Underdog UTEP could keep foot on the gas against UAB in Friday football game

UTEP football coach Dana Dimel wasn't going to reveal his team's plan for Friday's game at UAB, but he admitted he liked what he saw in the victory over Rice and a repeat of the wide-open passing game that got them there could be offered up again.

"That was good for us," Dimel said, both looking back at the 38-28 win over Rice and looking ahead to the matchup with a UAB defense ranked at the top of Conference USA. "Obviously, I was excited about some of the things we were able to do offensively.

More: C-USA football standings

"Our quarterbacks and receivers executed really well. It was nice having (tailback) Quardraiz (Wadley) back. He has great vision and he saw some holes when we were trying to close the game out," he said.

"I liked that style we have; I liked how it morphed itself out," he added. "We'd been protecting our defense and doing things that can help you win football games, but the frustration of losing a couple of close football games led us to open it up a little more. We were trying to keep from losing close games by scoring more points."

More: Cochise JC basketball player Jonathan Garcia talks hoops

The challenge of UAB

Scoring more points against the Blazers won't be easy. Since reviving football in 2017, UAB has been elite in C-USA and it's been done on the strength of the defense. The Blazers are ranked 20th nationally and first in C-USA in total defense, giving up just 325 yards per game.

"As everybody knows, they are a really, really good football team, a football team that's got one of the top defenses in the country," Dimel said. "They are really good against the rush statistically and have been a powerhouse in the conference since I've been in the conference.

"They have great athletes, good defenders on defense that have been with them awhile. They have good speed across the whole defense like they always do. They play tenacious, they play a really good brand of football," he said.

"When you look at the teams in our league, you have to put them at the top. They are the team. Obviously, this is UTSA's year, but UAB is the team that's been consistently at the top of our league."

Dimel said that when UAB brought football back after killing it for two years, it had a good formula.

"Their football coach (Bill Clark) does a tremendous job," Dimel said. "Bill is a fierce, fierce competitor and his team has that competitive edge to them. He knows how to recruit; he knows how to prepare a team. They've come from being a team that was shut down to being a really, really good football team.

"They've always been able to recruit and they have a really good coach. That's a great combination."

Short week before fun game Friday

Dimel's eager for the challenge.

"There's nothing more fun than playing a Friday afternoon game after Thanksgiving; it's a great college atmosphere," Dimel said.

The game is at noon Mountain Time at Protective Stadium in Birmingham, Alabama.

It does mean a short week, which didn't go well earlier this year when UTEP traveled to Boise State and got routed. Dimel pointed out that Boise State was coming off a Thursday game, so it had eight days to UTEP's six to prepare.

"We're changing what we did against Boise," Dimel said. "The thing I didn't like about Boise, we had a short week, they didn't. It's not as bad when both teams have a short week.

"We learned from that. We learned what we need to do on a short week. We tweaked that schedule a little more. I think we have a good plan for this week."

He didn't go into detail what that meant, but indicated Tuesday's practice will be more physical than the typical Tuesday workout and there will be more first-team against first-team work, as opposed to work against the scout team.

The idea is that UTEP will be better prepared for one of the toughest opponents the Miners will face, as a two-touchdown underdog on the road.

Bret Bloomquist can be reached at 915-546-6359;; @Bretbloomquist on Twitter.

This article originally appeared on El Paso Times: Underdog UTEP football team could keep foot on the gas against UAB