route, the quarterback has to get the ball to us. It’s a step by step process and once it comes together it will be really good.
“It’s little things keeping us from being great. We don’t have room to be mediocre.”
Actually, mediocrity in the passing game would be a big step forward. They will try to take that step Saturday against their arch-rival.
Bret Bloomquist may be reached at 546-6359; firstname.lastname@example.org; @bretbloomquist on Twitter.
New Mexico State at UTEP
WHAT: An FBS non-conference football game
WHEN, WHERE: 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Sun Bowl
LINE: New Mexico State by 3