FACTS & STATS: Site: Hughes Stadium (32,500) -- Fort Collins, Colorado. Television: CBSSN. Home Record: UTEP 0-2, CSU 1-0. Away Record: UTEP 1-0, CSU 0-2. Neutral Record: UTEP 0-0, CSU 0-1. Conference Record: UTEP 0-1, CSU 0-0. Series Record: Colorado State leads, 24-10.
GAME NOTES: Winners of four straight home games, the Colorado State Rams try to get back on track this weekend as they contend against the Miners of Texas- El Paso in non-conference action at Hughes Stadium.
The Rams have just one win on the season, but it didn't come against another member of the Football Bowl Subdivision, instead it was a 34-17 triumph over visiting Cal Poly a few weeks back. More recently, CSU went up against mighty Alabama on the road last Saturday and suffered a 31-6 setback, dropping the squad to 1-3 on the campaign.
As for the Miners, who are making their way to Fort Collins for the first time since 1995, they've already experienced a mixed bag of outcomes in just three games. The team lost to New Mexico in overtime in the opener, then turned around and knocked off New Mexico State on the road. Last weekend, UTEP was dropped by Texas-San Antonio at the Sun Bowl, 32-13.
The Miners won the last meeting between the programs in 2011 by a score of 31-17, but still it is CSU that owns a 24-10 edge in the all-time series. These two squads used to be foes in the Western Athletic Conference from 1986-1998.
The UTEP defense failed to show up in the first half against the Roadrunners, allowing more than 300 yards of total offense and 25 points to the visitors, digging the Miners a deep enough hole that was far too tough to emerge from. The hosts tightened up in the second half, forcing three punts on five UTSA possessions, but by then it was too late.
While the defense was having issues, the UTEP offense was also struggling as quarterback Jameill Showers completed 17-of-31 passes for 119 yards, while the rushing attack generated only 99 net yards on 29 attempts. The lone touchdown for the program came on a 100-yard kickoff return by Autrey Golden barely four minutes into the meeting.
Clearly Showers had his issues last weekend, but he has shown very little to cheer about through the first three games overall while averaging a mere 163.7 ypg and having tossed just two touchdowns on 79 attempts. Instead, it's been the rushing attack which has provided some level of excitement, generating 224.0 ypg and a total of nine touchdowns. Aaron Jones leads the way with 252 yards and three scores.
Unfortunately, the run defense for the Miners has been anything but staunch, permitting 225.0 ypg and nine scores, similar to what UTEP has produced. However, the big difference here is that, while the Miners are averaging 5.1 yards per carry, the opposition it charging for 6.1 yards per attempt and that's the sort of effort that keeps the ball out of the hands of the UTEP offense.
Pitted against the top team in the country and the two-time defending national champions, the Rams ended up bowing to Alabama in Tuscaloosa. In the first game for CSU head coach Jim McElwain against his former team -- he was the offensive coordinator for the Crimson Tide before moving to Fort Collins -- quarterback Garrett Grayson converted 24-of-38 passes for 228 yards, but the team generated just 51 net rushing yards against the staunch Tide defense.
On a more positive note, the Rams limited Alabama to only 66 rushing yards in the encounter, although the Crimson Tide did deliver a solid seven yards per play during the meeting.
The Rams have limited the opposition to a modest 148.3 ypg on the ground this season, good enough for 55th in the nation. However, the secondary has been much more forgiving, allowing 262.0 ypg which is 91st in the country.
On the offensive side of the ball, with 23.5 ppg the Rams are tied for 88th in the country and a lot of that has to do with the squad's passing efficiency which rates out at 116.36 (94th nationally). Grayson is averaging 208.5 ypg through the air, completing 58.1 percent of his attempts, yet he has just four aerial scores on 136 throws.
Chris Nwoke and Kapri Bibbs have been a decent one-two punch coming out of the backfield, the pair combining for 476 yards and four touchdowns, which means the rest of the ball carriers have accounted for only 72 yards.
With Showers having a hard time kicking the UTEP offense into gear, it shouldn't be that much of a surprise to see the Rams inch closer to .500 after this weekend.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Colorado State 27, Texas-El Paso 14
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