Arizona and UTEP already have injury issues at quarterback heading into their showdown on Friday at the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Tex. Arizona’s Brandon Dawkins left early in the fourth quarter of a 19-16 loss to Houston on Saturday and returned for the final minutes but remained ineffective while UTEP’s Ryan Metz sustained a shoulder injury in a 31-14 setback against Rice, leaving him questionable This week.
Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez told a local radio station on Monday that Dawkins remained the starter, even though he was “a little nicked up” after losing two second-half fumbles in the Houston game, including one that resulted in a safety. Khalil Tate replaced Dawkins early in the fourth quarter but was intercepted with 3:49 remaining after Arizona had reached the Houston 32-yard line. Metz was injured late in the game against Rice and Mark Torrez came in for UTEP’s final offensive play, but coach Sean Kugler told reporters on Monday that Zack Greenlee would start against Arizona if Metz was unavailable. Greenlee, a senior, started four games for the Miners last season and seven over two campaigns at Fresno State.
TV: 10:15 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: Arizona -20
ABOUT ARIZONA (1-1): The Wildcats may opt to use redshrit freshman running back J.J. Taylor a bit more against UTEP and limit the amount of contact to Dawkins. Taylor averaged 5.1 yards on 17 carries against Houston, and his two receptions gave him 10 more touches than he had in the season-opening 62-24 win against Northern Arizona. Taylor, who sustained a season-ending broken ankle in the fourth game last campaign, was a workhorse in high school as he registered 2,290 rushing yards and 44 touchdowns during his senior year at Centennial High School in Corona, Calif.
ABOUT UTEP (0-2): The Miners definitely will be without starting right tackle Greg Long, who sustained a season-ending broken left leg against Rice, and that will further hamper a running game that has averaged just 2.2 yards per carry through the first two games. Walter Dawn has done his part, however, rushing for 80 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries this season. Dawn’s already made a name for himself with the Miners, scoring three touchdowns in a game last season to become the first UTEP freshman to accomplish that feat since 1985.
1. Arizona S Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles has recorded three interceptions in the first two games, matching the total from his first two seasons.
2. Arizona freshmen defenders have accounted for 46.1 percent of the tackles through the first two games this season.
3. Kugler is one of 21 coaches in the FBS who began this season at his alma mater.
PREDICTION: Arizona 38, UTEP 27