Wednesday , March 29 2017
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Tag Archives: utep football

UTEP’s Ground Game Shines In First Scrimmage of Spring

Quadraiz Wadley rushed nine times for 72 yards and two touchdowns to steal the show in the first spring scrimmage for the UTEP football team on a windy Friday morning at the Sun Bowl.

UTEP’s rushing attack accounted for six of the seven touchdowns on the day, with Kavika Johnson (17-yard TD, 5-yard TD), Walter Dawn (10-yard TD) and Terry Juniel (13-yard TD) also finding paydirt. The Miners averaged better than 5.5 yards per carry (25-141), aided by five gains of at least 10 yards.

Strong wind gusts made it tough to accomplish much through the air. Ryan Metz (4-10, 36 yards, INT), Zach Greenlee (2-9, 33 yards) and Mark Torrez (1-2, 20 yards, TD) combined to go 7-21 for 89 yards with one touchdown and one interception. The seven completions went to seven different receivers, with Richie Rodriguez hauling in a 20-yard toss from Torrez for the lone score through the air.

There were also some bright spots for the Miner defense, which produced two sacks (Dylan Parsee and Dedrick Simpson) and an interception (Lawrence Montegut). Montegut and Johnny Jones were also credited with a pass break-up.

Nik Needham finished with a team-high four tackles while Dante Lovilette (three), Justin Rogers (two), Stephen Forester (two) also had multiple stops.

But the day belonged to Wadley. After being halted for three yards on his first rush, the rising sophomore was practically unstoppable the rest of the way. Wadley scampered for at least five yards on each of his final eight rushes, including bursts of 12 and 15 yards.  He also had both of his touchdowns (eight yards, five yards) in the stretch.

Tables Being Sold for 43rd “Dinner With the Miners”

Tables are now on sale for the 43rd edition of “Dinner With the Miners,” the annual awards banquet for UTEP Athletics. This year’s event, sponsored by the El Paso Downtown Lions Club, will be held on Thursday, April 27 at the Wyndham El Paso Airport.

Coaches and student-athletes will be in attendance for each of UTEP’s 16 Division I sports, with Most Valuable Athlete awards being presented.

UTEP’s Male and Female Athlete of the Year will also be announced as well as the recipient of the Golden Miner Award, presented to UTEP’s top all-around student-athlete based on athletics, academics and community service.

The social hour begins at 5 p.m., with dinner and the program to follow at 6:15 p.m.

Prices are $275 for three seats at a shared table with two student-athletes/coaches, and $500 for six seats at a shared table with four student-athletes/coaches. Funds raised are allocated to the UTEP student-athlete scholarship fund.

For more information or to purchase tickets, please call Jim Peak at (915) 581-0490.

UTEP Football Adds Former Montwood Coach Veliz as Wide Receivers Coach

Head Coach Sean Kugler announced Chuck Veliz as the Miners wide receivers coach on Friday.

Prior to coming to UTEP, Veliz was the head coach and athletic coordinator for Montwood High School for 13 years and compiled 11 winning seasons with the Rams.

While with the Rams, Veliz mentored current Miner Warren Redix who earned back-to-back All-District 1-5A Overall MVP honors. During his senior campaign, Redix compiled 751 rushing yards on 63 carries and added 39 tackles. Redix had four showings with 100 or more receiving yards as a senior. As a junior he notched 857 yards (13.82 average) on 62 receptions and five touchdowns.

The Rams finished the 2012 season 8-3 overall and 6-1 in league play. Montwood opened the season beating the highly competitive Odessa Permian.

In 2007, Montwood established a 10-2 overall record including an 8-0-league record. The team registered 270.3 receiving yards per game, 141.8 rushing yards per game and totaled 53 touchdowns in the season. The Rams recorded five showings of 300 or more passing yards.

In 2006, Veliz led the Rams to an 8-3 mark and a district championship. He mentored former Miner Julio Lopez, who guided Montwood that season and was named first team All-District, All-City and honorable mention All-State honors after registering 51 catches for 978 yards and eight touchdowns.

Veliz led the Rams to a bi-district title in 2004 going 6-0 in district play and advancing to the second round of playoffs. Leading the way for Montwood was three-star recruit Edward Britton. Britton was an Associated Press Class 5A First-Team All-State selection. While with the Rams tallied 2,172 rushing yards, averaging nearly 9.0 yards per carry and 220.0 yards per game. Britton was a four-year letterwinner at Texas Tech.

Prior to coaching at Montwood, Veliz went 35-10 at Del Valle from 1998-2002. In 2000, the Conquistadores went 11-1 and Veliz was named the El Paso Times Coach of the Year.

Before being appointed the head coach of Del Valle, Veliz served as an assistant coach for the Conquistadores for five seasons and began coaching high school football at Bel Air from 1987-88.

Veliz graduated from Ysleta High School in 1982 and received his bachelor’s degree from UTEP in 1987.

Veliz and his wife, Terri, have three children – Chris, Amanda and Joshua.

UTEP Football’s Spring Practice Starts Monday

The UTEP football team will kick off its spring training on March 6 at Glory Field.

The Miners will practice Monday, Wednesday and Friday’s from March 6-April 12. The team will have a week off from March 13-19 for spring break. The team will conclude the spring season with the annual spring game on April 14 at 7 p.m.  at the Sun Bowl.

Admission is free and fans will receive a free commemorative spring-game poster during the post-game autograph session with the seniors for the 2017 season.

The Miners enter the 2017 season returning 44 letterwinners and 14 starters (five offense/seven defense/two special teams). Leading the way for the offense is All-American Will Hernandez. The offensive lineman started all 12 games in 2016 and was named to the All-Conference USA first team.

The offense capped season off with a season-high 555 yards of total offense, including a season-best 384 yards rushing, which was the most since 1983.

On defense, UTEP is led by Alvin Jones who earned All-C-USA second team after leading team in tackles with 93 total. The linebacker in his career has notched 241 tackles, 10.5 sacks and 29.5 tackles for loss.

The Miners will open the 2017 campaign on the road against No. 5 Oklahoma on Sept. 2 and will then return home on Sept. 9 to face Rice. Season tickets go on sale tomorrow and can be purchased by calling the UTEP Season Ticket Office at (915) 747-6150. For more ticket information visit,

UTEP Football Inks 17 on National Signing Day

The UTEP football team inked 17 student-athletes during National Signing Day on Wednesday.

Out of the 17 signees, four are junior college transfers and 13 are high school athletes. A total of seven offensive and 10 defensive players make up the roster of the 2017 signing class.

Sean Kugler once again recruited local talent signing five El Paso natives. In the five seasons since taking over as head coach of the Miners, Kugler has signed a total of 22 athletes from the Sun City (2013: four, 2014: two, 2015: four, 2016: seven, 2017: five). This will put UTEP at 35 El Paso natives on the roster, making one-third of the team homegrown talent.

The haul includes 10 student-athletes from the state of Texas. Including for the second year in a row the Player of the Year in the state of Texas. Of the remaining signees, three are from California, and one each from New Mexico, Alabama, Maryland and Georgia.


The Miners will commence spring ball on March 6 at Glory Field.



Name                           Pos.       Ht.       Wt.      Hometown (Previous School)

Alex Fernandes           QB          6-3      200     Austin, Texas (Vandegrift HS)

Calvin Brownholtz      QB          6-1      200     Carmichael, Calif. (Jesuit HS)

Forest McKee              FB           6-1      240     Las Cruces, N.M. (Onate HS)

David Lucero               TE          6-5      230     Holtville, Calif. (Arizona Western College)

Cutter Leftwich           OL          6-1      285     El Paso, Texas (Franklin HS)

Jalen Spady                 OL          6-3      340     Huntsville, Ala. (Huntsville HS)

Trace Mascorro           DL          6-1      275     Refugio, Texas (Refugio HS)

Javaughn Thomas       DE/LB    6-2      230     El, Paso, Texas (El Paso HS)

Kalaii Griffin                LB           6-1      220     Bethesda, Md. (Ventura CC)

Kobie Herring             LB           6-0      220     Refugio, Texas (Refugio HS)

Jamar Smith                LB           5-11    230     Lyons, Ga. (Holmes CC)

Brent Ugochukwu       LB           6-0      210     Richmond, Texas (George Ranch HS)

Joshua Wells                LB           6-1      215     El Paso, Texas (Parkland HS)

James Tupou               LB           5-10    230     Allen, Texas (Allen HS)

Kahani Smith              DB          6-1      185     Los Angeles, Calif. (Riverside CC)

Tyson Wilson               DB          5-10    165     McKinney, Texas (McKinney HS)


Alex Fernandes | QB | 6-3 | 200 | Austin, Texas (Vandegrift HS)

Played three seasons of varsity football at Vandegrift High School … in 2016, threw for 11 scores and 1,559 yards on 132-of-248 passing … rushed for 299 yards and three touchdowns, while tallying an 11-yard scoring reception as a senior … 247sports.com3-star athlete … named District 25-6A second team offense following senior campaign … threw for a season-high 235 yards on 13-of-19 passing with a season-best three touchdowns during a 55-0 victory over Lehman … during junior season, set career bests in touchdown passes (37), yards (2,924), completion percentage (62.2), completions (176) and attempts (283) … named District 25-5A first team offense following junior campaign … registered career highs in passing yards (351) and touchdown throws (six) in a 63-55 victory against Vista Ridge … during career, threw for 53 touchdowns and 4,814 yards on 331-of-573 passing … rushed for 410 yards and six scores during three-year career.

Calvin Brownholtz | QB | 6-1 | 200 | Carmichael, Calif. (Jesuit HS)

Played final two seasons on the varsity squad at Jesuit High School … in 2016, threw for 2,333 yards on 134-of-257 passing … connected on 26 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions … averaged 17.4 yards per pass … finished with a quarterback rating of 100.9 … rushed for 190 yards on 57 carries and a score … named MaxPreps 2016 All-NorCal second team (athlete position) … threw a season-high four touchdown passes during a win against Franklin … tallied a season-best 289 yards on 14-of-21 passing and tossing three scores in a victory against Grant … followed the next week with three more scoring passes and 244 yards (8-for-13 passing) … threw at least four touchdowns in eight of 13 contests played.

Forest McKee | FB | 6-1 | 240 | Las Cruces, N.M. (Onate HS)

Played three seasons and started two of varsity football … saw action in 33 games as a linebacker and fullback … notched a total of 289 tackles (112s/177a), 5.0 sacks, three interceptions, 141 carries for 864 yards and nine scores … during senior campaign, registered 167 tackles (64s/103a), 11 tackles for loss, 4.0 sacks (10 yards), two interceptions and one forced fumble … on offense, ran 23 times for 147 yards and two touchdowns … recorded back-to-back showings of 20 tackles versus Las Cruces and Centennial … tallied 34 yards on two carries versus Rio Rancho … posted 19 tackles in a victory over Atisco Heritage Academy … notched two interceptions, 11 stops and one sack in 56-28 win over La Cueva … as a junior, recorded 717 yards on 118 attempts and seven scores … opened season rushing for 123 yards on eight carries (15.4 avg.) and a career-long 76-yard run …  rushed for a career-best 141 yards on 18 carries and notched two touchdowns … on defense, tallied 122 tackles (48s/74a), a sack and a interception … registered a career best of 24 tackles (5s/19a) against Centennial … garnered All-State first team honors and was named Linebacker of the Year.

David Lucero | TE | 6-5 | 230 | Holtville, Calif. (Arizona Western College)
Saw action in all 12 games at Arizona Western College … caught nine passes for 91 yards and a touchdown in 2016 … tallied season bests in receptions (six), yards (71) and hauled in a score during a win against Glendale Community College … Arizona Western compiled an undefeated conference record (8-0), while going 11-1 overall in 2016 … played in 11 games, tallying 63 yards on four receptions (15.8 avg.) at Boise State in 2015 … recorded first career catch (26 yards) at BYU … pulled in a 15-yard reception against Idaho State … named San Diego Section All-Manzanita League first team on both offense and defense as a junior and senior … caught 38 passes for 819 yards and 12 touchdowns, while also registering 33 tackles, three interceptions, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries in his final prep season (2013) … three-star recruit to both and … rated no. 27 nationally at his position by … rated no. 57 overall in California by… during sophomore season, was named second-team all-league on offense after catching 22 passes for 422 yards and four scores.

Cutter Leftwich | OL | 6-1 | 285 | El Paso, Texas (Franklin HS)

Played all four years on the varsity squad at Franklin High School … named All-District 1-6A first team offense following senior campaign … in 2016, helped create holes for the rushing attack as the Cougars tallied 2,117 yards on the ground with 21 touchdowns … Cougar quarterbacks combined for 2,119 yards passing, 24 touchdowns and only five interceptions in 2016 … Franklin offense racked up a season-high 333 yards on 34 rush attempts (9.8 avg.) and 311 passing yards during a 53-28 victory against Pebble Hills … Cougars passed for a season-best 381 yards (34-for-51) and six scores versus Americas … Franklin dismantled Socorro 59-14 behind 316 rushing yards (9.0 avg.) and six rushing scores … Franklin edged Eastwood 41-40 behind 347 yards on 21-of-37 passing and three touchdowns, while adding 128 rushing yards and a pair of rushing scores … earned Texas High School Coaches Association All-State football academic honorable mention.

Jalen Spady | OL | 6-3 | 340 | Huntsville, Ala. (Huntsville HS)

Played three seasons on the varsity squad at Huntsville High School … earned 2016 All-Huntsville Region football team honorable mention as an offensive lineman … Panthers dominated Grissom 67-14 behind 423 yards on 50 carries (8.5 avg.); the quarterback alone gained 172 yards on eight attempts (21.5 avg.) and a rushing score, while throwing four touchdowns … Huntsville defeated Columbia 40-21 on 376 yards of total offense, including 257 yards in the air … son of former Miner great James Spady, who was recently inducted to UTEP Centennial team.

Trace Mascorro | DL | 6-1 | 275 | Refugio, Texas (Refugio HS)

Played all four years on the varsity squad on both sides of the ball at Refugio High School … tallied 165 tackles (59 solo), 28 tackles for loss, 20 quarterback hurries, 4.0 sacks and two fumble recoveries with a return for a touchdown … no sacks allowed while playing on the offensive line … efforts helped lead the Bobcats to a 15-1 record, while winning the 2016 Class 2A Division I State Championship … registered five tackles, 2.0 tackles for loss and a quarterback hurry in the championship game … one of three Refugio players to be named 2016 Victoria Advocate All-Area football team MVP following efforts in 2016 … named District 15-2A Division I All-District football first team on offense and defense (G/DT) in 2015 … named first team on both sides of the ball (DE/OT) in 2014 … named to District 16-2A Division II All-District football first team offense in 2013.

Javaughn Thomas | DE/LB | 6-2 | 230 | El Paso, Texas (El Paso HS)

Played three seasons on the varsity squad at El Paso High School … saw time on offense and defense … on offense in 2016, tallied 153 yards on 21 carries (7.3 avg.) and four touchdowns, while producing 88 yards on five receptions … on defense in 2016, registered 58 tackles (33 solo), 2.0 sacks and a fumble recovery … earned 5-A All-District first team defense honors … named to El Paso Times All-District first team defense … scored a rushing touchdown in four consecutive games … rushed for a season-high 92 yards on three carries (30.7 avg.) and a score, while adding a season-best 12 tackles and a fumble recovery versus Irvin … recorded 56 yards on four receptions and tallied four tackles against Hanks … recorded a sack and six stops versus Cobre … during three-year career, recorded 137 tackles (69 solo), 3.5 sacks, three pass breakups and two fumble recoveries.

Kalaii Griffin | LB | 6-1 | 220 | Bethesda, Md. (Ventura CC)
Led team to 5-0 conference and 8-3 overall record …  saw action in nine games during 2016 season … registered 40 (30s/10a) tackles, four tackles for loss, one forced fumble and five pass breakups … notched a career high of seven stops and three breakups in victory over Orange Coast … posted a personal best of seven solo tackles in 48-25 win over Canyons … recorded first career forced fumble against Bakersfield and added five tackles … notched four stops, two tackles for loss and a pass breakup in win over Moorpark … 2016 Southern California Football Association Northern Conference Honorable Mention defense … a two-sport letterwinner at Walter Johnson HS in football and wrestling … as a senior racked up 53 tackles, 17 pass breakups, one interception and one sack …. Also proved to be threat on kick return, recording 325 return yards on the season … tallied 36 pass breakups in two seasons with the Wildcats.

Kobie Herring | LB | 6-0 | 220 | Refugio, Texas (Refugio HS)

Played all four years on the varsity squad at Refugio High School … amassed 200 tackles (80 solo) with 37 tackles for loss, four quarterback hurries, 2.0 sacks, two pass breakups and one fumble recovery returned for a touchdown … allowed one sack while playing on the offensive line … efforts helped lead the Bobcats to a 15-1 record, while winning the 2016 Class 2A Division I State Championship … tallied five tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and was named the defensive MVP of the championship game … one of three Refugio players to be named 2016 Victoria Advocate All-Area football team MVP following efforts in 2016 … named APSE Class 2A All-State football first team defense, while also being named APSE Class 2A Defensive MVP for the state of Texas … in 2014 and 2015, repeated as the District 15-2A Division I Defensive MVP, while also earning first team honors on the offensive line.

Jamar Smith | LB | 5-11 | 230 | Lyons, Ga. (Holmes CC)

Led defense in tackles during both seasons at Holmes Community College … led team with 90 tackles (66 solo) in 10 games played during 2016 … averaged a team-best 9.0 tackles per game … added 2.0 sacks, 12.5 tackles for loss, two fumble recoveries, four pass breakups and a blocked kick … registered double-digit tackles in five different contests … named MACJC First Team All-State and NJCAA All-Region XXIII … notched a career-high 15 tackles (12 solo), along with 3.0 tackles for loss and a pass breakup against Copiah-Lincoln … opened sophomore campaign with back-to-back, 12-tackle performances (at East Central [MS], vs. Southwest Mississippi) … notched a sack at East Central (MS) and against Iowa Western … led Falcons with 59 tackles in 2015, while adding 3.0 sacks and 6.0 tackles for loss … was 60-0 as a wrestler in high school.

Brent Ugochukwu | LB | 6-0 | 210 | Richmond, Texas (George Ranch HS)

Played all four years on the varsity squad at George Ranch High School … earned Texas High School Coaches Association All-State football academic honorable mention in 2016 … named District 24-5A All-District football first team defense following junior campaign … efforts in 2015 surged George Ranch High School to a 16-0 record and the 5A Division I Texas State Championship … named to 24-5A first team following junior season … tallied six tackles and an interception in the state championship contest … the Longhorns posted a 48-8 overall record the past four seasons (2013-16).

Josh Wells | LB | 6-1 | 215 | El Paso, Texas (Parkland HS)

Played three seasons on the varsity squad at Parkland High School … finished ranked third in the state of Texas in sacks following senior season …  produced monster numbers in 2016, posting 25.0 sacks (204 yards), 132 tackles (82 solo), three pass breakups, a pair of fumble recoveries, three forced fumbles and blocked four punts … Parkland defense recorded a season-high 13.0 sacks during victory against Bel Air … named District 2-5A All-District Football Defensive MVP following senior season … efforts helped Matadors to an 8-4 overall record and a playoff spot … in 2015, tallied 59 tackles (18 solo), 8.0 sacks (59 yards), seven hurries, three pass breakups, a fumble recovery, two forced fumbles and blocked a punt … earned honorable mention defense 2-5A All-District selection following junior campaign … earned 2-5A All-District football honorable mention offense at the tight end position in 2014.

James Tupou | LB | 5-10 | 230 | Allen, Texas (Allen HS)

Played two seasons on the varsity squad at Allen High School … named All-District 6-6A first team defense … named Texas APSE Class 6A all-state football honorable mention following senior campaign … earned 2016 Texas Associated Press Sports Editors Class 6A all-state honorable mention defense … efforts helped Allen High School to a 14-1 overall mark and a trip to the state playoffs … the Eagles compiled a 28-2 record the last two seasons (2015, 2016) … brother Sione plays linebacker for UTEP.

Kahani Smith | DB | 6-1 | 185 | Los Angeles, Calif. (Riverside)
Saw action in 11 games at the safety position leading team to a 10-2 overall record … notched 36 tackles, four interceptions, 11 pass breakups and three touchdowns during the 2016 season … in first game of the season, registered a career-high six stops and added two breakups in victory over Victor Valley … helped the Tigers claim a 77-7 win over LA Harbor with first defensive score on a 47-yard pick six … posted a career best two interceptions (16 yards) against Saddleback and added five tackles, a tackle for loss, a forced fumble and a fumble return for a touchdown … recorded a career high four pass breakups versus Long Beach … guided team past El Camino with four tackles, one interception and two pass breakups … 2016 Unanimous National Division Central League first team defense selection … in 2015 played in five games and started in three at Dixie State … registered 29 total tackles … notched nine tackles and one pass breakup versus Azusa Pacific … recorded five or more tackles in four of the five games … 2014 second team All-Moore League in football.

Tyson Wilson | DB | 5-10 | 165 | McKinney, Texas (McKinney HS)

Played three seasons on the varsity squad at McKinney High School … saw action on both sides of the ball, but mostly at defense … tallied 53 tackles (42 solo), five interceptions (101 yards) with a pick six, two pass breakups and blocked a pair of field goal attempts … caught a pass for eight yards … named All-Collin County second team defense honors … notched a pair of interceptions (74 yards) including one for a score and tallied five tackles during a victory against Pearce … registered seven tackles and an interception against Keller … added another pick with three stops in a win over Plano … recorded seven tackles and an interception against Wylie … concluded high school career with an 11-tackle performance against Boyd … opened junior campaign (2015) with 11 tackles against Pearce … amassed a career-high 16 stops along with picking off a pass against Prosper … earned All-District 10-5A football first team defense following junior season.

FULL TRANSCRIPT – UTEP Football Signing Day Quotes

“During the season, you get caught up in so many things that you really don’t get a chance to stop and thank some people.  The recruiting process is not something that happens overnight.  It is not something that is thrown together over a weekend.  It is a year-long process and the coaches put so much work into it, so much travel, their families withstand that, being away from home for extended periods of time.  But there are a lot of people that I want to thank starting with our secretaries, Mona, Norma and Donna.   They put a lot of work in getting the travel set up, getting the itineraries set up.


“The guys that probably put in the most work are the graduate assistants.  These guys are putting countless hours in, watching film, helping coaches while they’re on the road, keeping the communication lines open when everybody is on the road.  Really, they do all the work on the recruiting weekends driving parents around, picking up players at the airport and their job is tireless throughout that whole process.  I want to thank them.


“And most importantly, the coaches.  The coaches put in long hours, but the whole process is done collectively as a group.  Every one of these players that I am going to announce in a few minutes, we went through a painstaking process of number one, making sure that these are young men that have a burning desire to get a degree, that these are young men that are going to fit well into our program, we call them our kind of guys, guys that we feel will flourish here in El Paso and flourish here in this program.  And then before we ever do that, we want to find out about their character.  We want to make sure these young men are going to be here at UTEP and represent our program the proper way on and off the field.  Until that point, we don’t even turn on the film.  Once we’ve identified that, we can turn on the film and we are looking for football players that are productive.  I know that everybody in this day and age gets caught up in the star system and recruiting services and recruiting rankings.  We don’t put a lot of stock in that, if any.


“I always find it very interesting, I want to read a few stats here.  This year in the Super Bowl that’s about to be played on Sundaybetween Atlanta and New England, 37 percent of the Super Bowl starters that are going to line up on that field, which is the highest level of football, weren’t even in their top 1,000 in the recruiting classes that they participated in.  I am going to throw a couple of names at you.  Malcolm Butler, MVP two Super Bowls ago, was not even rated, did not get a star.  Alex Mack who is a Pro Bowl center for Atlanta, he was a two-star.  Chris Hogan who just got MVP of the AFC Championship Game for New England, zero stars.  Shea McClellin who was a first round draft pick that starts at linebacker for New England, 0 stars.  Patrick Chung, first round draft pick, two stars.  Stephen Gostkowski, probably the best kicker in the game right now, zero stars.  Robert Alford, starting corner and Jonathan Babineaux, starting defensive end for the Atlanta Falcons, two stars.  It doesn’t really make sense putting stock into that.


“We’ve got to make sense out of what we see on film and we have to do a lot of projecting here.  We may have to take a kid who’s undersized, like a Nick Usher four year ago who was zero stars and weighed 195 pounds.  Well, Nick Usher just played the NFL PA game and had 10 tackles and a fumble recovery.  He is 245 pounds and the projection was right.  Here is a zero star guy that now is going to get an opportunity to play in the NFL.  Matt Ryan the quarterback, who is probably going to be the league MVP, when he came out he was the 34th-ranked quarterback.  The top 3 were Kyle Wright, Chris Leak and Tom Grady.  Not Tom Brady.  Have you ever heard of those names?  Probably not, because none of those guys ever completed a pass in the NFL.  That was the top three quarterbacks.  So when I say I don’t put a whole lot of stock in that, that’s what I’m talking about.


“Now I’m going to read you a couple of guys from our team.  Aaron Jones, two stars, probably the best player that ever played at UTEP.  He just got a combine invite yesterday, he’s going to get his opportunity to play in the NFL.  His brother Alvin Jones, who is probably the best linebacker in Conference USA, zero stars.  Darrin Laufasa, zero stars, he will get his opportunity to play in the NFL.  As I mentioned, Nick Usher was a two-star athlete.  Hayden Plinke who also got a combine invite and played in the NFL PA game, two stars.  Will Hernandez, who will be the best guard in the country, who I have no doubt is probably the best lineman in the country, zero stars coming out.  Devin Cockrell, probably one of the hardest hitting safeties in our conference, two stars.  And Jerrod Brooks, who will be a future NFL offensive lineman and is in the process of doing that right now, zero stars.  So when you look at that list, it’s not going to be star power.  And you’re looking at it and saying this doesn’t rank really high in the recruiting services.  I really don’t care.  These are future UTEP Miners and they’re going to be productive on the field, they’re going to be productive in the classroom and they’re going to be productive citizens here in El Paso.


“Speaking of that, I just want to thank the ladies from the MAAC, Heather, Denise and Lucero.  We just came off our best semester ever as a UTEP team.  We had our highest GPA collectively as a group.  We had 48 players over a 3.0 and we just came off a year with a 1,000 APR score.  What that means is progress towards a degree, which means every single player in our program is on point and on progress to get their degree on time.  All of these young men that I’m going to read to you, when I went in the home with the coaches, we made absolutely no promises.  We didn’t promise that you’re going to wear jersey #22.  We didn’t promise that you’re going to be a starter as a freshman or you’re going to go to the NFL.  Those are false promises.  But we did promise every single one of their parents and every single one of these players that they’re going to get their degree and as the head coach of the UTEP Miners, that’s my number one obligation.


“UTEP has changed quite a bit [over the years] and all of the thanks for that goes to Dr. Natalicio for the amazing job she has done with this university, and Bob Stull for the amazing job he has done with the facilities here.  This is special place to coach, and I don’t take it for granted.


“Many of these guys, no stars, two stars, three stars.  But what you’re looking at, and I don’t know who they’re going to be yet, but some of these guys are going to be future All-Conference players for UTEP, future leaders or captains that lead our team to a bowl game or a championship.  Some of these young men will have opportunities to go play in the NFL.  And I don’t know who they are.  It’s going to be up to them and what they put into it.


Alex Fernandez

“6-3, 200 pounds.  He is from Austin, Texas.  He is a three-star athlete. In 2016 he threw for 11 touchdowns, 1,500 yards.  He also rushed for 299 yards.  You’ll see on the tape he is very athletic as well.  This is a young man that you have to project.  Right now he is 200 pounds.  This is going to be a young man with a frame that’s going to be a 225-pound, 6-3, prototype quarterback.  He registered career highs in passing yards and touchdown throws.  He threw six touchdowns in one game against Vista Ridge.  All in all in his career he threw for 53 touchdowns and 4,814 yards, and rushed for 410 yards and six scores.  Very productive high school career.  He reminds me a lot of Ryan Metz, our own quarterback.  Except Ryan Metz when he came out of high school weighed 170 pounds.  This kid weighs 200 pounds and is also going to get bigger.  He can make all the throws.


“Before I talk about this next quarterback, I want to tell you why we signed two quarterbacks this year.  Mack Leftwich, who was our starting quarterback in 2015, his career has ended as a quarterback.  He had significant head injury, shoulder injury, sternum injury that he really couldn’t overcome.  It’s unfortunate for him but just like all the young men in our program, he’s set up for success.  He has got his degree, he has already been offered a coaching position and a math teacher position at Parkland High School.  He is going to be starting off full-time in May.  Our guys, even if football doesn’t work out for them on the field, they’re set up for life.”


Calvin Brownholtz

“He is from the Sacramento area, Carmichael Calif. Jesuit High School.  6-1, 200 pounds.  In 2016 he threw for 2,300 yards, connected on 26 touchdowns.  He averaged 17.4 yards per completion.  He was in a run-oriented defense.  So he hasn’t really gotten a chance to shine yet in a pro-style offense.  He was named MaxPreps All-Norcal team.  This young man is a competitor.  His uncle, coach Volek from Fresno City College, his son Billy Volek played 12 years in the NFL.  His first offer was my first year as an assistant coach, a long, long time ago.  He ended up going to Fresno State and had a productive career.  But his uncle was there, came on a visit and remembered that UTEP was his first offer.”


Josh Fields

“We’re very excited about this young man.  I really feel he’s the best player in El Paso.  He’s probably the most qualified player that we have recruited to take over an offense since Aaron Jones, and that is Josh Fields from Americas High School in El Paso.  Josh rushed for over 1,000 yards in each of his three seasons.  He was named District football MVP, he was named Class 6A All-State first team offense and the El Paso Times MVP.  He is a and three-star athlete.  He has run for over 400 yards in two games.  That’s a season for most guys.  He finished his career with 5,151 yards, 820 carries, 6.3 average and 50 touchdowns.  Those are Aaron Jones type numbers.  As I recall watching these guys on film, his running style is very similar but I look back, Aaron Jones was a 165-pound player coming out of high school.  Josh Fields is a 195-pound athlete and he’s only going to continue to get bigger as he’s a worker in the weight room.  He caught 40 passes for 501 yards and seven scores so he’s also a dual threat that we can utilize out of the backfield.  This is one of the best players to come out of El Paso in a very long time.  We are extremely excited for him to be a part of our program.  They didn’t have to sell me, his film did the trick but when I went in that home, I have to say this, and no offense to any other parents, this was the best home cooked meal I have ever had.  You can only go visit once a week but I almost wanted to test that policy.  His brother Jack was a great player and played at Boise State.  He was a big part of the recruiting process along with his parents.  He chose to stay here and play his ball here in town.  Another thing I didn’t mention about him, the Ford Built Tough award, where they bring the top 100 players in the country to Dallas, that’s this weekend.  He was actually invited to that and is going to be a part of that along with all the top players in the country.  It’s quite the honor for Josh Fields.”


Forest McKee

“The next young man is a tough character.  He is from the El Paso area, Onate High School in Las Cruces.  This guy is going to play fullback for us but he was also the state player of the year linebacker which kind of displays his toughness.  He is a 240-pound athlete, 6-1, his name is Forest McKee.  He reminds me a lot of Darrin Laufasa.  In fact, I think he’s miles ahead of where Darrin was coming out of high school as a blocker and as a runner.  This guy could possibly play early for us.  He is one tough character.  His father is a high school coach and he comes from a great character family.  In 33 games at linebacker and fullback, how about this for production.  He notched a total of 289 tackles in his career, five sacks, three interceptions and as a fullback, 141 carries for 864 yards and nine scores.  He was All-State first team and named the NMPreps Linebacker of the Year.  Very physical, tough young athlete.”


David Lucero

“He is currently here on campus.  He was a junior college signee.  His name is David Lucero.  David Lucero, we had a lot of history with.  We actually offered him two years ago, he went to Boise State out of high school and actually played for them as a true freshman.  This guy would fill a need for us with Hayden Plinke graduating.  Athletically, he is very similar to Hayden Plinke.  Probably not as much of an online blocker as Hayden was, but as a receiver he can be a very productive tight end for us.  He is 6-5, 230 pounds.  He comes from Arizona Western College.  As a freshman at Boise State he played in 11, games, averaged 15.8 yards per reception.  He was named All-San Diego.  He was a three-star athlete by Scout and coming out of high school.  He was the 27th-rated tight end in the nation coming out of high school.  I think this guy is really going to be a very productive player for us.  Very smooth athlete.”


Cutter Leftwich

“He’s a center, all district three times, he started all four years at Franklin High School, he was the Texas Coaches Association All-State Football Academic Team and if this guy can overcome the coaching he’s going to get from his father, he’s a finisher, he’s going to be a pretty good player. He’s a physical player, he’s a finisher, very smart young man.”


Jalen Spady

“The name will be very familiar to you, he’s an offensive lineman from Huntsville, Ala. His father is a head coach at Alabama A&M University. His father also happens to be the best offensive lineman that ever played in UTEP history, James Spady. He [James] was a center for us on Coach Stull’s 1998 team that won ten games. Maybe one of the most athletic, smart players I’ve ever been around, has translated into his son, a much bigger young man, he’s 6-foot-3, 340 pounds, and he’s not fat. He’s played three seasons on varsity, he earned All-Huntsville Regional Football Team as a senior. His father, James, was inducted recently into the UTEP Centennial Team. For a 340 pound young man, he’s got outstanding feet, just like his dad.”


Trace Mascorro

“Trace Mascorro is our kind of guy, smart and tough. Very productive player, started all four years, played on both sides of the ball, productive for a defensive lineman. In the state championship game, he had five tackles, two tackles for loss of yards and a quarterback sack, so when the lights were on, this kid performed.”


Javaughn Thomas

“We truly have a goal; we want a player from every single team in the El Paso area, and that’s my goal as a head coach to make sure we accomplish that. This young man can go in a bunch of different directions, he was a tight end, on offense he played some wide receiver, he played running back, he played defensive end, he played linebacker. He’s got great size, very athletic, played on offense and defense. This guy is a very productive, athletic player.”


Kalaii Griffin

“I think you can see from this list that linebacker was the number one priority, we made a switch last year from a 3-4 defense and essentially had to withstand a year of playing with Nick (Usher) a 4-2-5 personnel, a decision made by myself. Sometimes you’ve got to take steps backward to take steps forward. I really felt for the best of the program, for the future of the program, to be able to recruit 3-4 linebackers and run that style of defense, it was the best move for us. We’ve got an outstanding staff on defense, our players were really starting at the end of the year picking up the defense and were playing outstanding, I think that North Texas game was a signature game for them, getting after those guys and we’re only going to improve going into the spring. But we did have to sign a bunch of linebackers. We had to get depth and we had to get quality depth and we had to look for some starters. This next guy could be a starter for us at outside linebacker. This guy is a great space player, very athletic, he’s going to end up being a 235-pound linebacker for us. Very long, athletic guy. To speak on his athleticism, for a 225-pound guy, he was a kick returner, he had 325 yards returning. This guy will be a great space player and a great rusher for us.”


Brent Ugochuku

“Another very productive player that played on a state championship team. Another young man where, when the lights are on, he was productive.”


Josh Wells

“The next young man is from here in El Paso, Parkland High School. It’s the second year in a row that we signed a player from Parkland High School; Christian Johnson we signed last year. His name is Josh Wells. He’s linebacker, 6-foot-1, 215 pounds. You talk about production in high school, he finished second in the state of Texas in sacks following his senior year. He produced monster numbers in 2016, posting 25.0 sacks – himself, not the team – for minus 204 yards. He also had 132 tackles, three pass breakups, a pair of fumble recoveries, three forced fumbles and blocked four punts. In the NFL that’s called Pro Bowl stats. This guy had a very productive season. He was District MVP following senior season; all total he brings 33.0 overall sacks to UTEP on his resume.”


James Tupou

“The next young man, if I can describe this guy in one word – it would be violent. This guy likes to hit. He has a brother who’s currently a freshman on our team, he’s Sione Tupou. I love having brothers on the team. When you talk about Alvin and Aaron Jones, or the Laufasa brothers. That’s type of competition and family unity that we’re searching for on our team on a daily basis. These guys go it. Even during dinner, it’s like watching my two sons. They’re pushing each other, shoving each other. They’re only going to help each other, they both played linebacker and they’ll both compete against each other. James Tupou is 5-foot-10, 230 pounds and comes from Allen, Texas. Allen, Texas is one of the most productive high school programs. The last two years they are 28-2; he’s been the starter the last two years. He was named All-District first team and named All-State honorable mention. This guy is a hitter.”


Kobie Herring

“Again, we’re looking for productive football players and this next young man, his production in high school was unbelievable. Kobie Herring, who was also a teammate of Trace Mascorro at Refugio High School. They were Texas state champs, played all four years on the varsity squad, amassed 200 tackles, 37.0 tackles for loss, four quarterback hurries, 2.0 sacks, two pass breakups and one fumble recovery as a senior. He was Texas 2A State Player of the Year. That marks the second year in a row that we’ve had the Texas Player of the Year. Last year was Quadraiz Wadley in 4A, and this year it’s Kobie Herring in 2A. Strong character family; his father coached there at the high school that won the state championship. He was also named first team defense and defensive MVP for the state of Texas. He was also MVP in the state championship game.”


Kahani Smith

“This next young man might be a sleeper of the class. He’s here on campus right now. He’s a safety from Riverside, Calif. The last time we had a safety from Riverside, Calif., he propelled us to a bowl game – Jameel Erving. He’s a graduate assistant for us. As you may recall, he’s the one who made the great play against Middle Tennessee where he batted down the pass and made the interception that allowed us to go to the New Mexico Bowl in 2014. This guy is much better than Jameel Erving (laughs from the crowd). He’s a very athletic guy and he’s a playmaker. He had 36 tackles, four interceptions, four pass breakups, three touchdowns on defense in 2016. He was a Unanimous National Division Central League first team defense selection and player of the year. Kahani Smith, 6-foot-1, 185-pound safety. He’ll be paired with Devin Cockrell and Michael Lewis who is now academically eligible. With those three guys, we’ll have the three best safeties in Conference USA.”


Jamar Smith

“The next young man is a linebacker from Lyons, Ga.; played at Holmes Community College. He’ll be here in May. His name is Jamar Smith. This guy is a very compact, physical linebacker. He’s 5-foot-11, 230 pounds – he’ll be an inside linebacker for us. He led their defense in tackles during both seasons at Holmes CC. He averaged a team-best 9.0 tackles a game. He added 2.0 sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss, two fumble recoveries, four pass breakups and a blocked kick. He’s very productive and he was first team All-State. As a high school wrestler, he was 60-0.”


Tyson Wilson

“Last young man we’re going to talk about today is a defensive back, who reminds me a lot of Nik Needham (UTEP’s starting cornerback). This young man has to hit the weight room, but he’s got all the necessary skills to be an outstanding corner. His name is Tyson Wilson from McKinney, Texas – an outstanding program. Played action on the both sides of the ball this year. He had 53 tackles, five interceptions with a pick-six, two pass breakups and a pair of blocked field goal attempts. He’s a very productive special teams’ player. He was named All-Collin County second team defense honors. He’s an extremely productive DB; Tyson Wilson will play corner for us.”


“That wraps up our 2017 signing class. We’re doing something a little bit different this year. We’re going to be extremely patient. We have two scholarships available. We’re going to hold on to those scholarships until May and possibly look for a late qualifying high school player. The last one worked out pretty well for us – his name is Will Hernandez. Or a late qualifying (Junior College) linebacker. The last one worked out pretty well for us – his name is Dante Lovilette, who finished second on team in tackles. When we do sign those players, we’ll announce that to Miner faithful. But we’re very excited for the class that we have here. But more importantly, when we first took over this program, we said we were going to recruit El Paso. Currently, we’ve signed 22 players in five years to scholarships from El Paso. Currently on our team right now, we have 35 players form El Paso. That’s a third of our team. This year’s signings reflect that ration as well. That will continue. This is El Paso’s team. These kids love playing in front of the home folks. And I can’t think of anything better. Again, I always refer to the Jones’s boys coming off from making a sack or coming off from scoring a touchdown and hugging their coaches and seeing their parents in the stands. I can’t think of anything better. We’ll continue to recruit the homegrown talent. We’re ultimately looking for football players who care about getting a degree and that they are on the same mission we are on – win a bowl and a conference championship. We’re not going to stop working at it until we achieve it.”

UTEP Announces 2017 Football Schedule

UTEP announced its football schedule for the 2017 season on Thursday. The Miners will play eight conference games, along with four non-league contests.

UTEP is slated to open the season at Norman, Okla. taking on Oklahoma on Sept. 2. The Sooners (11-2, 9-0 Big 12) finished the 2016 campaign rated No. 5 in the AP poll and notched a Sugar Bowl victory over Auburn.

The Miners will then have back-to-back home games taking on Rice (Sept. 9) and Arizona (Sept. 16). The last meeting between the squads was held in Tucson, Ariz. in 2003. The last time, the Wildcats traveled to the Sun City to take on UTEP was in 1977.

The team will then face 1-10 rival NM State on Sept. 23 in Las Cruces. UTEP will look to extend its eight-game winning streak against the Aggies. The Miners will travel to the state of New York for the second time in program history on Sept. 30 to take on Army. UTEP last played in New York in 2008 when it opened against Buffalo.

The Miners are then scheduled to face 2016 Conference USA Champions Western Kentucky on Oct. 7 at the Sun Bowl. They will then travel to Southern Miss on Oct. 14, followed by a bye week.

 The squad will then battle it out with UTSA at home on Oct. 28. The last time the two met, UTEP defeated the Roadrunners 52-49 in five overtimes in the Alamodome.

The Miners will hit the road for two weeks to take on Middle Tennessee (Nov. 4) and North Texas (Nov. 11). UTEP will conclude its home schedule on Nov. 18 as it faces C-USA West Champion’s LA Tech.

The Miners will seal the regular season schedule on the road versus UAB on Nov. 25. This will be the fifth meeting between the two teams.

It is important to note that all games are subject to date changes and some dates are expected to move in the coming weeks in order accommodate national television.

Conference USA’s 13th annual Championship Game, pitting the champions of the East and West Divisions, is scheduled for Saturday, December 2.

The UTEP football team will be hosting its annual Signing Day Luncheon on Wednesday at 12 p.m. in the Larry K. Durham. There is less than 20 seats available so make sure to call the Miner Athletic Club at (915) 747-8759 or via email at to reserve your seat today.

Season tickets will go on sale March 1. For more information or to purchase season tickets, please call the UTEP Season Ticket Office at (915) 747-6150.


Sept. 2 at Oklahoma

Sept. 9 RICE

Sept. 16 ARIZONA

Sept. 23 at New Mexico State

Sept. 30 at Army

Oct. 7 WKU

Oct. 14 at Southern Miss

Oct. 21 Bye

Oct. 28 UTSA

Nov. 4 at Middle Tennessee

Nov. 11 at North Texas


Nov. 25 at UAB

2017 UTEP Football Signing Day Luncheon Slated for February 1st

UTEP Athletics and the Miner Athletic Club will host the 2017 UTEP Football Signing Day Luncheon presented by Price’s Creameries on Wednesday, Feb. 1 from noon to 1 p.m.

The event will highlight UTEP Football’s 2017 recruiting class as explained by head coach Sean Kugler. Lunch is included and doors will open at 11:30 a.m. as the presentation and program will begin promptly at Noon.

The Miner Athletic Club (MAC) serves as the fund-raising arm of the UTEP Department of Athletics. The MAC’s mission is to annually raise funds to offset the departmental cost of scholarships and sport programs supporting UTEP student-athletes.

Funds are raised by the Miner Athletic Club through annual membership, major and planned gifts, the donor portions of season ticket sales and special events.

Tables of eight ($200) and single passes ($25) are now on sale for the 2017 Signing Day Luncheon. If you would like to reserve a table or seats to this event please e-mail or call our offices at 915.747.8759 by Friday, Jan. 27.

This year’s event is expected to sell out, so fans are encouraged to call 915.747.8759 to secure some of the limited number of tables or seats that are still available for purchase.

Three UTEP Football Players Named First Team All-C-USA

IRVING, Texas – UTEP junior offensive lineman Will Hernandez, record-breaking junior running back Aaron Jones and record-breaking senior tight end Hayden Plinke earned first team All-Conference USA honors on Tuesday, as selected by the league’s 13 head football coaches.

Junior linebacker Alvin Jones was named second team All-C-USA, while senior linebacker Nick Usher, junior punter Alan Luna and sophomore punt returner Terry Juniel earned honorable mention honors.

UTEP has now had 20 first team All-C-USA selections in 12 seasons as a league member. It’s also the first time since the 2008 season that four Miners were selected all-conference.

North Texas vs UTEP, Sun Bowl Stadium 11.26.2016
North Texas vs UTEP, Sun Bowl Stadium 11.26.2016

Jones set multiple school records during his prolific junior season. The El Paso native rushed for a single-season school-record 1,773 yards, while climbing his way to the top of the program’s career-rushing list with 4,114 yards, breaking John Harvey’s 28-year old record. Jones averaged 7.7 yards on 229 carries and scored 17 rushing touchdowns (third most in program history). Jones added three more receiving scores, while tallying 2,006 all-purpose yards (fourth best single-season performance in school history).

Jones capped the 2016 campaign with a career-high 301 yards and a career-best four rushing touchdowns against North Texas. Jones’s 301-yard effort is the second most yards rushed in a single contest in UTEP history.

Jones is currently ranked third in the nation with his 147.8 rushing yards per contest.

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Will Hernandez | Photo Courtesy UTEP

Paving the way and creating holes for Jones is Hernandez, who has started all 37 games in his career at the left guard position. Hernandez helped UTEP rushers gain 185.5 yards per game, currently ranking fourth in C-USA. UTEP tallied 20 rushing touchdowns.

Hernandez’s efforts on the offensive line also yielded 22 sacks (1.83 avg.), ranking fourth least allowed in C-USA. The Las Vegas, Nev., native helped the Miners gain a season-high 384 yards rushing (most since 1983) during a dominant 52-24 victory against North Texas. UTEP also tallied a season-high 555 yards of total offense against the Mean Green. UTEP gained 323 yards rushing against Houston Baptist, while opening the season with 518 yards of total offense, including 289 rushing yards in a victory over rival NM State.

Plinke produced big numbers, as the Hillsboro, Ore., native set a UTEP tight end record by hauling in eight receiving touchdowns in 2016. Plinke led the Miners with 38


receptions, while ranking second with 456 receiving yards. Plinke led all C-USA tight ends in touchdown receptions, while his scores ranked tied sixth with three other players in C-USA. Plinke earned a John Mackey Honorable Mention following his performance at UTSA.

During UTEP’s 5OT win against the Roadrunners, Plinke tallied 84 yards on four receptions, including a game-extending two-point conversion in the third overtime of the contest. Plinke also registered a career-high two touchdown receptions against Houston Baptist.

Jones is the first UTEP running back to earn first team honors since Donald Buckram (2009), Hernandez is the first UTEP offensive lineman since Mike Aguayo (2009) to earn first team honors, while Plinke is the first UTEP tight end to be named All-C-USA, while he’s also the first to be named first team since Brian Natkin earned such honors in 2000 in the Western Athletic Conference.

Alvin Jones led the Miners with 93 tackles despite missing a pair of contests due to injury. Jones produced monster numbers in a pair of contests, tallying a career-high 16 tackles against FIU, while matching that number at Rice. The El Paso native opened his junior campaign with a 12-tackle outing during a victory against rival NM State. Jones then capped the season with a 12-tackle performance in a 52-24 drubbing of North Texas.

Usher led the UTEP defense with 5.5 sacks and 8.0 tackles for loss (41 yards). The Los Angeles native ranked third on the team with 77 tackles, while adding two breakups, a team-leading five quarterback hurries and a blocked kick. Usher tallied 2.0 sacks and seven tackles at no. 11 Texas, while registering a sack and nine tackles during a 5OT win at UTSA.

Luna averaged 41.0 yards on 62 punts (2,542 yards), with a career-long 69-yard boot. The El Paso native currently ranks ninth on the program’s all-time list with 5,427 career punt yards. Luna averaged a career-best 51.0 yards against Southern Miss, while at LA Tech, placed three punts inside the 20-yard line, while two were inside the 10-yard line.

Juniel opened his UTEP career by tallying 104 yards on six punt returns with a long of 42 yards in the season-opening victory against rival NM State – it was the most return yards in a single game since the 2006 season, while it was the single-game high in C-USA. The Surprise, Ariz., native currently ranks third in C-USA in punt return average (9.2), while his 22 returns and 203 yards led the league.

Story+Gallery: UTEP’s Jones Sets Single-Season Rushing Record as Miners Dominate North Texas 52-24

Aaron Jones rushed for 301 yards, the second-top total in UTEP football history, as the Miners closed out the 2016 season with a 52-24 drubbing of North Texas on Saturday afternoon in the Sun Bowl.

Jones ran for 1,773 yards in 2016, a UTEP single-season record and the fifth-most in Conference USA history.

Jones finished with 24 carries and four touchdowns on Saturday, while joining West Virginia’s Justin Crawford, Texas D’Onta Foreman and Utah’s Joe Williams as the only players in the FBS to gain 300 yards in a game this year.

The 301 rushing yards are the most by a UTEP player since All-American Fred Wendt compiled 326 yards against New Mexico State on Nov. 25, 1948.

Jones had scoring runs of 83, 48, 58 and three yards and ended the season with 17 rushing touchdowns, a number that ranks third on the all-time UTEP list.

The Miners ended the campaign with a 4-8 record and a 2-6 mark in Conference USA play, while thwarting the Mean Green’s pursuit of bowl eligibility.  North Texas finished 5-7, 3-5 in league action.

“I thought the kids really played UTEP Miner football today and they went out and honored the season for the seniors the right way,” UTEP coach Sean Kugler said.  “We know the season didn’t go the way that we wanted, but we did have one more game and you saw the end result when a bunch of kids get together and play for each other.  They really were adamant about not letting that team celebrate a chance to go to a bowl game on our 50 (yard-line).”

North Texas led just once, at 7-3 on a 14-yard rushing touchdown by Willy Ivery.  After that the Miners scored 28 straight points, and although the Mean Green would creep within 14 (31-17) at halftime, UTEP put it away with a couple more trips to the end zone in the third period.

The 52 points matched UTEP’s high under Kugler and were the most for the Miners in a regulation game since the 2009 season finale versus Marshall.

The Miners piled up 555 yards of offense, including 384 on the ground, while holding North Texas to 304 yards in their best all-around performance of the season.

“They [the offensive line] were physical,” Kugler said.  “They take a lot of pride in Aaron Jones and getting him the single-season rushing record in a big way.  He got 301 yards.  They were excited about that.  They did an outstanding job.  They were embarrassed by the performance last week [at Rice] and that’s what I love about this team.  They have bad days, they can make mistakes, but they bounce back and they bounce back in a big way because they’ve got pride about them.”

Ryan Metz turned in another efficient effort at quarterback for UTEP, completing 12-of-17 passes for 171 yards.  Hayden Plinke, one of 20 seniors playing their final game for the Miners, snagged three catches for a game-high 84 yards.

North Texas’ Alec Morris completed 23-of-42 passes for 190 yards, and Ivery rushed 13 times for 98 yards.

The UTEP defense registered three tackles for losses and seven pass break-ups led by Alvin Jones, who was credited with a game-high 12 stops.  The defense got into the scoring act in the second quarter when free safety Dashone Smith blocked Eric Keena’s punt and Brandon Moss scooped it up for a touchdown.  That made the score 31-7.

It was 31-17 early in the third quarter, and North Texas appeared to make a big play when Fred Scott picked off Metz’s pass and returned it to the Miner 18-yard line.  But a face mask penalty on the Mean Green gave UTEP a first down at its own 42-yard line and on the very next play, Jones busted free for the 58-yard TD and a commanding 21-point lead.

“Some of those have gone the other way,” Kugler said.  “We took advantage of opportunities.  What I really like tonight is the offense fed off the defense.  The defense was getting three and outs and the offense fed off of that, and the defense was feeding off the offense.  The offense was putting together long drives or popping big runs and they were coming out and stuffing North Texas.”

Now talk will turn to the 2017 season, where the Miners will face a non-conference schedule that includes Arizona at home and Army, Oklahoma and NM State on the road.

“I told you when I took the job that I knew this wasn’t going to be an easy job.  I knew there were going to be ups and downs, steps forward and back,” Kugler said.  “These kids are heading in the right direction.  We’ve got a lot of really talented kids coming back.  I feel really good about the foundation of this team heading into the future.  I think these kids saw it tonight, what they can do when they put it all together and tonight, man they put it all together.  That was a hell of a win.”

Check out photos of the game courtesy Andres Acosta

UTEP Falls at Rice 44-24; Miners Return for Final Game Next Saturday

UTEP scored the game’s first three points on a Jay Mattox 37-yard field goal. But Rice followed with 34 unanswered points in the first half on its way to a 44-24 victory at Rice Stadium on a brisk Saturday afternoon.

The Owls [3-8, 2-6 Conference USA] outgained the Miners [3-8, 1-6 C-USA], 482 yards to 232 during the dominant afternoon, as UTEP had only gained 42 yards in the first half.

It started well for UTEP, as Mattox gave the Miners 3-0 lead on the field goal at the 9:10 mark of the first quarter. The points followed after a Gene Hopkins sack-and-strip of backup quarterback Jackson Tyner on Rice’s first offensive series. The fumble was recovered by Sky Logan and returned 26 yards to the Rice 25-yard line.

But the Owls answered with five scoring drives in the first half, including an 84-yard push on four plays that resulted in a Tyner scoring reception from wide receiver Temi Alaka.

UTEP’s bright performance came from Alvin Jones, as the junior racked up 16 tackles, tying his career high from earlier this season [vs. FIU on Oct. 8]. Jones chipped in with a sack as well. His brother, Aaron, ran for 75 yards and hauled in a touchdown on a 42-yard reception.

UTEP scored its first touchdown on a nine-play, 75-yard drive during the third quarter that ended with a Warren Redix 11-yard scoring pass from Ryan Metz [5-for-6 on the drive].

Jones recorded his third receiving touchdown and 16th overall in 2016 after he out jumped the defender in the end zone and scored on a 42-yard reception to make the score 44-17.

Kalon Beverly put the Miners on the board again when a Haden Tobola field goal attempt was blocked. Beverly dashed 80 yards to the end zone, but it was a little too late with Rice up 44-24 with 1:47 remaining in the contest.

Rice’s starting quarterback Tyler Stehling left the contest with an injury during the first series, as Tyner threw for 196 yards [18-25] with a pair of scores and an interception. Jowan Davis led the Owls with 84 rushing yards with a score and Kylen Granson led the way with five receptions [45 yards], while Cameron Decell led the Owls with 53 yards on four receptions.

Metz threw for 169 yards on 19-of-34 passing and a pair of scores with an interception that was taken back by Destri White for a 23-yard pick-six. Kavika Johnson and Hayden Plinke each tallied a trio of receptions for 32 yards, while Cole Freytag caught three passes for 26 yards. Eddie Sinegal added 20 yards on three receptions. Defensively, Dante Lovilette added nine stops and Hopkins, a freshman, recorded his first career sack.

The Owls gained 27 first downs, as they were only forced to punt twice. Alan Luna averaged 39.9 yards on seven boots [279 yards], with a long of 49 yards.

UTEP will close out the 2016 season when it hosts North Texas on Nov. 26. The Miners and Mean Green will kickoff at 2 p.m. in the Sun Bowl. Last season, UTEP edged North Texas 20-17 in Denton to conclude the 2015 campaign.

UTEP Overwhelms Houston Baptist 42-10

Aaron Jones rushed for 228 yards in about two and a half quarters of action as UTEP throttled FCS squad Houston Baptist, 42-10, on Saturday night in the Sun Bowl.

“I thought it was a good team win in all phases,” UTEP coach Sean Kugler said.  “I thought the kids worked extremely hard this week in practice.  They really believe their destiny is in their own hands if they work at it and take it one game at a time.  That was the first one of four [games].”

The Miners (3-6), playing their final non-conference game, made quick work of the Huskies (3-6), scoring the game’s first 28 points.  UTEP led 28-3 at halftime behind Jones, who compiled 181 of the team’s 300 total yards.

Jones had touchdown rushes of 39 and 62 yards in the first half.  He tied Donald Buckram and John Harvey for the second-most 200-yard rushing games in school history (three) behind Fred Wendt (four).

Jones had only 14 carries on the night, averaging 16.3 yards per attempt.  UTEP gained a season-high 323 yards rushing, and the Miners’ 514 yards of offense were their second-most of 2016 behind the 518 in the opener versus NM State.

“We challenged the offensive line,” Kugler said.  “They have taken a little bit of heat.  They have been a little bit up and down this year.  We had had some injuries. We have had to shuffle some guys around.  But they’re healthy now and I thought they went out and played an outstanding game.  Anytime you rush for 300 yards, your offensive line is getting the job done.”

Complimenting Jones in the ground game were freshmen Kevin Dove (10 carries, 59 yards) and Quadraiz Wadley (11 carries, 35 yards).

Ryan Metz was efficient for UTEP under center, completing 16-of-21 passes for 191 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions.  His favorite targets were tight end Hayden Plinke (seven catches, 77 yards) and wide receiver Eddie Sinegal (four catches, 53 yards).

Plinke reached the end zone twice, first on a nine-yard pass from Metz late in the first quarter, and later on an 11-yard TD grab early in the fourth period.

“I think our offense really clicks when we get the tight end involved, Hayden and Kent Taylor,” Kugler said.  “Both those guys are doing a nice job and Ryan Metz is doing a really nice job of finding them.  Our whole offense stems off the run game, and I thought all the backs were outstanding tonight.”

The UTEP defense stifled the Huskies, holding them to 227 yards, as quarterbacks Tony Dawson and Max Staver were a combined 8-for-27 passing for 90 yards. Houston Baptist had a little more success running the football with 137 yards on 32 carries (4.3 avg.), with 59 of the yards coming from Dawson.

Dante Lovilette led the Miner stop troops with eight tackles, while Dashone Smith and Nick Usher chipped in with six apiece.

“[The defense] did a good job,” Kugler said.  “The main thing I was concerned about going into the game was keeping their quarterback contained.  He can really run.”

It was a clean game with the teams combining for zero turnovers and only three penalties totaling 33 yards.

The Miners will play back-to-back road games against Florida Atlantic (Nov. 12, 4 p.m. MT) and Rice (Nov. 19, 10 a.m. MT) the next two weeks and they seek a season-ending four-game win streak that would make them bowl eligible.

To view pictures from the game, click HERE.

Story in Many Pics: UTEP downs Houston Baptist 42-10

The UTEP Miners got back on the winning track Saturday night, defeating Houston Baptist 42-10.  Our very own Andres Acosta was there and brings your his view of the game in this, Story in Many Pics.

Houston Baptist vs UTEP
Houston Baptist vs UTEP
Houston Baptist vs UTEP
Houston Baptist vs UTEP

UTEP Announces 2-for-1 Basketball/Football Ticket Promotion

Fans who purchase a ticket to the UTEP men’s basketball game against Alaska Fairbanks on Saturday afternoon (Nov. 5) can exchange it for a free general admission ticket to the Miner football game versus Houston Baptist later in the day.

The basketball game is at 1 p.m. in the Don Haskins Center, and the football game is at 6 in the Sun Bowl.

The Football Miners [2-6, 1-4 C-USA] are coming off a 31-21 loss to Old Dominion on Oct. 29, while the Huskies [3-5, 2-4 Southland Conference] ended a four-game losing skid after beating Lamar 24-17. The contest will mark the first-ever meeting between the two programs.

Saturday’s contest will be the last home game before the Miners make their final two road trips of 2016 [at Florida Atlantic & at Rice]. UTEP returns to the Sun City for the regular season finale against North Texas on Nov. 26.

The UTEP men’s basketball team pulled away late for an 80-73 exhibition win over Southeastern Oklahoma State on Sunday at the Don Haskins Center on Sunday.

Basketball exhibition ticket prices are $10 (adults) and $8 (youth).

Fans can get their free general admission football ticket by bringing the basketball ticket to the North Sun Bowl ticket office on game day.  Exchanges will be made beginning at 3 p.m. on Saturday.

Old Dominion Rallies Past UTEP 31 to 21

Ray Lawry scored two touchdowns, part of a 21-0 Old Dominion run in the second half that carried the Monarchs past UTEP, 31-21, on Saturday night in the Sun Bowl.

The Miners (2-6, 1-4 C-USA) led 13-10 when Aaron Jones scored on a five-yard run with 6:24 remaining in the third quarter.  Jay Mattox’s extra point attempt was blocked.  After that, Old Dominion scored on three consecutive possessions to take a 31-13 advantage early in the fourth quarter.  The three touchdown drives elapsed four minutes and 57 seconds and covered 216 yards.

The turning point came with Old Dominion leading 17-13 late in the third quarter.  The Miners drove from their own 26 to the Monarch 32-yard line, but Ryan Metz’s pass to Eddie Sinegal on fourth and short fell incomplete.

“I thought we were in real good position there, driving down inside the red zone.  We had the fourth and three and we thought we completed it,” UTEP coach Sean Kugler said.  “They ruled it a drop on the field, which it was.  The ball hit the ground.  Then they had a big play after that and got ahead.  It turned real quickly on us and we’ve got to respond better than that.”

Beforehand, it was a tight football game with Old Dominion (5-3, 2-1 C-USA) jumping out to a 10-0 lead, and UTEP scoring 13 consecutive points to surge ahead.

Jones rushed 25 times for 94 yards for the Miners.  Metz completed 21-of-36 passes for 202 yards.  Cole Freytag (seven catches, 84 yards) and Hayden Plinke (five catches, 53 yards) were UTEP’s top pass catchers.  Each scored a touchdown.

Old Dominion had a 100-yard rusher (Lawry) and 100-yard receiver (Jonathan Duhart).  Lawry gained 131 yards on 17 carries, and Duhart made five catches for 155 yards.  Monarch quarterback David Washington completed 14-of-22 passes for 262 yards.

The Miners established season lows for penalties (two) and penalty yards (10).  They were outgained 393 yards to 337 despite winning time of possession 34:01 to 25:59.

Old Dominion was limited to 132 yards in the first half.  In the second half, the Monarchs gained 261 yards on 23 plays (11.3 avg.), as Lawry rushed 12 times for 110 yards and Duhart had two receptions for 103 yards.  The Miners simply had a hard time bringing the Monarchs down.

“Missed tackles and we knew those backs ran hard,” Kugler said.  “We talked about it before the game.  They didn’t die easily. They are big, physical backs.  They have been breaking tackles all year.  We had to wrap up and gang tackle.  One guy wasn’t going to do it.  Many times we saw them in the backfield wrapping them up and didn’t get them down and they broke longer gains.”

UTEP dropped to 38-46-1 in Homecoming games.  The Monarchs posted their second consecutive victory over UTEP and by the same score as the 2015 meeting in Norfolk, Va.

“I just told our team, we have put ourselves in this position,” Kugler said.  “Our backs are against the wall.  There is still a lot of season left to play.  It’s still not out of the equation that we could go to a bowl game but we have no room for error.  We have to win out.  They understand that and we understand that.  So we have one of two choices.  We either fight back or we just lay down, and I don’t expect any of us to lay down.”

The Miners will return to the Sun Bowl next Saturday (Nov. 5) to tackle non-conference foe Houston Baptist at 6 p.m.

To view a gallery of the homecoming game and parade, click HERE.

Metz Finds Redix for Winning TD; UTEP Gets Past UTSA 52-49 in 5OT

SAN ANTONIO, Texas – Ryan Metz hooked up with Warren Redix on a six-yard touchdown pass in the fifth overtime as UTEP defeated UTSA 52-49 on Saturday night in the Alamodome.

UTSA (3-4, 2-2 Conference USA) opened the contest by jumping out to a 14-0 lead over UTEP (2-5, 1-3 C-USA). The Miners halted a five-game losing streak after the exciting finish.

Tonight’s five-overtime game was the first in C-USA history.

After a back-and-forth, scoreless fourth quarter, Victor Falcon connected on a 43-yard field goal in the first overtime. But Jay Mattox answered with a 32-yard kick to bring the contest into the second overtime.

UTEP took a 38-31 advantage when Metz found Aaron Jones on a 25-yard touchdown. However, on a third-down play, Dalton Sturm tied the score when he found Brady Jones for a 25-yard connection.

After getting the ball back for the third overtime, Sturm then gave his squad a 46-38 lead when he threw a nine-yard touchdown to Kerry Thomas, Jr., while converting the two-point conversion.

One of the night’s heroes, Walter Dawn, scored on a 12-yard rush in the third overtime. Metz went on to tie the game 46-46 when he found Hayden Plinke in the end zone for the two-point conversion.

Drama ensued in the fourth overtime. The Miners took the ball down to the two-yard line, but fumbled under center, giving the ball back to the Roadrunners. But a missed 42-yard field goal attempt extended the contest.

UTSA took the field first in the fifth overtime as the Roadrunners were forced to kick a 33-yard field goal to go up 49-46. But the relentless Miners went four plays that ended in a game winning Metz-to-Redix touchdown.

Metz tied his career high with a trio of touchdown passes, while throwing for 211 yards on 15-of-23 passing. Jones rushed for 113 yards on 21 carries (5.4 avg.) with a rushing score and two receiving touchdowns, while Dawn tallied two rushing touchdowns and a receiving score. Plinke led the Miners with 84 yards on four receptions. Jones added 56 yards on four catches as well.

UTSA got on the board first as running back Jarveon Williams found tight end Shaq Williams for a three-yard touchdown. The score was setup after Sturm was sacked on a third-down play. The Roadrunners then faked a field goal attempt from the UTEP 33-yard line as the holder Yannis Routsas completed a 30-yard pass to Jarrod McLin, a freshman defensive end.

The Roadrunners jumped on the Miners 14-0 late in the first quarter with a 53-yards scoring pass – Sturm to Thomas, Jr. with 2:54 remaining in the quarter.

But the Miners answered on a six-play, 75-yard drive that resulted in a Jones 41-yard touchdown as time expired in the first quarter. Metz made a pair of key throws on the drive as he found Kent Taylor for a gain of 19 yards on a third-and-eight and hooked up with his Andress High School teammate Eddie Sinegal for a gain of 15 yards that set up the score.

After a UTSA missed 52-yard field goal attempt from the 35-yard line, the Miners went on a six-play, 65-yard scoring drive. Dawn tied the contest on an eight-yard jet sweep, his first career touchdown. Jones set up the play after he gained 12 yards on a fourth-and-two.

UTSA gained the lead back 21-14 on a Sturm one-yards quarterback sneak with five seconds remaining in the half. The Roadrunners went 16 plays for 75 yards on the drive. The drive featured a UTSA player being ejected for an unsportsmanlike penalty.

Jalen Rhodes’s 28-yard scamper into the end zone gave his squad a 28-14 coming out of the locker room. The drive went 75 yards on six plays.

UTEP got within seven points after Metz found Jones for a 27-yards reception down the right side. The Miners went 97 yards on seven plays after kick returner Jaquan White took the kickoff out of the end zone to the UTEP three-yard line.

After the Roadrunners were forced to punt on the ensuing drive, Kavika Johnson found Dawn on a 74-yard deep pass to tie the game 28-28. On the play, Metz threw a lateral pass down the right side. Johnson then whipped the ball out to a wide-open Dawn to the left side.

Defensively, Devin Cockrell tallied a season-high 10 tackles, while Nik Needham set his career best with nine stops. Nick Usher also had nine tackles and added a sack. UTEP broke up six passes on the night. Dashone Smith came up with a big interception on a flee flicker that Sturm went deep into the end zone.

It was the first multiple overtime game for UTEP since defeating Houston in two overtimes in 2005.

UTEP will host Old Dominion in the 85th Homecoming game in the Sun Bowl on Oct. 29 at 6 p.m. MT