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Boise State football: Sizing up the Miners

The long-suffering UTEP football program has been patient under coach Dana Dimel. Now, the Miners have gone 5-5 over their last 10 games. Have they turned a corner?
Credit: Chuck Burton/AP Photo
UTEP head coach Dana Dimel talks to his team on the sidelines during an NCAA game against Texas in Austin, Texas, Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020. Texas won 59-3.

BOISE, Idaho — Thursday, September 9, 2021.

The 26½-point spread aside, let’s look at what kind of team Boise State will be facing when UTEP opens the home season on the blue turf Friday night. The Miners have had just one winning season in the past 15 years (that was in 2014 under former Broncos offensive line coach Sean Kugler). Dana Dimel, the one-time Wyoming coach, is in his fourth year at UTEP. Dimel went 1-11 in his first two seasons but improved to 3-5 last fall and is 2-0 so far this year. The pundits aren’t buying the turnaround much. The Conference USA preseason media poll placed the Miners last in the Western Division, and Athlon projects their 2021 record as 3-9. Considering its start the past two weeks, the game against Boise State will tell UTEP what’s real and what isn’t. Come to think of it, that’s the case for the Broncos, too.

UTEP’S MODEST PLACE IN BRONCOS HISTORY

The Boise State-UTEP series literally bridged two eras in Broncos football. The teams first played in the 2000 Humanitarian Bowl, with Boise State winning 38-23. It was the Broncos’ final game in the Big West (in fact, it was the last Big West football game ever played). It was also Dirk Koetter’s swan song as coach as he passed the baton to Dan Hawkins before he headed to Arizona State. Then the following September, UTEP came to Bronco Stadium as Boise State’s first-ever WAC opponent, with the home team winning 42-17. The Broncos are 5-0 versus the Miners.

BACHMEIER’S STEP FORWARD

Let’s do a pre-UTEP game progress report on Boise State quarterback Hank Bachmeier. What was the No. 1 issue talked about by fans and coaches alike going into the 2021 season? Bachmeier holding onto the ball too long and taking hellacious hits. At UCF, Bachmeier was much improved in that department, especially when the Broncos’ tempo offense was in a rhythm in the first quarter. He did take some shots, but it wasn’t because of indecision. (The worst one may have been after a bad snap.) Officially, Bachmeier was not sacked once by the Knights’ athletic defense. His completion percentage for the night was 64 percent, a couple points above his career average. Six receivers logged two or more catches, and one of them was not CT Thomas. Imagine what a productive running game would do for Bachmeier.

DOUBLE-A INSTRUCTION

Was Boise State coach Andy Avalos discouraged by what happened at UCF last week? I think you know the answer to that. There was a video posted on Twitter Tuesday by KTVB’s Will Hall that has gone a bit viral. Avalos was on point while working with the Broncos’ edge rushers in practice. He was in his element. Avalos reverted back to his days as a position coach, leveraging the blocking sled and working with Demitri Washington and Isaiah Bagnah on technique and footwork while shedding blocks. It was like choreography, and it was all positive reinforcement. All Avalos was missing were pads and cleats. The former All-WAC linebacker’s still got it.

HARSIN’S GRADUAL INITIATION

Bryan Harsin is easing into his new perch as Auburn’s head football coach, and that may not be such a bad idea. After pummeling Akron 60-10 last week, with quarterback Bo Nix going 20-of-22 for 275 yards and three touchdowns while he was in, Harsin’s Tigers host Alabama State on Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium. So you can expect Auburn to be 2-0 when it visits Penn State the following week. Just as it is for his alma mater and former team in Boise, September 18 is a day of reckoning for Harsin and the War Eagle crew. While Boise State is hosting a Big 12 team for the first time, Harsin will be experiencing Happy Valley and one of its famous White-Outs.

‘TANK’ IS READY TO ROLL

Just as predicted, DeMarcus “Tank” Lawrence’s first snap of 2021 will finally happen tonight as the Dallas opens the NFL season against Tampa Bay. Lawrence was held out of the Cowboys’ preseason games this summer, allowing him to fully heal from what was called “clean-up surgery” on his back this spring. The star defensive end will be full-go tonight and hopes to give the GOAT, Tom Brady, a negative stat or two. “I feel good about everything, all the way from my head coach—all the way down to our kicker,” Lawrence said this week. He’s one of three former Boise State standouts still on Dallas’ 53-man roster. The others are linebacker Leighton Vander Esch and wide receiver Cedrick Wilson. Oh, and there’s that offensive coordinator guy.

OGDEN STRIKES FIRST

It’s a very odd week for the Boise Hawks. These last three games of the regular season at Ogden don’t really mean anything. But Saturday night’s contest against the Raptors is exactly the opposite, a winner-take-all playoff game for the right to play in the Pioneer League Championship Series. That’s not to say building momentum isn’t important. Ogden got the first dose of it Wednesday night with a 6-2 victory over the Hawks.

THIS DAY IN SPORTS…September 9, 2013:

After a string of 20 consecutive losing seasons, the longest such streak in major American professional sports, the Pittsburgh Pirates defeat the Texas Rangers 1-0 to record their 82nd victory and clinch a winning record. The Pirates’ last winning season had been in 1992, when they won the National League East for the third straight season and made the NLCS. Pittsburgh would also go on to its first postseason appearance in 21 years, falling to the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Divisional Series.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 FM KTIK. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.) 

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