UTEP Football Coaches & Players Thrilled About Bowl Game Opportunity
Less than 24 hours after they learned of their bowl destination, the UTEP football team was out practicing for the New Mexico Bowl on Saturday, December 18. They will face a 9-3 Fresno State team that lost its head coach and offensive coordinator to Washington, while their former starting quarterback entered the transfer portal and won't play in this contest.
Miner football head coach Dana Dimel, senior wide receiver Justin Garrett and senior safety Dy'vonne Inyang met with the media to talk about their excitement about being in the game.
Extra practices are always welcomed by coaches and Dimel is pleased with the added time with his players. Practices in December are important for those competing in the New Mexico Bowl and also important for younger players getting extra reps.
"It's a big part in what we're doing. Developing for next year but also understand that this team has a really great chance to leave a legacy on their last year by winning a bowl game," Dimel said. "That can't be overlooked That would make them a really special team in UTEP football."
The football team will go through a staggered practice pattern throughout this week. Next week, they will undergo a regular practice week. The team will travel to Albuquerque on Wednesday in preparation for the game on Saturday.
"I think this is my 15th bowl game," said Dimel, who will serve as a head coach for a bowl game for the first time. "I've learned a lot on how to prepare a team. For me, it's not that new of an experience. It's a good opportunity to give these guys a chance to get a win."
Sandwiched in between the practice and the bowl game is Early Signing Day, which will be revealed across the nation next Wednesday, December 15. Dimel talked about signing up to nine players next week. They will have 14 initial scholarships to give this year and the program will continue to give out blue and grey shirts for prospects.
"[14 scholarships] is more than any year since I've been here, so it's good," Dimel said. "It's defensive players [they will target]. We want to focus on our secondary, defensive lineman, wide receiver, offensive line, possibly a running back and possibly a junior college quarterback."
For Garrett, the bowl game is an opportunity to put out film for NFL and pro scouts to evaluate. Over three seasons, the Compton, Calif. native has amassed 1,615 receiving yards, 10 touchdowns and has 127 receptions in a UTEP uniform. As a JUCO transfer from Cerritos College, Garrett understands the importance of this game.
"Technically, if it wasn't for COVID, I wouldn't have had this extra year," Garrett said regarding the opportunity to play. "It was an extra year to bond with the team and an extra year to help turn the program around. The job isn't finished. We came a long way from the first day I came to this school."
Though he was from California, Fresno State never recruited Garrett.
"I know a couple guys on their team. It will be a great opportunity to face my first Cali school," he said. "Lot to look forward to and playing with a chip on my shoulder. Those guys didn't recruit me or reach out, so I have something to prove."
Playing in his first bowl game as a JUCO transfer along with Garrett is Inyang, who has been a standout safety this year. Inyang has racked up 33 solo tackles, three interceptions and seven pass deflections this year. The Kilgore College transfer reflected on joining the squad from the JUCO ranks and talked about how special this game is for him.
"We haven't won a bowl game in about 40 years. It's a blessing to go out there and hopefully bring a win back to the Sun Bowl. JUCO is hard work every day. It's just a blessing to come here and get a bowl game."
Tickets to the PUBG MOBILE New Mexico Bowl are $40 each and are on sale now by visiting www.UTEPMiners.com/tickets. Fans are encouraged to purchase the tickets directly through UTEP to ensure that they are seated in the UTEP sections.