The Wildcats are set to begin a historic season Saturday against the University of Texas at El Paso.
As for the Miners, they have already played two games this season. In week one, they came back to win against one of ACU’s familiar foes, the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks, 24-14. Then in week two, suffered a 59-3 loss thanks to the University of Texas.
Leading the Miners in the quarterback position is sophomore Gavin Hardison. In his first two games, he’s tallied 353 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions and a 53 percent completion rate. Someone the Wildcats will have to contain is redshirt freshman Deion Hankins. In his first collegiate game, Hankins ran for 113 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries.
Even though UTEP has a bigger program, head coach Adam Dorrel is confident entering the first week.
“They are going to be ready to play,” said Dorrel, “and we are not going to sneak up on anybody. We want to play to our standards, play as hard as we can and just have fun. We do not have anything to lose. Let us go throw the kitchen sink at them and do what we got to do.”
Though ACU has only changed a couple of areas defensively, they are looking to fill holes after the departure of Jeremiah Chambers. Hoping to fill those holes are senior linebacker Jack Gibbens and many other younger athletes and transfers entering the program.
On both sides of the field, Dorrel is excited to see the younger players and transfers and see the depth the roster on display this season.
“Right now I feel good because what I am seeing as a whole is the depth,” said Dorrel. “We have never had this depth before. What we have seen so far in practice, I feel really good about some of those younger guys and their ability to make some plays, plus to be able to play them without a huge drop-off. It makes me really excited to watch them on Saturday.”
On the offensive side of things, Coach Dorrel is bringing back his dual quarterback system, which will be led by returning junior quarterback Sema’J Davis and junior quarterback Peyton Mansell, a transfer from the University of Iowa.
Davis, completing 35 passes for 388 yards and rushed for 621 yards on 102 attempts in 2019, looks to build on what he accomplished last season for the Wildcats. As for Mansell, he is able to finally show off his throwing power after spending most of his time as a Hawkeye on the sidelines.
Both have been elected captains by their fellow teammates.
“I think this says a lot about Sema’J,” said Dorrel. “We have always challenged him to get out of his shell. You have to be a vocal leader in that area, and I have seen him grow so much. Peyton since he got here on day one has been a great leader, especially in the weight room. Plus, it has helped Sema’J to be able to see him, his leadership and what vocal leadership looks like. I am very proud of both those guys.”
Even though there is some anxiety heading into the first game, the team as a whole is excited to start the season.
“The energy has been really high heading into this week,” said Dorrel. “It makes me feel really good as a coach, because I feel like the guys are really cued in and excited to play. They are real amped up and ready to get out there and go.”
The Wildcats and the Miners will kickoff in El Paso at 8 p.m. Saturday, and the game will be streaming live on ESPN3.