The Lumberjack football team kicks off the 2020 season at 8 p.m. Saturday, September 5 from the Sun Bowl for a matchup with the UTEP Miners. 

Due to the Southland Conference’s postponement of fall sports because of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, the team has opted out of participating in the spring and will play a full schedule of non-conference opponents. At the time of this article, the full 2020 SFA football season has not been finalized.

Because UTEP lost three non-conference opponents, they added SFA and Abilene Christian to their schedule instead.

This will be the first meeting between the Jacks and the Miners.

The Miners will be led by third-year head coach Dana Dimel, who has compiled an overall record of 2-22. He previously served as offensive coordinator at Kansas State for nine seasons under hall of fame head coach Bill Snyder. Some notable players he has coached are Tyler Lockett, wide receiver/kick returner for the Seattle Seahawks; Byron Pringle, wide receiver for defending Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs and 2012 Heisman Trophy finalist Colin Klein.

Offensively, the Miners are in the middle of a quarterback battle, but the frontrunner to land the starting job is redshirt sophomore Gavin Hardison. In two games last season, he went 27-61 passing for 335 yards and one touchdown.

UTEP’s run game will see the return of Quardraiz Wadley, a redshirt senior who missed the 2019 season with a toe injury. In three seasons with the team, he has accumulated 1,072 yards on 228 carries and eight touchdowns. In the offseason, the Kennedale native was named to the Doak Walker Award Watch List, given annually to college football’s top running back. Also returning to the backfield are senior Joshua Fields, junior Reynaldo Flores and redshirt freshman Deion Hankins.

Redshirt senior and sophomore wide receivers Justin Garrett and Jacob Cowing return from last season as the Miners’ top targets. Garett led the team with 40 receptions and Cowing led the team with 550 receiving yards. The duo recorded three touchdowns each.

On the defensive side, UTEP switched to a 4-3 defense and will look to players recruited from the junior college ranks to provide depth and experience. Sophomore defensive end Praise Amaewhule, who was named to C-USA’s All-Freshman team, returns after tying for the team lead in tackles for loss and sacks with 5.5 and three respectively. Joining Amaewhule on the defensive line are senior defensive tackle Josh Ortega and junior defensive tackle Dedrick Simpson.

Stephen Forester returns at linebacker for his senior season after recording 24 tackles, 19 of which came in the last three games of the season. The Dallas native also recorded 3.5 tackles for loss and a sack.

UTEP’s secondary will see the return of senior defensive backs Josh Caldwell and Duron Lowe. The duo combined for 17 passes broken up, and Caldwell was the fifth leading tackler for the Miners with 52 tackles. Redshirt juniors Broderick Harrell and Justin Prince also return after missing 2019 with injuries.

ESPN3 will provide a live broadcast of the contest.

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