Rice Owls vs UTEP Miners, Sun Bowl Stadium, September 9th, 2017
UTEP (0-2) will take on Pac-12 opponent Arizona (1-1) on Sept. 15. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. and the game will be televised on ESPN. “Military Night” festivities will feature a pre-game flyover and parachute team drop-in.
Tickets are available by calling (915) 747-5234. The Wildcats will make their way back to the Sun City after a 40-year absence when both programs were members of the Western Athletic Conference. Both the Miners and Wildcats are coming off losses to Houston schools.
Arizona was edged 19-16 by Houston in Tucson, while Rice ran past UTEP 31-14 in El Paso on September 9th.
“It’s a very disappointing loss to Rice. It directly falls on me as the head coach. We did not play well in any phase. They were the more physical opponent. That was evident when you look at rushing yards, they had over 300 yards rushing. It was a tough game for us from an injury standpoint. Greg Long will be out for the season. He had surgery yesterday. He broke his leg, it was a pretty severe injury. We also lost [Alan] Busey, wide receiver, for the year to shoulder surgery, Jayson VanHook for the year to shoulder surgery, and Khalil Brown to an achilles with a season ending injury. There are several other guys who I will not know their availability until we get through the week. That’s Ryan Metz, Derron Gatewood the center, Christian Buckingham nose guard and Michael Lewis.
“As a team, we felt we needed to control time of possession against Rice. We didn’t do that. They controlled it for 34 minutes. That usually equates to four extra possessions, which they did get in this game. We lost third downs and in the red zone. We turned the ball over offensively for the second straight week. We have to eliminate that trend moving forward if we expect to turn this thing around. We did not run the ball efficiently. We gave up four sacks, there were too many hits on the quarterback, there were six overall quarterback hits. As a result, Ryan Metz, I do not know the availability of him for this game. We were 29 percent on third downs, our goal is 50. I really thought Ryan Metz played a very efficient game. He was 18-of-33 for 203 yards and a touchdown with zero interceptions but understand this, he had six drops. Four of those six drops came on third downs that were completions and very accurately delivered balls. They ended every single one of those drives. That’s a trend that we need to end if we’re going to turn this thing around. Positive things, we did have three fourth down conversions in that game. We were very minimally penalized in that game.
“Defensively, we gained a turnover. We had a sack by [Devin] Cockrell and Nik Needham had two sacks in that game. Nik Needham also had a fumble recovery and had five tackles. He will lead our team out on Friday night against Arizona as the pick axe carrier. Nik has really had a solid year for us. He played well in the first game and this game, and he had an outstanding camp as well. Where I was very disappointed defensively, they rushed for 6.2 [yards] per carry, 306 yards and three touchdowns. Arizona is a team that runs the ball extremely efficiently. We know what they’re going to try to do Friday night again. That’s a problem we need to solve and solve quickly.
“They were 40 percent on third downs. We had two sacks and three quarterback hits on the night, we need to get to the quarterback more efficiently. We talked about the time of possession. Another area we need to improve on, they were 4-for-5 on red zone scores. That’s 11-of-12 on the year. Our goal is to keep that below 70 percent. The disappointing thing is we had probably five times where guys were wrapped up in the backfield that ended up being significant gains. We have to cash in when the players are in position to make those tackles. We did have one fourth down conversion stop, which was a positive that ended up being a fumble recovered by Nik Needham.
“Special teams, I thought we had good protection. [Alan] Luna had four punts with over a 40-yard net, he had a 44.4 average. The disappointing thing, we had a pooch punt there right at midfield and we banged that out of the end zone. We need to be a little better there. And we did not have the best coverage, we had a 13 and 18 yard return against us on punt. Punt return, I thought Terry Juniel made good decisions. He had a nice bluff there down near the goal line that resulted in a touchback. He has made good decisions all year, he hasn’t had many opportunities for returns.
Kickoff cover, two of the kicks were touchbacks. [Brady] Viles did a nice job kicking it out and then we had an onside that we did not cash in on at the end of the game when it was 24-14. And then kickoff return, we had zero returns, we had a guy #44 that really kind of handled us last year on kickoff returns. One of the goals was to handle him and I thought the guys did a good job on that. But again, a disappointing loss, it falls on me as the head coach to fix it. That’s what we’re in the process of doing right now. I like the fact that we have a quick turnaround. Sometimes when you have a disappointing loss, the best thing is to get right back to work, get right back on the field. We have already had a practice for Arizona this morning. We are already in the initial stages of game planning for Arizona.”
“Arizona is a very fast, athletic team. They have made a lot of strides, particularly on defense. This year they are doing a good job in the turnover department. They are +3 in turnovers, they have gained five turnovers on defense, they have only turned it over twice on offense. They have been a little highly penalized. They beat Northern Arizona 62-34. They just lost a very close game to an outstanding Houston team that is usually very explosive on offense. They lost 19-16. This is their first road game, this is a former rivalry a long time ago and I think the old-time WAC fans will be excited about Arizona coming here.
“Offensively they are explosive, they are close to 40 points per game. They average 329 yards rushing per game, 7.7 yards per carry. That’s outstanding, that probably leads the nation or comes close right now. Overall 483 yards a game, but the thing that stands out, 7.1 yards per play, that’s explosive. They have only given up two sacks. They are very good on third downs, 41 percent. They are very good in the red zone, they are close to 70 percent on red zone touchdowns. I mentioned they have only given up two turnovers.
“The quarterback is very athletic, although I see on the depth chart they list two quarterbacks as potentially playing for them. The quarterback [Brandon] Dawkins, he’s 6-3, 210, he runs a 4.5 and you can see it on film. He hits 4.5 by his second or third step. This guy can really run. Last year he had 944 yards rushing and seven touchdowns.
This year he is already their second-leading rusher with 5.9 yards per carry and two touchdowns. He is also a 57 percent completion guy with 267 yards and a touchdown with zero interceptions. As I mentioned, they are taking care of the ball well. They have two smaller backs, in particular [J.J.] Taylor 5-6, freshman, he is probably the same size as Walter Dawn. He is very explosive. He’s got 135 yards rushing and a 5.0 average. And then [Nick] Wilson, 5-10 tailback more powerfully built has a 10.9 yard average per carry and one touchdown and he did not play versus Houston. I do not know his availability for this game.
“They have two slot receivers, more on the smaller size, [Tony] Ellison 5-11 and [Shun] Brown 5-9, they are first and second on the team in receptions. Ellison has a long of 43 yards and 104 yards. And then #6 Brown has a 16.8 average per catch and a long of 35. They are really quick and fast receivers. They have an experienced offensive line, they are led by their left tackle who is a three-year starter. Their right guard who is a huge man 6-7, 325, he’s a four-year starter as a graduate for them.
“I think where they have made the most strides as a team is defensively. Marcel Yates is their defensive coordinator. He is an outstanding coach, I had the opportunity to work with him at Boise State. He has done an excellent job. They are running pretty much Boise State’s scheme there. They held an explosive Houston offense to 380 yards and only 19 points. They are only giving up 21 points per game. They have gotten much better at defending the run, they are only giving up 4.3 yards per carry. Overall they have two sacks, they have four interceptions and one fumble.
They have been good on third downs, but where they have really been good is they have been stingy in the red zone. Teams have been in the red zone 11 times and only scored touchdowns three times. So they have been outstanding there. They have four freshmen that are playing for them on defense. They went with youth and these guys are all playing extremely well. #2 [Lorenzo] Burns the cornerback, he leads their team in tackles. He also has an interception. #14 [Kylan] Wilborn an outside linebacker, he leads their team in tackles for losses and sacks. He also has a forced fumble.
Another freshman linebacker, [Tony] Fields, he is second on the team in tackles with 13. And then their safety/nickel type guy is a good looking guy, about 6-2, 205, #6 [Demetrius] Flannigan, he leads their team in interceptions and he’s third on their team in tackles. This is a very young, fast, athletic defense. As I mentioned, the four freshmen that are playing for these guys are outstanding.
“Special teams, they have a good punter. They are only averaging 2.3 yards per return against them so they have a good coverage unit. Punt return, this is where they’re outstanding. #6 Brown the slot receiver I mentioned earlier, he’s got a long touchdown of 66 yards as a punt returner, he’s averaging 24.3 yards per return.
That would lead the nation if he did that consistently throughout the year. Also their kickoff returner #2 [Tyrell Johnson] is outstanding, he is a smaller guy, 5-7, 164 pounds. He has a long of 58 and he’s averaging 26 yards per return. So they have two outstanding returners who are extremely fast. Their coverage units are solid on punt. They have had some busted against them on kickoff cover, we’re hoping that we can get that going as far as our kickoff return team with Keynan Foster and Warren Redix.
Their PAT/field goal kicker is solid, he’s 3-of-4 on the year and he’s got a long of 45 and he’s 8-of-9 on PATs. So this is a very fast, athletic team, Pac-12 opponent. We’ll be on the national stage on ESPN on Friday night. I would ask the Miner fans to come out and support us in full force. I thought the fans the other night were outstanding. We didn’t hold up our end of the bargain on the field. But they were energized and they were trying to help our team out as much as they could in all the critical situations. I would ask that they could do it again this Friday night.”
(On the primary focus for making improvement)
“Fundamentals. If you’re having issues with tackling, you focus in on tackling. If you’re having issues with ball security, you focus in on ball security. Those are two things that we hit exclusively today. If you have issues in the red zone, you need to spend more time instead of doing maybe scout work or team work or individual work, spend more time in the red zone. When we have something that’s glaring, we need to attack it and you do it through hard work.”
(On making offensive adjustments)
“We do need to run the ball more efficiently. I think there were times that there were holes that weren’t hit. And then there were times that the holes weren’t there. Rice ran a lot of stunts and clogged up some holes. We’ve got to be better on both ends. We’ve got to be better up front blocking, again Rice out-physicaled us there, and we’ve got to be better at hitting the holes but more importantly we’ve got to be better with ball security and can’t turn the ball over. It’s the second week in a row that we’ve fumbled and ended drives. Another thing you look at is personnel. I like what I’ve seen from a practice standpoint with the two freshmen, Josh Fields and Ronald Awatt. Those guys are going to get opportunities in this game. Guys get opportunities, they get a couple of carries, they make the most of it and they get a few more. Josh did some nice things in this past game, and he’ll get more opportunities in this game. And then Ronald Awatt will get some opportunities as well. I feel like in a week or two we’ll get Quardraiz Wadley back in the mix, and from a talent standpoint we’ll be back to full speed with our running back crew.”
(On evaluating Saturday’s game)
“You can always sit there and harp on the negative, but you’ve got to look at some positives too and guys that had good individual performances. Again, I point to Ryan Metz. He was outstanding in the game, and he wasn’t helped again for the second week in a row with drops. That’s something that needs to be eliminated, but you can’t fault him for that when you put an accurate ball out there. And there were some other individual performances. I mentioned Nik Needham, he has been outstanding. Julian Jackson, it’s the second week in a row that he had over eight tackles. We didn’t have Alvin Jones for the first half and we challenged one of the linebackers to step up. [Treyvon] Hughes came in and had 11 tackles in the game. Those are great individual performances and you try to build upon those. You try to correct the mistakes as quickly as you can, move on and you try to attack your weaknesses. But you do have to acknowledge the positive things and remain positive with the guys. We’re two weeks into the season. We are 0-2, but we’re two weeks into the season. There’s a lot of season left.”
(On the quarterback depth chart after Ryan Metz)
“We’re going to roll with Zack [Greenlee] and then Mark [Torrez] will be ready to go. Zach probably had the best camp of all three quarterbacks from an efficiency standpoint and everything, he has the best handle on the run game and those type things, but Mark Torrez is right there. In fact, we put Mark in the game the other night before Zack for the reason being Mark is very athletic, he is the guy that can get out of things when nothing presents [itself], he can make plays with his legs. The rush that Rice was presenting at the end of the game when they put a hit on Ryan, I was very concerned about that, so I wanted somebody in there who was a little more mobile. I wouldn’t rule out that we we’ll see both quarterbacks in this game and a mixture of other things. We have to generate yardage, whoever gives us the best chance to do that will be the guy that’s in there.”
(On dealing with injuries to the offensive line)
“Offensive line, we lose our right tackle for the year, but Jerrod Brooks steps in. He has started games in the past for us. When we went with our extra tight end stuff, he went in at tackle and Greg went to tight end. So we do have an experienced guy there. Tanner Stallings will take over at center for Gatewood. Tanner has started games for us. So fortunately for us, we do have guys that have played before. But you could be stuck in a position like that where you’re starting a true freshman. That’s how the game is. But we do have two experienced guys there. What it does put you in is a very tight pickle when it comes to depth. We can’t afford a whole lot more injuries at that position. All of a sudden you’re very thin.”
(On preparing for a mobile quarterback)
“When you’ve got a running quarterback that’s very athletic like they do, you try to keep that guy in the pocket and keep him contained where he can’t break plays and make plays with his legs. He’s a 57 percent passer, so you try to keep him in there and make him a 50 percent passer by trying to get pressure on him, maybe force some errant throws, and try to get some interceptions. Guys like that do scare you, especially when you’re looking at 329 yards rushing per game and he is the second-leading rusher. This is a talented guy that you’ve got to keep contained. The fact that they list possibly two quarterbacks, they’ve got two guys in that same category that we need to really keep our eyes on.”
(On game plan adjustments should Zack Greenlee or Mark Torrez have to play)
“Zack does a great job of handling the run checks, just like Ryan did. Zack has got an extremely strong arm, he can make all the throws. You’re probably not looking at as much movement stuff. Zack is not quite as nimble as Ryan is when it comes to escapability and those type things. But as far as the offense, he has a great understanding of everything. And same with Torrez. Torrez probably can do a little bit more movement stuff, a little bit more zone read stuff with him and allow him to make plays with his legs. So he brings a little more dynamic things when it comes to his legs. Again, I’m confident in both of those quarterbacks moving forward.”
[box type=”shadow” align=”alignleft” class=”” width=”250″]ADDITIONAL MINER CONTENT: Rice vs UTEP
Monster’s Musings: Miners’ Woes Continue – Mando ‘the Monster’ Medina
Story in Many Pics: Miners Drop Home Opener to Rice – Andres ‘Ace’ Acosta
Rice Spoils UTEP’s CUSA Opener – Staff Report
Miners Drop Second Straight After Rice Runs Them Over 31 – 14 – Daniel L. Ornelas
*** UTEP TO HOST ARIZONA UNDER THE FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS
Arizona leads the series 38-11-2. This is the first matchup between the teams in El Paso since 1977. The Miners are 5-17-1 all-time versus the Wildcats in the Sun City. UTEP has lost 12 straight to Arizona overall and four in a row in the Sun Bowl. The Miners last defeated the Wildcats on Nov. 14, 1970 – a 33-17 victory in El Paso. The programs first met on Nov. 4, 1916 as Arizona blanked the Miners 41-0. The Miners notched two victories in a row in 1938 and 1939, followed by three wins in row from 1948-50 and reeled off five consecutive victories from 1953-57. The two programs have a bit of a history together as both were members of the Border Conference and Western Athletic Conference. Arizona joined the Border Conference in 1931, while UTEP joined in 1935. The two teams then joined the WAC – the Wildcats in 1962 and the Miners in 1967. Arizona exited the WAC after the 1978 season to join the Pac-10, while UTEP entered Conference USA in 2005.
THE LAST MEETING
Arizona scored the game’s first 42 points and went on to a 42-7, season-opening victory over UTEP on Aug. 30, 2003 in Tucson. Quarterbacks Nic Costa and Ryan O’Hara teamed to throw for 229 yards for the Wildcats. Arizona also had 217 yards rushing and piled up 446 yards of offense on a sweltering day in Tucson. The temperature at kickoff was 96 degrees. UTEP go on the board with 14:49 remaining on a 39-yard interception return by freshman Joe Fleskoski. The Miners missed their first chance to get some points with 47 seconds remaining in the third period, as Keith Robinson’s 42-yard field goal attempt was wide left. Three quarterbacks (Orlando Cruz, Omar Duarte, Jordan Palmer) saw action for UTEP, combining to throw for 204 yards. The Miners were held to 71 yards rushing as Arizona registered four sacks for 32 yards. Marshall Sanford led the Miners with a career-best 11 tackles. The Wildcats staked a 35-0 lead at halftime, before the two teams played to a draw (7-7) over the final 30 minutes.
UTEP WR Terry Juniel played at Glendale Community College in 2014 and Arizona WR Shawn Poindexter played at GCC in 2015. UTEP LB Treyvon Hughes and Arizona DL Larry Tharpe Jr. played at Hebron High School in Carrollton, Texas. UTEP WR Dylan Kittrell and LB Johnny Jones are from Carrollton, Texas. Two El Paso area players are listed on Arizona’s roster: S Tristan Cooper (Andress High School) and LB Elijah Ruiz (Franklin High School). Cooper was teammates with UTEP WR Eddie Sinegal. Arizona Assistant/Wide Receivers Coach Theron Aych coached UTEP’s receivers in 2016. UTEP Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Line Coach Spencer Leftwich coached the tight ends at Arizona in 2012 during Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez’s first season at the helm. Leftwich was joined by Arizona associate head coach Calvin McGee, co-offensive coordinator Rod Smith, safeties coach Jahmile Aaddae and defensive line coach Vince Amey during that 2012 campaign. UTEP Head Coach Sean Kugler, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Brent Pease, defensive line coach Andrew Browning and Arizona defensive coordinator Marcel Yates were all at Boise State in some capacity during the undefeated 2006 season. Kugler was the assistant head coach/offensive line coach, Pease was the wide receivers coach, Browning played on the defensive line and Yates coached the safeties. Pease and Yates were on the Broncos’ staff through the 2011 season, while Browning was in charge of defensive quality control in 2010 and was a defensive graduate assistant in 2011.
The Wildcats have split their first two games of 2017, opening with a 62-24 dismantling of Northern Arizona on Sept. 2 followed by a three-point loss (19-16) to Houston. Arizona has rushed for 658 yards (329 per game) and passed for 308 yards (29-for-51). Against Northern Arizona, the Wildcats totaled 516 rushing yards and seven touchdowns as QB Brandon Dawkins led with 92 yards on a pair of touchdowns and RB Nick Wilson tallied 87 yards with a score. Against the Cougars, JJ Taylor led the rushing effort with 87 yards. Offensively, Taylor leads the team with 131 yards on 26 attempts (5.0 avg.), while Dawkins and Zach Green have each scored a pair of rushing touchdowns. Dawkins leads with 267 yards on 24-of-42 passing and a touchdown. WR Tony Ellison leads in receptions (eight) and yards (104) while scoring the lone receiving touchdown. CB Lorenzo Burns leads the team with 14 tackles, while DE/LB Kylan Wilborn and DE Justin Belknap have each registered a sack. S Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles is tied for the national lead with three interceptions. Flannigan-Fowles has totaled 10 tackles on the season. Burns has also intercepted a pass this season.
Samuel Stewart rushed for 89 yards, and Rice piled up 306 on the ground to top UTEP, 31-14, in the Conference USA opener for both teams on Sept. 9 in the Sun Bowl. The Owls scored the game’s first 17 points and, after the Miners drew within 10 late in the third quarter, put it away with a 10-play, 87-yard drive, capped by Jordan Myers’ three-yard scoring run. Myers was one of three Owl backs to find the end zone, along with Sam Glaesmann and Nahshon Ellerbe who had scoring runs of five and three yards respectively. Rice quarterback Glaesmann accounted for two touchdowns in all. His 52-yard pass to Aaron Cephus early in the third quarter gave the Owls the 17-0 lead. The Owls led by 17 three times at 17-0, 24-7 and 31-14. UTEP pulled within 10 for the second time (24-14) on a one-yard run by Ryan Metz with 4:56 remaining but couldn’t recover the onside kick. The Miners were flustered offensively for the most part with 229 yards on 57 plays (4.0 average). Rice gained 437 yards on 67 plays (6.5 average). Rice had 192 yards at the half but UTEP was able to stay within striking distance at 10-0. The Owls opted to go for it on fourth and one at the UTEP six-yard line late in the second quarter, but Glaesmann fumbled at the five and the Miners’ Nik Needham recovered to help keep it close. Glaesmann finished 10-of-18 passing for 131 yards. Metz completed 18-of-33 passes for 203 yards for the Miners. He threw a 44-yard touchdown pass to Warren Redix with 3:47 left in the third quarter. Walter Dawn Jr. led UTEP with 24 yards rushing on nine carries, and Kavika Johnson was the top receiver with six catches for 67 yards. Metz was sacked four times, and the Owls tallied eight tackles for losses with six quarterback hurries. Treyvon Hughes and Dante Lovilotte led the Miner defense with 11 tackles apiece. Alvin Jones had two quarterback hurries despite playing only the second half.
FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS
UTEP is 4-5 in its last nine Friday night contests since the 2005 season. The Miners halted a previous five-game Friday night losing streak after defeating Rice 24-21 on Nov. 6, 2015 in the Sun Bowl. The other three Friday night victories include a 36-17 stomping at UAB on Nov. 10, 2006 and a 44-41 (2OT) win against Houston on Sept. 16, 2005 in El Paso. The Miners chalked up another Friday night win in 2005, prevailing at Tulane, 45-21, on Oct. 14. UTEP is hosting only its third Friday night game since 2005 and is 2-0 in its two Friday contests in the Sun Bowl. Other Friday night opponents include: at Tulsa (Oct. 27, 2006), at East Carolina (Nov. 28, 2008), at Houston (Sept. 10, 2010), at UCF (Nov. 25, 2011) and at Rice (Nov. 21, 2014).
SEASON NO. 100 FOR UTEP FOOTBALL
The 2017 campaign marks the 100th for UTEP football. In honor of their centennial campaign, the Miners are wearing a commemorative decal on their helmets. There will also be centennial tributes in the game program, on the video board and social media over the course of the season. Though the centennial for The University of Texas at El Paso was in 2014, the football program suspended play for four seasons due to the World Wars. No games were played in 1918 (WWI) and 1943-45 (WWII). The 1914 season marked the first for the Miners. The Miners played their first ever game on Oct. 24, 1914 – a 7-6 victory against the YMCA.
UTEP converted three fourth down attempts against Rice on Sept. 9. The Miners are one of 26 programs with a 100 percent fourth down conversion rate. Iowa State and Cal have each converted four, while SMU, UCF, Alabama and Central Michigan have each converted three.
FEWER YELLOW FLAGS
UTEP was penalized two times against Rice on Sept. 9. It’s the eighth time during the Sean Kugler era in which the Miners were penalized two times or less. In 2016, UTEP was penalized twice against Old Dominion and once against Houston Baptist. In 2015, the Miners had two penalties each at no. 18 Arkansas, against UTSA and at North Texas. In 2014, UTEP opened the season with a pair of penalties at New Mexico and in 2013, the Miners were penalized once against Tulsa.
UTEP ranks first in Conference USA and tied for 13th nationally with seven yellow flags in 2017. The Miners also rank second in yards (65) and penalty yards per game (32.5) in C-USA.
RED ZONE OFFENSE
UTEP is 2-for-2 in the red zone in 2017 thus far which is tied for no. 1 nationally. The Miners are one of 36 programs to be at 100 percent.
UTEP quarterbacks didn’t throw any interceptions in week two, as the Miners are one of 54 FBS program to not throw a pick during the season thus far.
23 CAREER TOUCHDOWNS FOR METZ
Junior QB Ryan Metz threw his first touchdown pass of 2017, a 44-yard toss against Rice on Sept. 9. It was also Metz’s 23rd career touchdown pass. He is now three passing scores from cracking the program’s top-10 list. John Furman and Nick Lamaison each threw 24 scores during their respective careers to rank tied for ninth on the list. Trevor Vittatoe leads all with 97 passing touchdowns.
RYAN’S RUSHING SCORE
Ryan Metz accounted for both of UTEP’s touchdowns against Rice on Sept. 9. Metz rushed for a one-yard score during the fourth quarter. It was Metz’s second career trip into the end zone as his first came at NM State on Sept. 19, 2015.
METZ & TORREZ HAVE SOMETHING IN COMMON
Besides both being from El Paso, Ryan Metz and Mark Torrez share a common bond as both played against top-25 opponents on the road in their collegiate debuts. Metz saw his first college action at no. 18 Arkansas on Sept. 5, 2015, while Torrez played on Sept. 2 at no. 7 Oklahoma. Both quarterbacks were perfect in their debuts as Metz went 3-for-3 (19 yards) and Torrez was 1-for-1 (seven yards). Torrez saw the field again against Rice on Sept. 9.
KAVIKA’S CAREER NIGHT
Junior WR Kavika Johnson produced career-highs in receptions (six), receiving yards (67) and long reception (40 yards) against Rice on Sept. 9. His previous highs were three receptions for 32 yards and a long of 27 yards at Rice on Nov. 11, 2016. After two games, Johnson leads the Miners in catches and receiving yards.
REDIX’S CAREER-LONG CATCH
Junior WR Warren Redix hauled in a career-long 44-yard reception into the end zone during the third quarter against Rice on Sept. 9. Redix’s previous high was a 32-yard catch that went for his first career touchdown at North Texas on Nov. 28, 2015. Redix now has four career touchdowns as he scored three times in 2016. Redix has a pair of receptions for 59 yards (29.5 avg.) during the young season.
Transfer junior TE David Lucero registered season highs in receptions (three) and yards (31) against Rice on Sept. 9. Lucero played his first game in a UTEP uniform on Sept. 2 at no. 7 Oklahoma, tallying two receptions for 13 yards.
KEYNAN’S FIRST RUSH ATTEMPT
Transfer sophomore WR Keynan Foster, who impressed last week with two kickoff returns for 45 yards (22.5 avg.), used his speed for a 15-yard dash against Rice on Sept. 9. Foster has tallied 67 all-purpose yards (33.5 avg.) thus far in 2017.
FIRST DOWN DOVE
Sophomore RB Kevin Dove grinded out two more first downs against Rice on Sept. 9. The first came on a third-and-2 in which Dove gained three yards, while the second came on a long run of 14 yards on a second-and-13. Dove gained three first downs in week one at no. 7 Oklahoma.
JOSHUA TAKES THE FIELD
True freshman RB and El Paso native Joshua Fields registered an 18-yard reception against Rice on Sept. 9. It’s his second career catch, but the first for positive yardage. Fields caught a pass at no. 7 OU for a minus-one-yard loss.
Starting tailback Walter Dawn Jr. impressed in his first college start at no. 7 Oklahoma on Sept. 2. The sophomore hit his career best with 56 yards on seven carries (8.0 avg.) with a touchdown. Dawn Jr. actually set his career high with 49 yards on four carries on UTEP’s eight-play, 78-yard touchdown drive that was capped by Dawn Jr.’s 17-yard dash to paydirt. On that drive, Dawn Jr. set his career long with a 29-yard run. Dawn Jr. also caught a pass for two yards. Dawn Jr.’s previous rushing high was 38 yards at UTSA on Oct. 22, 2016. Dawn Jr. now has three career rushing touchdowns after scoring two at UTSA last season, and four total touchdowns in his career as he caught a 74-yard score against the Roadrunners that day. The 5-foot-6, versatile speedster was listed as a wide receiver last year, but after a solid showing at Camp Ruidoso, he was moved to the starting running back position. Dawn Jr. leads the team with 80 yards on 16 attempts (5.0 avg.).
OTHER OFFENSIVE NOTABLES VS. RICE
Senior WR Tyler Batson registered a catch for 16 yards; he now has two on the year for 22 yards. Junior WR Terry Juniel caught a pair of passes for 15 yards and transfer sophomore TE Josh Weeks recorded a season-long 11-yard reception.
PROTECTING THE FIELD GENERAL
The offensive line for the Miners brings experience to the depth chart this season. The unit lost two starters from a year ago but returns senior Will Hernandez, and senior Tanner Stallings to the lineup. Leading the way for the squad will be Hernandez, who became the first UTEP offensive lineman to garner All-American honors. The senior has started every game (39) at the left guard position during his career with the Miners. Senior Derek Elmendorff, after playing in all 12 games last year, has plenty of game experience with 21 career starts at the right guard position. Junior Jerrod Brooks adds experience at the right tackle position after starting the first half of the 2016 season, along with transfer senior Logan Tuley-Tillman, who has seen multiple reps with the first team offense. Bobby DeHaro, Reuben Guerra, Bijan Hosseini and Markos Lujan will also add to the depth chart. Last season the offensive line surrendered 22.0 sacks, which tied for third in C-USA (1.83 p/g). During the last five seasons, including 2017, the Miners have allowed 78 sacks in 51 contests (1.5 p/g). In the previous four seasons (2009-12), UTEP quarterbacks went down 109 times in 49 games (2.2 p/g).
BREAKING DOWN THE O-LINE
The starting five offensive linemen, according to the most recent depth chart, are LT Logan Tuley-Tillman (6’7”, 320 pounds), LG Will Hernandez (6’3”, 330 pounds), C Tanner Stallings (6’2”, 295 pounds), RG Derek Elmendorff (6’3”, 310 pounds) and RT Jerrod Brooks (6’6”, 300 pounds). The average weight of the starting five is 311 pounds, while the average height is just over 6-foot-4.
OL Will Hernandez has started every game in his three years with the Miners. Last season, Hernandez was the first Miner offensive lineman to receive AP All-American second team and FOX Sports’ All-American honors. The senior was also the first UTEP offensive lineman since 2009 to earn All-Conference USA first team recognition. Hernandez’s national recognition didn’t stop there, as he garnered Pro Football Focus Pass Protector of the Year. The Miners capped the season with two showings of over 500 yards of total offense, including a season-best 384 yards rushing in a victory over North Texas.
WILL’S PRESEASON ACCOLADES
Will Hernandez was selected to the 2017 AP All-America second team on Aug. 22 as the senior has racked up multiple preseason honors. Hernandez was announced to the 2017 Outland Trophy Watch List and earned a spot on the 2017 Preseason Conference USA team. Multiple football publications, including Dave Campbell’s Texas Football, Phil Steele’s College Football Preview and Athlon Sports have Hernandez on their preseason teams.
After not recording a quarterback hurry in 2016, senior LB Alvin Jones registered a pair against Rice on Sept. 9. Jones, who missed the first half of the contest due to NCAA rules of targeting, tallied five tackles and half a tackle for loss.
KEEPING UP WITH ALVIN’S CAREER
Senior Alvin Jones has 251 career tackles (seventh-most at UTEP since the 2000 season) after recording five more tackles against Rice on Sept. 9. Jones also has 10.5 career sacks (needs 1.5 to crack the program’s all-time top 10 list) and 29.5 career tackles for loss (needs 1.0 to etch name on all-time top 10 list). Jones’s 14.5 tackles for loss in 2015 ranks tied for ninth on the single-season list, while his 5.0 tackles for loss at NM State on Sept. 19, 2015 was the most by a UTEP player since the 2000 season. Jones has led the Miners in tackles the past two seasons, tallying 93 stops in each campaign, while in 2014 Jones ranked second with 55 takedowns.
Alvin Jones has reached double digits in tackles nine times during his career. Jones’s first double-digit performance came against UTSA on Oct. 3, 2015 with a 10-tackle outing. Jones racked up 11 tackles in four different contests in 2015 (at NM State; vs. Rice; at Old Dominion; vs. LA Tech). In 2016, Jones registered double-digit tackles in four contests (12 vs. NM State; 16 vs. FIU; 16 at Rice; 12 vs. North Texas).
TREYVON’S BREAKOUT GAME
In only his second game at the LB position, sophomore Treyvon Hughes tied for the team lead with 11 tackles against Rice on Sept. Hughes registered three stops in his defensive debut at no. 7 Oklahoma in week one. Hughes came to UTEP as a running back and missed last season due to injury. He was switched to linebacker prior to the Annual Spring Game this past year. Hughes is ranked fourth on the team in tackles two games into the season.
LOVILOTTE TIES CAREER HIGH
Senior LB Dante Lovilotte tied his career best with 11 tackles, while it tied for the team lead against Rice on Sept. 9. Lovilotte set his career high last season against Army. Lovilotte has totaled 14 stops to rank third on the team early into the campaign.
Transfer senior LB Julian Jackson tallied seven tackles against Rice on Sept. 9, tying his total from week one in his UTEP debut at no. 7 Oklahoma. Jackson is tied for second on the team with three other Miners with 14 tackles.
JAMAR & DEDRICK GET THEIR FIRST START
Transfer junior LB Jamar Smith and freshman DL Dedrick Simpson made their first start in a UTEP uniform on Sept. 9 against Rice. Smith registered four tackles in his starting debut, while in his UTEP debut, he tallied five stops at no. 7 OU on Sept. 2. Simpson came up with a tackle against Rice, while last week he tallied three stops and half a tackle for loss at no. 7 OU.
Senior DB Devin Cockrell leads the Miners with 16 tackles on the young season. Cockrell registered seven against Rice on Sept. 9. With the seven stops, Cockrell hit the 200-tackle club with 202 in his career. Against the Owls, Cockrell also registered his third career and first sack since 2014 (two) on a second-and-10 play for a loss of three yards in the first quarter. Cockrell came up with a quarterback hurry against the Owls.
IN THE NIK OF TIME
Junior DB Nik Needham recorded the first full sack of his UTEP career. Needham took down Rice QB Sam Glaesmann on a third-and-13 play. Needham’s first sack was an assist at NM State on Sept. 19, 2015. Needham also recovered his first fumble during his career and tallied six tackles on Saturday night versus the Owls. Needham has recorded 10 tackles on the season.
LEWIS’S RETURN TO THE GRIDIRON
After missing all of 2016, sophomore DB Michael Lewis has been active in his comeback year. Lewis ranks tied for second on the team with 14 tackles after recording five against Rice on Sept. 9. Lewis registered a career high nine stops on Sept. 2 at no. 7 OU.
OTHER DEFENSIVE NOTABLES VS. RICE
Junior DB Kalon Beverly tallied seven tackles, two short of tying his career high. Sophomore LB Dylan Parsee tied his career best with four tackles. Parsee tallied four at no. 7 OU in week one as well. Freshman LB Chris Barnwell registered a career-high three tackles and sophomore DE Denzel Chukwukelu registered a career-best three tackles.
MAKING THEIR DEBUTS
Twenty-six Miners made their UTEP debuts at no. 7 Oklahoma. The players include: RB Ronald Awatt, LB Chris Barnwell, DL Christian Buckingham, WR Alan Busey, RB Joshua Fields, WR Keynan Foster, LB Kalaii Griffin, OL Bijan Hosseini, LB Julian Jackson, DL Christian Johnson, TE David Lucero, DL Trace Mascorro, FB Forest McKee, DB Jesse Montgomery, WR Nesly Ovincy, DB Khalil Rashaad-Brown, LS Jake Sammut, DL Dedrick Simpson, LB Jamar Smith, DB Kahani Smith, DL Keith Sullivan, QB Mark Torrez, OL Logan Tuley-Tillman, K Brady Viles, TE Josh Weeks and LB Barron Wortham Jr..
MAKING THE START
UTEP featured nine new starters at no. 7 Oklahoma – four on offense and five on defense. They included LT Logan Tuley-Tillman, WR Terry Juniel, TB Walter Dawn Jr. and TE Augie Touris on offense; and DE Denzel Chukwukelu, NT Trace Mascorro, DE Luke Elsner, LB Julian Jackson and LB Dylan Parsee on defense.
UTEP played in front of 86,076 in attendance at Oklahoma Memorial Field on Sept. 2. It’s the fourth-largest crowd for a game involving the Miners since the 2000 season. UTEP played in front of a six-digit crowd (101,144) at Texas on Sept. 9, 2009; 92,863 at Texas Sept. 10, 2016; and 87,126 at Texas A&M on Nov. 9, 2013.
El Paso native Alan Luna punted seven times for 311 yards (44.4 avg.) with one inside the 20-yard line against Rice. Luna registered a 63-yard boot, the second-longest of his career. Luna’s career long is a 69-yard kick against Southern Miss in 2016, while his third-longest went 61 yards at Old Dominion in 2015. Luna opened 2017 with eight punts for 352 yards (third-most in his career) for an average of 44.0 yards at Oklahoma. The senior punter placed three inside the 20-yard line to tie his career high. Luna also placed three inside the 20 at LA Tech on Oct. 1, 2016.
LUNA CAREER NOTES
Senior Alan Luna ranks seventh on the program’s all-time list in career punt yards (6,090) and in career punts (142) after Saturday’s performance. Rick Padia ranks no. 6 in career punts (156), while the overall leader is Jerry Walker (298). Padia ranks no. 6 in career yards (6,380), while the overall leader is Walker (12,193). Luna’s career high for yards are 376 at Texas (Sept. 10, 2016). His longest is a 69-yard boot, while his career-best average is 51.0 yards on six punts (306) against Southern Miss (Sept. 24, 2016).
The 2017 roster features 28 players from El Pas0 — DB Deaumonjae Banks (Chapin), LB Chris Barnwell (Eastlake), WR Brannon Bullitt (Chapin), OL Bobby DeHaro (Montwood), OL Derek Elmendorff (Franklin), RB Joshua Fields (Americas), K/P Jason Filley (Coronado), LB Sergio Gonzalez (El Dorado), FB David Jackson (Parkland), DL Christian Johnson (Parkland), LB Alvin Jones (Burges), OL Greg Long (Eastwood), LB Erick Lopez (Canutillo), OL Markos Lujan (Americas), P/K Alan Luna (Franklin), OL Rey Mendez (Socorro), QB Ryan Metz (Andress), RB Jonathon Millan (Coronado), WR Brandon Moss (Chapin), DL Josh Ortega (Montwood), DB Elijah Perales (Chapin), OL Jaime Perales (Cathedral), WR Warren Redix (Montwood), TE Jorge Rodriguez (Montwood), WR Richie Rodriguez (Eastwood), WR Eddie Sinegal (Andress), QB Keith Tarango-Lopez (Eastlake) and QB Mark Torrez (Eastwood).
SUN CITY SENSATIONS
Twelve players from El Paso grace the two-deep heading into the Arizona game. LG Bobby DeHaro, RG Derek Elmendorff, TB Joshua Fields, K/P Jason Filley, FB David Jackson, MIKE Alvin Jones, LG Markos Lujan, K/P Alan Luna, QB Ryan Metz, WR (Z) Warren Redix, WR (X) Eddie Sinegal and QB Mark Torrez are listed on the two-deep chart. Of the 12, five of the players (Elmendorff, Jones, Luna, Metz and Redix) are listed as no. 1 at their respective positions.
The UTEP football program has eight student-athletes with degrees for the 2017 season. QB Zack Greenlee, LB Julian Jackson, DL Sky Logan, DB Jesse Montgomery, WR Brandon Moss, TE Sterling Napier, WR Nesley Ovincy and OL Logan Tuley-Tillman are pursuing their Masters of Arts in Leadership Studies. Northwestern has 18 student-athletes with degrees, while Cincinnati, Coastal Carolina and East Carolina each have 14. Toledo has 13; TCU, Alabama, Oregon and Virginia each have 12; Georgia State, Kansas State, Maryland, UCF and USF each have 11; Kent State, Nevada, New Mexico, South Alabama, Texas Tech and West Virginia each have 10; Houston, Iowa State, Pittsburgh, Purdue, Rutgers and Temple each have nine; and joining UTEP with eight student-athletes are Auburn, Clemson, Iowa, Kentucky, NC State, Northern Illinois, Ole Miss, Penn State, SMU Syracuse, UAB and WKU.
HARD WORK PAYS OFF
After day one at Camp Ruidoso, head coach Sean Kugler announced on Aug. 8 that walk-ons RB TK Powell, WR Keynan Foster, LB Johnny Jones, FB David Jackson and FB Robert Pufhal each earned scholarships for their performances on the field and in the classroom.
FBS COACHES WITH FBS SONS
UTEP Head Coach Sean Kugler is one of eight FBS coaches who have a son playing for another FBS program. Patrick Kugler plays center at Michigan. Others include UAB’s head coach Bill Clark with son Jacob playing for the Blazers. Colorado’s head coach Mike MacIntyre has his son Jay playing for the Buffaloes. Navy’s Ken Niumatalolo has two sons, Va’a at BYU and Ali’i at Utah. Gary Patterson’s son Blake plays for his pops at TCU. UTEP’s opposing coach on Friday, Rich Rodriguez, has his son Rhett playing for the Wildcats. And Bobby Wilder of Old Dominion has his son Derek playing for the Monarchs.
COACHING YOUR ALMA MATER
UTEP Head Coach Sean Kugler is one of 21 FBS coaches in 2017 who are at the helm of their alma mater’s program. John Bonamego (Central Michigan), Troy Calhoun (Air Force), Paul Chryst (Wisconsin), Pat Fitzgerald (Northwestern), Mike Gundy (Oklahoma State), Jim Harbaugh (Michigan), Bryan Harsin (Boise State), Paul Haynes (Kent State), Kliff Kingsbury (Texas Tech), Tim Lester (Western Michigan), Mike Neu (Ball State), Barry Odom (Missouri), Mark Richt (Miami), Nick Rolovich (Hawai’i), Scott Satterfield (Appalachian State), David Shaw (Stanford), Kalani Sitake (BYU), Kirby Smart (Georgia), Jeff Tedford (Fresno State) and Matt Wells (Utah State) are the other 20.
CLOSING IN ON WIN NO. 400
The Miners are six wins away from 400 in their program history. Texas Western College chalked up win no. 100 during the 1941 season after it prevailed at Arizona State 28-0 on Nov. 8. The Miners recorded win no. 200 on Sept. 21, 1963, defeating North Texas State 34-7 during the inaugural game in the Sun Bowl. Toraino Singleton rushed for 199 yards and a score, and Jason Blair hauled in six passes for 95 yards and a touchdown in leading UTEP to a 17-12 triumph over New Mexico for win no. 300 in the Sun Bowl on Nov. 18, 1995.
UTEP will face eight opponents in 2017 who advanced to a bowl game in 2016. The Miners opened with Oklahoma (Sugar Bowl) on Sept. 2 in Norman. After UTEP’s contest at NM State on Sept. 23, the next seven opponents are Army (Heart of Dallas Bowl), WKU (Boca Raton Bowl), Southern Miss (New Orleans Bowl), UTSA (New Mexico Bowl), Middle Tennessee (Hawai’i Bowl), North Texas (Heart of Dallas Bowl) and LA Tech (Armed Forces Bowl). Syracuse and Notre Dame lead the list with 11 bowl opponents each, while Duke, Ole Miss and South Carolina will see 10. Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, UCF, Clemson, Colorado State, Florida, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Illinois, Kentucky, LSU, UMass, Miami, Mississippi State, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Tulsa, Utah State, Vanderbilt, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest will face nine bowl opponents in 2017.
UTEP will drive up the road to take on rival NM State in the FirstLight Federal Credit Union Battle of I-10 on Sept. 23 at Aggie Memorial Stadium. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. in Las Cruces. The Miners have defeated the Aggies in eight consecutive games, starting with a 38-12 victory on Sept. 19, 2009. The Miners whacked the Aggies, 38-22, to open the 2016 season.