FACTS & STATS: Site: The Sun Bowl (51,500) — El Paso, Texas.
Television: MyTVZ33, Sinclair. Home Record: ODU 2-2, UTEP 1-1. Away Record:
ODU 1-1, UTEP 1-2. Neutral Record: ODU 0-0, UTEP 0-0. Conference Record: ODU
1-2, UTEP 0-1. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: The Old Dominion Monarchs will embark on a three-game road trip
beginning On Saturday night at the Sun Bowl with a Conference USA matchup with
the Texas-El Paso Miners.
ODU has experienced modest success during its first season as a member of the
FBS with a 3-3 overall record, although it has won just one of its three C-USA
contests. Since beating Rice on the road on Sept. 20 (45-42), the Monarchs
have dropped back-to-back home game to Middle Tennessee (41-28) and Marshall
UTEP has also lost two straight games, falling at nationally-ranked Kansas
State on Sept. 27 (58-28) prior to dropping its C-USA opener in embarrassing
fashion at Louisiana Tech last Saturday (55-3). The Miners are 2-3 on the
season and haven’t found much solace in recent seasons at home, going just 4-9
in El Paso since 2012.
These newly-formed conference rivals have never before played one another.
The Monarchs’ offense has been solid this season in posting 29.8 ppg and 426.5
ypg, but the unit fell flat last week with just 286 yards and 14 points.
Taylor Heinicke has been impressive under center, completing greater than 63
percent of his passes for 269.8 ypg with 16 touchdowns (one rushing), although
he’s been prone to mistakes with eight interceptions.
Heinicke has a strong receiving duo out wide in Zach Pascal (34 receptions,
460 yards, four TDs) and Antonio Vaughan (30 receptions, 409 yards, seven
TDs), with the latter ranking tied for third in the nation in touchdown
Gerard Johnson has turned 81 carries into 430 yards and a touchdown and is a
valuable asset as a receiver out of the backfield as well with 22 catches. Ray
Lawry (36 carries, 286 yards) is called upon in red zone and has scored five
ODU’s defense, meanwhile, has not been up to par. The unit surrenders 36.0 ppg
and 463.7 ypg, although it has forced 11 turnovers in six games.
Fellonte Misher is the leading tackler with 42 stops and also has a forced
fumble and an interception. D.J. Simon (40 tackles, 5.5 TFL, sack), Christian
Byrum (two INTs) and Poncho Barnwell (6.0 TFL, 3.5 sacks) have also played
UTEP has underperformed offensively this season, averaging just 26.0 ppg and
356.8 ypg, and it is fresh off its worst showing of the year in a three-point,
224-yard outing at Louisiana Tech.
Aaron Jones is the focal point of the offense and has been outstanding. On 107
carries, he ranks 12th in the nation in rushing (659 yards) and has scored
Jameill Showers had just one interception heading into last week but threw
three in the loss. He’s completing just 55.5 percent of his throws on the year
for 702 yards and seven touchdowns (one rushing).
Ian Hamilton leads a modest receiving corps with 13 receptions, 190 yards and
Like ODU, UTEP is also vulnerable on the defensive side of the ball, allowing
38.2 ppg and 460.0 ypg. It has trouble getting after the quarterback with only
Wesley Miller has racked up 29 tackles, an interception and a fumble recovery.
Roy Robertson-Harris (15 tackles, 3.5 TFL) has forced a pair of fumbles and
These similar teams should be able to tally plenty of points against each
squad’s respective porous defense. Expect UTEP to have a slight advantage
playing at home with the game’s best player Jones on its side.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Texas-El Paso 35, Old Dominion 31