CFB Preview: No. 11 Texas-UTEP
Texas' thrilling double-overtime victory over 10th-ranked Notre Dame last Sunday turned enough heads to push the Longhorns into the AP rankings, at No. 11, for the first time since December 2013.
Now that the Longhorns have earned the respect and the notion from the college football world that Texas is pertinent again, they'll have to work not to throw away all they've gained. That quest continues Saturday when the Longhorns host Texas-El Paso at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.
"It was a great team win for us," Texas coach Charlie Strong said of the Notre Dame game. "It was a fun night -- I'm so happy and so proud. Probably last year we couldn't have won this game. Now we have to continue to build on how we got here because one game does not make a season."
Texas (1-0) won because the two quarterback system adopted by the Longhorns at the 11th hour worked almost flawlessly against Notre Dame.
Freshman Shane Buechele (16 of 26, 280 yards, two touchdowns) did just about everything right, save for a third quarter interception that almost cost Texas the game. Senior Tyrone Swoopes, a player who would rather not be in the spotlight but who's had little choice, exceled in the power running package, rushing for three touchdowns including the game winner.
Texas running back D'Onta Foreman had 131 rushing yards and wide receiver John Burt caught six passes for 111 yards, 72 of which came on a touchdown pass from Buechele on the second play of the third quarter.
The Longhorns have already matched the number of 100-yard receiving games they had during the 2015 season.
"Hey, we're 1-0," Strong said. "We wanted make a statement and we did. There are so many things we can clean up and get better at. You have to grow from game to game, and you have to get better from game to game. You've got to take this game, correct the mistakes, move on to the next one, and we can't have the same ones."
UTEP is coming off a 38-22 victory over Interstate-10 rival New Mexico State in its season opener last weekend. The Miners' 38 points were the most to open a season against an FBS program since 1965.
"This is very exciting for our players, an opportunity to play a Big 12 team in front of 100,000 fans," UTEP coach Sean Kugler said at his Monday press conference. "These guys have probably dreamed of playing for Texas growing up. We have a lot of competitive kids on our team; they need to play with a chip on their shoulder. Our kids are going to go up ready to fight."
UTEP heads into the game with the nation's leading rusher in Aaron Jones, back from an ankle injury he sustained in a Week 2 game at Texas Tech last year. Jones racked up 249 yards on a career-high 31 carries with a pair of scores against New Mexico State. His rushing total was the third-most in Miners' history.
The Miners amassed 518 yards of total offense against NM State, the third-most during the Kugler era in El Paso.
Defensively, UTEP surrendered only 5-of-15 third down conversions against New Mexico State. Last season, the Miners ranked no. 1 in Conference USA and were tied for fifth nationally in third-down conversion percentage allowed (.357).
Texas, which is a 28-point favorite, leads the series 4-0.
UTEP and Texas met twice previously in the 1930s in Austin, with the Longhorns victorious 28-0 in 1930 and 22-6 in 1933. The series was renewed in 2008 as Texas won the inaugural matchup in El Paso 42-13. A year later, the No. 2 Longhorns topped the Miners in Austin 64-7.