After an offseason full of coaches and players speaking about how the front seven is improving and shoring up, the front seven struggled against Central Arkansas, a FCS school who was in Division II less than a decade ago.
Now Tech defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt has to deal with a sophomore running back who stole the starting job from upperclassmen as a freshman. Despite being injured for the final three games of the 2013 season, Aaron Jones earned all-freshman honors both nationally and in Conference USA.
Nathan Jefferyfollowed that up a week ago by rushing for 237 yards and three touchdowns while sharing duties with senior Nathan Jeffery, who added 84 yards, in a 31-24 victory over New Mexico. In all, the Miners churned out 330 yards in the win.
“I thought the running backs were outstanding (last week against New Mexico). Aaron Jones had 237 yards and a 10.8-yard average,” said UTEP head coach Sean Kuglar earlier this week. “He was getting stronger as the game went on and really had some outstanding vision runs. More importantly he had some strong runs, some physical runs. Nathan Jeffery had an outstanding game as well. He rushed for over 80 yards and had six yards a carry. He got more of the tough inside the tackle runs and he was running physical the entire night.“
Jones is currently the third leading rusher in the FBS. The two players in front of him are on teams who played against FCS schools in week one.
The Red Raider linebackers are coming off a disappointing performance against UCA. Texas Tech lost big man Rika Levi for the game and he is currently not expected to play against UTEP. If the Red Raiders don’t shore up the rush defense this week, especially in key short yardage situations, an upset may be in store.
"I know the expectations are high,” said Wallerstedt earlier this week. “We will continue to squeeze and put pressure on our guys, because they know what the standards are, we're never going to lay off with that. (We're going to) regroup, have a good week of practice and perform."
The former Border Conference foes are set to kick off 10 p.m. Saturday at the Sun Bowl in El Paso.