The UTEP Miners (3-4, 1-2) will travel to take on the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles (5-3, 3-1) in a Conference USA West Division matchup Saturday afternoon. UTEP has won two straight and three of four in the series, including a 35-14 win at home as an 8.5 point favorite on November 1, 2014 in the most recent matchup between the schools.
UTEP snapped a two game skid by defeating Florida Atlantic at home 27-17 last week. Southern Miss won their second straight and third in the last four games by pummeling Charlotte 44-10 on the road. This game is slated for a 2:30 pm ET kickoff from M.M. Roberts Stadium in Hattiesburg, Mississippi; the game will not be nationally televised. Southern Miss is currently a 24 point favorite with the over/under set at 58.5 points in this contest.
UTEP found themselves down 7-0 and then was down 17-14 at the half but shut Florida Atlantic out in the second half to get the victory. The Miners outgained the Owls 410-365 and forced three turnovers in the contest while committing only one turnover. UTEP controlled the clock as they held the ball for 36:55 while limiting Florida Atlantic to just 23:05 in the contest. The Miners ground the Owls down in the fourth quarter as they booted a pair of field goals, the second one capping off a drive that chewed up 7:31 off the clock.
The Miners are a below average offensive team as they average 212.9 yards per game through the air (79th in the nation) and 138.7 yards per game (102nd in the nation) on the ground on the year. UTEP is putting up 22 points per game but they are tied for 118th in the nation by allowing 39.3 points a contest. Ryan Metz has completed 66 of 109 passes for 753 yards with six touchdowns and six picks; Mack Leftwich (50 of 86, 607 yards, 4 TD, INT) and Kavika Johnson (18 of 30, 130 yards, TD) have seen action at quarterback as well. Aaron Jones leads the Miners with 32 carries for 209 yards and a score while Darren Laufasa chips in 13 carries for 104 yards plus a touchdown. LaQuintus Dowell (41 carries, 205 yards, TD) and Jeremiah Laufasa (54 carries, 182 yards) have seen action as well with limited success. Jaquan White leads the team with 26 receptions for 246 yards and three scores; Hayden Plinke contributes 20 grabs for 258 yards while Autrey Golden has grabbed 17 passes for 138 yards and two touchdowns. Tyler Batson has 16 receptions for a team leading 345 yards and two touchdowns. Jay Mattox has hit all 16 extra points and nine of 11 field goals on the season.
Southern Miss jumped to a 23-3 lead at the half and never looked back in the contest. The Golden Eagles outgained the 49ers 480-257 and forced three turnovers to overcome a pair of giveaways in the contest. Southern Miss scored on a kick return for a touchdown and closed the scoring with the ever popular two yard drive that was set up by a Charlotte giveaway. The Golden Eagles finished with 22 first downs while allowing 13 and controlled the clock by holding the ball for 36:22 to Charlotte’s 23:38 in the contest.
The Golden Eagles currently are 13th in the nation in passing with an average of 327 yards per game; they are 58th in the nation in rushing with an average of 178.8 yards per game. Southern Miss averages 35 points per game, which is tied for 31st in the nation; they are allowing 23.9 points per contest, which has them 49th in the nation in scoring defense. Nick Mullens has hit 63.5 percent of his passes for 2,613 yards with 21 touchdowns and seven picks while averaging 8.3 yards per pass attempt. The Golden Eagles have a solid 1-2 punch on the ground with Jalen Richard (120 carries, 681 yards, 7 TD) and Ito Smith (76 carries, 528 yards, 3 TD) help move the sticks on the ground. Justice Hayes is a capable third back when he gets his chances; he has 38 carries for 177 yards and two scores. Casey Martin is the team’s leading receiver with 49 grabs for 500 yards and six scores; Michael Thomas (36 receptions, 653 yards, 6 TD) is a solid #2 receiver and Smith has been a solid receiver out of the backfield with 29 grabs for 321 yards and a score. DJ Thompson has hauled in 29 balls for 448 yards and three touchdowns and Richard has 19 catches from the backfield, giving Mullens two good safety valves out of the backfield. Southern Miss has had two kickers this season; they’ve combined for 35 of 37 on extra points and 10 of 15 on field goals with no kick longer than 39 yards.
Southern Miss is 4-0 ATS in their last four at home, 5-0 ATS in their last five against teams with a losing record, 5-0 ATS in their last five on turf, 7-1 ATS in their last eight overall, 5-1 ATS in their last six after an ATS win and 7-2-1 ATS in their last 10 after a straight up win of at least 20 points. UTEP is 4-10 ATS in their last 14 in October, 2-6 ATS in their last eight overall, 1-4 ATS in their last five on the road, 1-5 ATS in their last six against teams with a winning record and 0-4 ATS in their last four after a straight up win.
The Miners may have gotten the win last week over Florida Atlantic but they’re going to have a tough time trying to deal with Southern Miss’s offense if it’s humming like it has been lately. UTEP won’t get the takeaways they received as gifts from Florida Atlantic; this will be a big win for Southern Miss to stay in the race in Conference USA.