Miners Tee It Up Saturday – And Get This: Tackling Is Allowed!

By Mark S. McDonald, deadly serious college football analyst

As with every college football team, the opening game of any season brings fresh optimism. This has never been truer than for the 2019 UTEP Miners.

Minimizing collisions in Camp Ruidoso, head coach Dana Dimel was determined to open this season with far fewer injuries than last year. No fighting, no taking an opponent to the ground when blocking or tackling.

There were days when – gasp! – the player worked out in shorts and T-shirts. UTEP often limited its practice schedule to once a day, with no pads in their workout britches. Many wore bonnets on their helmets, to minimize the number of concussions. 

“Some coaches are afraid for their teams not to beat each other up,” Dimel said. “I don’t have those insecurities. I’ve been coaching for 30-something years.”

Method to the madness? Dimel and staff took their cue from the Dallas Cowboys training staff. In limiting contact, especially with the ground, Dimel desperately sought to squeeze more playing time out of this roster. If you remember Ken Hatfield’s teams at Arkansas, Rice and Air Force, those squads never hit each other. They saved it for game days.

Still, in spite of these precautions, one Miner suffered a season-ending injury. Starting tailback Quadraiz Wadley screwed up his toe so badly in training before Camp Pantyhose, it required surgery and rehab. Running on a bum toe is more than frustrating, it’s like grabbing for a taco, without a thumb. Try it sometime. After the redshirting in 2019, Wadley will have one more year to play. But already, the senior from Kennedale is itching to contribute.

Camp Petticoat rumors run rampant:

  • We would like to dispel the rumor that team meetings ended with a time-honored feather dance. In this ancient ritual, players did not hold hands and sing together: “kum-ba-ya, we Miners, kum-ba-ya … kum-ba-ya, we Miners, kum-ba-ya.”
  • Equipment managers no longer issue socks and jocks. Instead, they hand out nail files and yoga pants. Not true.
  • No game-day eye-black for wide receivers. Eye shadow instead. See previous. Again, somebody from Las Cruces is spreading lies.

More Bogus News:

  • Placekickers typically have no shame anyway, so during practice sessions, they have threatened to play home games wearing orange Speedos. Didn’t take long for word to get out in the Village of Ruidoso. The training camp practice field was lined with frustrated housewives. Investigation continues.
  • Trainer Dawn Hearn, director of sports medicine got to UTEP in 1988. So we quash the rumor she used to wrap the celebrated ankles of Red Grange. Okay, maybe it was Bulldog Turner.
  • Final workout at Camp Petticoat, before the team headed back to campus, coaches called for team unity. That part is true. It is patently false that winners in the first-ever intra-squad Sweetheart Dance were named team captains.

Conclusion:

This railbird last year thought the Miners showed more team speed than in 2017. I was fooled. UTEP was not faster, only looked that way when practicing against each other. Then the oft-injured Miners appeared to running in sand, toward a 1-11 finish.

Again this August, the Miners team speed looks improved. New grad transfer from Arizona, DeVaughn Cooper last year led his team in yards per catch. New faces abound in the secondary. The O-line is back to health. A freshman running back from El Paso looks promising. More eval after the opener, when the guys are not playing two-below.

Be advised my aging eyes tend to see only bright orange. A spy who has seen more Conference USA teams at field level tells me Old Dominion, Alabama-Birmingham and La Tech are faster than UTEP. Gulp.  

Good thing the season opens soon. Saturday against Houston Baptist, what if the two teams break out in a game of full-contact Scrabble?

Next post: After the Houston Baptist game, what I think I think

Ben Collins

In Praise of the Late Ben Collins

Recent mention of the late Pool Webb and Ben Collins, late Texas Western coach then an instructor at UTEP, has come in from Miners of yesteryear. No small wonder. “Wee Ben,” as he was affectionately known, is a member of the El Paso Sports Hall of Fame.

Keep up the good work on your publication about the Miners. We enjoy reading about the youngsters, and getting your insights on what to expect and/or what is happening. The tribute to Ben Collins and Pool Webb really hit home, I had a lot of respect for both men.

John Furman  

In 1957, Dan Devine was coach at Arizona State, then he went on to Missouri, Notre Dame, then (the Hollywood film) “Rudy” and the Green Bay Packers. At the same time, Marv Levy, who later coached at Buffalo, was at New Mexico, “Slinging” Sammy Baugh was at Hardin-Simmons and Frank Kimbrough at West Texas. Ben Collins at Texas Western had tough row to hoe his first year. We beat N.M. and West Texas, but lost to Arizona State and Simmons. During that period, we played against Don Perkins who came from W.T. to play running back for the Cowboys. During my career, we Miners beat W.T. three of four, Simmons two of four. Not too bad for the old Texas School of Mines! We did have (hard plastic) Riddell (suspension-style) helmets, with single face-bar though!

Name Withheld by Request

{UTEP grad and two-year letterman in football, McDonald survived starvation in the newsrooms of five Texas dailies. He now manages Dust Devil Publishing team, and officiates Miners games from his stadium seat.}

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