The Red Raiders scored a modest 30 points against UTEP, but the individual offensive units actually grade out well. It’s a group that is coming together but is nowhere near a solid whole yet. And for the second straight week the defensive front seven brings up the hindmost while the secondary is a shining star. Special teams showed clear improvement.
Quarterback: Davis Webb was cold as a stone in the early going, missing open receivers on at least three or four occasions. However, once he settled in, Webb was very much on target, finishing the night with 17 completions in 31 attempts with three touchdowns, and importantly, no interceptions. What’s more Webb had terrific yards per completion and per pass of 16.4 and 9.0 respectively. He effectively made the Miners pay for their tight man coverage on Tech’s outside receivers. Consistency—within the game itself--is the next hobgoblin Webb must slay.
Running Backs: There’s no denying the electricity Justin Stockton provides to the Tech attack. His “other gear” is one possessed by few and it makes the difference between a run of 15 yards and one of 75, which was the length of his TD. But while Stockton understandably gets most of the oohs and aahs, Deandre Washington and Quinton White had solid games themselves. Washington ran with determination, power and balance, while making defenders miss. And White looked like a Washington starter kit.
Receivers: For the second game in a row dropped passes were conspicuously absent. Bradley Marquez was absolute money with three TD grabs in three total catches, while Jakeem Grant was a thorn in the UTEP side with eight receptions for 150 yards. Dylan Cantrell chipped in a beautiful snag on a go route, and Devin Lauderdale may have made the play of the game leveling not one but two Miners to escort Stockton into the end zone on his 75-yard jaunt. If Lauderdale can block like that on a regular basis, perhaps we’ll see a return of the screen game against Arkansas.
Offensive Line: It was a pretty solid effort by the boys up front. Davis Webb went sackless for the night and was rarely even pressured. Then again, the Miners didn’t bring the heat very often. Holes for Stockton, Washington and White were considerable, but then one must remember that New Mexico rushed for over 400 yards against this outfit, so there should have been holes! The line was flagged for a penalty or two, but seemed less error-prone than against UCA.
Defensive Line: The defensive line was more active than in the Central Arkansas game, but when you give up 277 rushing yards to UTEP there’s a very real limit to how high you can grade out. The standouts were first time starter Keland McElrath who finished with 5.5 tackles and a quarterback hurry, and Branden Jackson who took over the game when UTEP threatened to steal a win on their last drive. McElrath doesn’t figure to depart the starting lineup any time soon, and if Jackson can bottle his final defensive series and take a nip before every play the Tech defense will improve by 30 percent. Outside of that duo, the line was somewhat underwhelming.
Linebackers: Whereas the defensive line was average, the linebackers were largely nonexistent. As usual, Awe busted a few heads when he was on the field, but the rest of the corps just didn’t plug holes effectively. Pete Robertson and Sam Eguavoen need to rise to the preseason hype levels or the Tech run defense will be on its heels most of the season.
Secondary: UTEP QB Jameill Showers will never be confused with Peyton Manning, but holding a D1 quarterback to nine of 25 passing is never a bad thing. Freshman Tevin Madison has apparently already made such an impression on opposing coaches that they no longer throw at him and he’s only in game two! Justis Nelson continues his steady play in coverage, but you don’t want to rely on him to make tackles in the open field. Keenon Ward again led the secondary in tackles with 7.5. If you think Tech’s rush defense numbers are bad right now, just imagine what they’d be without Ward cleaning up the messes. An interception from somebody, anybody, wouldn’t have gone amiss.
Special Teams: Cameron Batson improved dramatically as a punt return man. He didn’t bust any long returns, but neither did he misjudge punts and cost the team field position. Ryan Bustin coaxed through a chip shot field goal, Taylor Symmank averaged 42.8 yards per punt, and punt coverage was solid. The lapse that allowed Autrey Golden to return the final kickoff into Tech territory could have proved fatal, and that lowers the grade.
UTEP Report Card
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