The UTEP defense is no longer a place to pad stats.
The Miner unit's national ranking no longer sports a third digit. UTEP ranks No. 82 nationally in total defense, a far cry from the days of No. 110 or worse during the past three seasons.
Granted, the Miners have benefited from not having the Texases, Texas Techs and Kansases of the world on their schedule. But it's not difficult to see the improvement this unit has made under the guidance of new coordinator Andre Patterson.
The move to a 4-3 alignment, more specifically a mix of a 13 and 22 front, has shored up run coverage a bit for the Miners and has also built in more angles of attack in pass defense. UTEP currently ranks No. 71 and 74 in run and pass defense, respectively.
We still see the defensive line make mistakes in run support. Houston, in particular had great success on cross blocks and traps to create running lanes between the tackles. The Miner line must do a better job of taking on blocks to let their impressive linebackers run free to the ball.
In the secondary, UTEP has yet to be tested by a prolific passing attack since playing Houston on Sept. 10. But the Miner corners and safeties have done enough since then to maintain a 223.5-yard average per game. Not great. But not bad either. And this with the loss of phenom Braxton Amy to injury.
The defense's shining moment came against Memphis on Saturday. In the second half, the Tigers' drive summary results read "punt, punt, interception, field goal after drive stalls in the red zone, and punt." This while the UTEP offense was struggling and tried several times to hand the momentum of the game back to Memphis.
Anytime, you only ask your offense to score the equivalent of two touchdowns and PATs to win a game, you're doing a good job.