UTEP will look to chalk up its first victory as the Miners (0-6, 0-2 Conference USA West) will play their first C-USA road game of the season at Southern Miss (3-2, 1-1 C-USA West) on Saturday.
Kickoff is set for 5 p.m. MT/6 CT from Carlisle-Faulkner Field at M.M. Roberts Stadium.
The return to Hattiesburg is the first for UTEP since Halloween 2015 and interim head coach Mike Price’s first since 2012. Hattiesburg was also the site of a 34-33 UTEP victory in 2012, Price’s last win as UTEP’s head coach.
The Miners are coming off a hard-fought 15-14 loss to two-time defending C-USA Champion WKU in the 86th Homecoming game on Oct. 7, in which the special teams units made the difference for both sides. The Miners missed three field goal attempts, and the Hilltoppers converted an early two-point conversion in the first quarter for an 8-0 lead.
UTEP took its first halftime lead of the season, but WKU scored the lone points in the second half for the one-point win. The Miners will have their bye week following the Southern Miss contest and will return to action against C-USA West foe UTSA on Oct. 28 in the Sun Bowl.
***Quotes from Monday’s News Conference with Mike Price
Coach Mike Price (Opening Statement)
“First of all, I’m going to start out by thanking the over 20,000 people that were here Saturday night. I really haven’t had a chance to do that officially. Wow, they were loud! I’m not kidding you. It felt like we had 40,000 in this stadium again. It sure was fun at halftime leaving our stadium and them chanting ‘UTEP! UTEP!’ The players heard it. The players noticed it. It was awesome. Thanks a lot to El Paso for being here and supporting your football team and football program and school.
“I was very pleased that we played four quarters. We played four quarters of hard-nosed football. We wanted to take care of the football offensively. We felt like we needed to do that to win, and we had zero turnovers. We tackled much better than we have in the past. We limited our missed tackles to just a few in this game. That was great. They sure were right by recruiting [Terry Juniel]. He’s a quality punt returner and showed it on that punt return for a touchdown that they had the invisible penalty on. I was proud to be a Miner on Saturday night.
We did not win the game on the scoreboard, so that part we let slip through our fingers, but we’re proud of the way our players got ready for the game physically, but most importantly mentally and emotionally and they enthusiastically came to play.
They played with their heart. So they were ready to play in the first half and second half and that says a lot about the character of this team. It was not an easy week for anybody in the program and they had adversity and they overcame it in a huge way. We need to continue to get better. This isn’t the end of the season. We have games left. But if we continue to play like this and get a little bit better every week, we’re going to get in that win column.”
(On Quardraiz Wadley’s status)
“He’s going to be listed as OR [on the depth chart]. We won’t know his condition. I don’t know his condition right now. He’s going to have an x-ray, we need to analyze that and see how he’s doing.”
(On the high penalty count in Saturday’s game)
“I know we can eliminate four. We want to eliminate the penalties before the ball is snapped, and the penalties after the ball is blown dead. We had four penalties. I want that to be zero penalties. That’s our goal. What happened in-between the whistles and the snap, you can’t control as much. Is that pass interference or not pass interference?
Man, we broke on the ball great. We broke on the ball really well, knocked passes down, got to their quarterback, moved him around, hit him legally. He was a tired kid, I think, after the game. I was standing next to the official on the sideline and I said ‘Man, was that a great break up or what?’ He said, ‘That was perfect pass defense.’ That’s how I look at penalties. Eliminate those four and I would say we had a good day penalty wise, but that really sticks in my craw.”
(On goals for the rest of the season)
“Well, we plan on winning this weekend. That’s our goal. I think that we showed Saturday night that we can compete in this league, yes.”
(On the process of getting to know the players)
“Yeah, I probably know you guys better than I do the team. I’m glad they have names on the jerseys and that helps.”
(On Brady Viles’ performance last week)
“He kicked off tremendously. And he’s capable of making those kicks. He didn’t make them. So we’re going to try to help him get better, just like the other players.”
(On what it was like to return to the sideline Saturday)
“It was great. I called my wife before the game and said ‘I’m never nervous. What am I anxious about?’ But that’s part of being a coach, I think, is that excitement of the game and seeing the kids being excited. It’s really fun. They were excited and they were ready to play and it was really fun to be on the sidelines with them.
I couldn’t help as much as I would’ve liked to have helped. I’ll gradually help a little bit more as the season goes on. But I thought the communication was really good. We got the plays in and out offensively and defensively and on time. The players were ready to play, snapping the football. At one point in that game, when they were going no huddle, would be a time probably if I had to do it again to call timeout and stop the clock, get them over to the sideline and give them a rest, settle them down a little bit and go back in.
But the other team is good, they’re on scholarship too, so 15 points, and we had that two-point play coached up. We had guys where they were supposed to be.
One man comes free, has a shot at him, and [it was] one of our missed tackles. I was talking to their coach this morning and I said boy, it hurts to get beat by a trick play.’ I’m usually on the other end of that.”
(On working with offensive coordinator Brian Natkin and defensive coordinator Tom Mason)
“It was excellent. I was listening to [the calls]. Half the time I didn’t know what it was. You might’ve seen me lean over to one of the quarterbacks and say ‘What’s that play?’ Because the terminology is different from what it was when I was here, and you have to catch up with that. And same with Tom.
In blitz situation, we went to prevent, got out of that and threw a couple of blitzes in there and stopped them and changed it up rather than just playing that prevent defense. You’ve got to play a little bit of that. But I thought he did a real good job. He blitzed at times when we were supposed to and didn’t at other times. Everyone on that field played their hearts out, played as hard as they could. And I thought Natty did the same thing, made some really good calls at appropriate times.
I think it could be a really great match between the two of us because he’s going to do the conservative, right thing to do and I’m going to do the crazy thing sometimes. It’s a nice balance.”
(On the improvements that need to be made for Saturday’s game)
“Number one, we’ve got to score more points. We can’t be shut out in the second half. We’ve got to eliminate those penalties that we talked about earlier. We need to continue to have the enthusiasm and spirit that we played with, and emotional intensity. And that’s about it. Make a couple of field goals. That would help.”
(On the perception that Zack Greenlee can’t run)
“I guess that’s your guys’ opinion. You saw him play more than I did. You saw more practices than I did. He took care of the ball really well on Saturday night, didn’t he? If it wasn’t there he tucked it and ran with it, slid, protected the ball. He had one snap just a little fast and hit him here, and the back was a little off time and he fumbled and botched the play.
Other than that, he threw it away when he had to. He threw a couple ones right in there that we need to catch. He was on rhythm, under control, I’m sure he was excited to be in the game. But that position, quarterback, you don’t see many guys hooting and hollering in there. They’re usually pretty calm, cool and collected, and he was. He was in rhythm. He’s got to play that way and he showed that he can do it.”
(On the energy the team played with Saturday, was that because of the coaching change?)
“No, it’s not because of me. It’s because of these football players. It’s all about the football team. It’s not about me. I’m just the manager here. I’m managing the program and helping the guys out and helping them get better. We want these seniors to feel good about it and leave with a good feeling. I didn’t miss a tackle myself on Saturday night. I didn’t complete a pass either myself. It’s all about them. It’s all about the players. And that’s why I’m so glad the community supported them the way they did.”
(On Southern Miss)
“I don’t care who we’re playing. I told the team that before the game. What I care about is how you’re playing. It’s an exciting place to play. It’s a lot of fun down there. The last time we played down there however, I think they had a huge rainstorm or something and lightning strike so the crowd wasn’t a factor. But they can be a factor and they’re right behind you.
Our team will really enjoy playing in there. They had a quarterback change at Southern Miss also. They went with #2, a good looking stop quarterback who played earlier in the season. He had the start against Kentucky. I don’t know if he got hurt or whatever. But they made a change. I think their backup, the guy that was a starter was injured a little bit. And this kid played well. He played really well.
Offensively, I think it’s all about #2 and #26, who is their tailback. They have an outstanding tall wide receiver who can really get hot if you allow him to get hot. He had four receptions, I think, last week. They do a lot of stuff on offense, a lot of different things, a lot of different formations. They’ll throw it all over the place and run it all over the place. Defensively, man they are going to be hard to block everybody, because you never know where they’re going to be. They run the radar where they stand up, they run all kinds of different defenses. They are constantly blitzing and pressuring the quarterback. They can run to prevent reverses and outside plays and stuff like that.
We have our work cut out for us offensively and defensively. And they’ll try trick plays, they started the game last week with a trick play. They are well coached. Their head coach, boy he has worked his way up for that job. He came from Alcorn and that’s not an easy place to win and he won big there. And he coached with my son Eric at Memphis. He’s a quality coach and they’ve got a quality staff. It’s a good program and it’s a neat place to play.
It’s a good, great experience for the players. And all they’ve got to do is come out with the same enthusiasm and the same attitude and just get a little bit better and change some of those things that we talked about, and we’ll have a chance.”
MIKE PRICE 2-0 IN HATTIESBURG
UTEP interim head coach Mike Price has recorded a 2-0 mark against Southern Miss in Hattiesburg. The first victory was a 40-37, double overtime decision on Oct. 4, 2008. Trevor Vittatoe threw for four touchdowns and Donald Buckram ran for a score. The second win came on Nov. 17, 2012 – a 34-33 triumph as Blaire Sullivan ran for 98 yards and a score. The win was also Price’s last as UTEP head coach before retiring at the end of the 2012 campaign.
The Golden Eagles took a 5-4 edge in the series ledger with a 34-7 victory in the Conference USA opener for both teams last season in the Sun Bowl. The teams have met seven times during the regular season and twice in bowl games. The Miners defeated the Golden Eagles, 37-14, in the Sun Bowl on Jan. 1, 1954. Southern Miss and Brett Favre topped UTEP, 38-18, in the Independence Bowl on Dec. 29, 1988. The Miners are 2-1 all-time in games played at Hattiesburg with wins in 2008 (40-37 in 2OT) and 2012 (34-33), and a 34-13 loss in 2015.
THE LAST MEETING
Southern Miss scored two touchdowns late in the second quarter to break open a close game as it opened defense of its Conference USA West Division title with a 34-7 win at UTEP on Sept. 24, 2016. The Golden Eagles scored 17 points off three turnovers by the Miners, who struggled in all facets offensively.
Zack Greenlee and Ryan Metz combined to complete 14-of-28 passes for 113 yards and the Miners finished with 145 yards rushing, 99 of which came in the first half. Aaron Jones was responsible for all 99 of the Miners’ first quarter yards. He finished with 127 yards on 16 carries.
UTEP took a 7-3 lead on a 68-yard run by Jones with 5:37 remaining in the first quarter. The Miners trailed 10-7 with under four minutes remaining in the half before the Golden Eagles struck twice to take a 17-point lead (24-7) to the locker room. First, Ito Smith caught a 28-yard touchdown pass from Nick Mullens, then Allenzae Staggers reeled in a three-yard reception for six points.
The Golden Eagles shut out the Miners in the second half as UTEP had three drives end on downs and two on turnovers. UTEP finished 1-for-11 on third down and 0-for-3 on fourth down. Mullens, the preseason C-USA Offensive Player of the Year, completed 16-of-27 passes for 176 yards with three touchdowns.
Smith rushed 16 times for 108 yards. Outside of the two late first-half scores by the Golden Eagles, another major turning point came midway through the third period when UTEP, trailing 24-7, had first and goal at the two-yard line. Jones was stuffed for no gain and, on second down, Greenlee was picked off by the Golden Eagles’ Curtis Mikell, who ran 100 yards for a TD and extended the visitors’ lead to 24 points.
ABOUT SOUTHERN MISS
The Golden Eagles improved to 3-2 overall and evened their Conference USA record (1-1) after a 31-29 victory at UTSA on Oct. 7. The Roadrunners (3-1, 0-1) jumped out to an early 13-7 advantage. But Southern Miss answered with 21 unanswered points, capped by an Ito Smith 89-yard scamper to the end zone early in the fourth quarter.
With the score 31-23, UTSA scored a touchdown – a Dalton Sturm to Marquez McNair 24-yard score with 48 seconds left in the ball game – but couldn’t convert the two-point conversion. Smith hammered out 178 yards on 17 carries (10.5 avg.), while Keon Howard, who made his second start of the season in a late-week decision, threw a trio of touchdowns with 212 yards on 15-of-20 passing. Quez Watkins led the receivers with 78 yards on five receptions with a score.
Jay’Shaw Washington (two rec., 54 yards) and Korey Robertson (two rec., 45 yards) each recorded touchdowns for the Golden Eagles. Defensively, Tarvarius Moore led the way with 11 tackles, while Curtis Mikell intercepted a pass (61 yards). Racheem Boothe, Paxton Schrimsher and LaDarius Harris each tallied a sack. On the season, Southern Miss ranks fifth in C-USA in scoring (29.8 p/g) and ranks fourth in scoring defense (22.6 p/g allowed).
Golden Eagles rank third in total offense (449.6 ypg) and total defense (346.6 ypg allowed). Smith ranks second in rushing yards per game (122.6) with five rushing scores. Howard ranks second in passing efficiency (158.1), throwing for 370 yards. Kwadra Griggs has thrown eight touchdowns with 951 yards and only one pick (66-of-123 passing).
Robertson ranks sixth in C-USA in receiving yards per game (67.2), as he’s hauled in 23 catches for 336 yards and five scores (ranks tied for first in C-USA). Moore ranks no. 21 in tackles per game (7.0), while Jacques Turner has tallied 2.5 sacks.
UTEP senior DL Sky Logan is from Natches, Miss., while junior LB Jamar Smith played at Holmes Community College (Goodman, Miss.) prior to transferring to UTEP.
SEASON HIGHS & LOWS
UTEP churned out season-highs in total offense (287 yards) and rushing yards (163) against WKU on Oct. 7. The UTEP defense surrendered a season-low 282 yards. It was the fewest allowed against an FBS program since yielding 205 yards at North Texas in 2015, and the lowest tally in the Sun Bowl against any program since giving up only 227 to Houston Baptist last season.
The 15-14 final was the first ever in El Paso and second in program history. The Miners fell 15-14 against Arizona State on Nov. 11, 1932 in Tempe.
THE VERY BEST
The UTEP kickoff return defense has been solid as it ranks no. 1 in Conference USA and no. 2 in the nation at 12.8 yards per return.
SECURING THE ROCK
UTEP has only fumbled three times in 2017, ranking tied for third in Conference USA and tied for 34th in the FBS.
KAVIKA’S FIRST RECEIVING SCORE
Junior WR Kavika Johnson registered his first career receiving touchdown against WKU on Oct. 7. Johnson hauled in a 15-yard score from Zack Greenlee in the second quarter, in which Greenlee snuck the ball between a pair of defenders.
SCORING MULTIPLE WAYS
Kavika Johnson recorded a touchdown catch against WKU as he now joins a rare club of Miners who have scored a touchdown rushing, receiving and throwing. Johnson has thrown for four scores and has rushed for one (2015 at North Texas) during his career. Johnson joins Aaron Jones, Lorne Sam, Marcus Thomas and Omar Duarte as Miners who have accounted for a touchdown three ways since the 1998 season.
KAVIKA’S CAREER NIGHT VS. RICE
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. Johnson ranks tied for third on the team with nine receptions (99 yards) and a touchdown.
Junior transfer WR Erik Brown, who just recently joined the program, made his first start against WKU on Oct. 7. Brown delivered with a pair of receptions for 32 yards. The first was an eight-yard catch for a first down on a third-and-4 in the third quarter. Brown followed with a 24-yard reception during the fourth quarter.
Senior WR Tyler Batson registered a season-high 80 yards on a career-best five receptions at Army on Sept. 30. In fact, Batson’s 80 yards were the second-most in his career for a single game. Batson’s career high was a 143-yard output against Florida Atlantic in 2015. Batson is ranked second on the team in receptions (13) and leads the team in receiving yards (160), while scoring a touchdown against Arizona on Sept. 15 – his first since 2015.
FIRST CATCH FOR TOURIS
Junior TE Augie Touris recorded his first career catch, a five-yard snag during the first quarter against WKU on Oct. 7. Touris, who entered 2017 with limited playing time, has made four starts in six games this season. Touris made his first career start at no. 7 Oklahoma to open his junior campaign. He’s also made starts against Rice, at NM State and most recently against WKU.
Junior TE David Lucero matched his season high with a trio of receptions (14 yards) against WKU on Oct. 7. Lucero caught three passes for a season-high 31 yards against Rice, while recording his first career touchdown with three receptions (15 yards) at Army on Sept. 30. Lucero currently leads the Miners in receptions (14), while ranking second in receiving yards (116).
GREENLEE’S SOLID START
Senior QB Zack Greenlee produced solid numbers, while taking care of the ball against WKU on Oct. 7. Greenlee threw for 124 yards on 12-of-22 passing with a 15-yard touchdown pass to Kavika Johnson. Greenlee also ran the ball well, gaining 46 yards on eight attempts with his first career rushing score – a five-yard dash late in the second quarter that gave UTEP a 14-8 lead. On that same scoring drive, Greenlee sprinted for a career-long 11-yard run on a third-and-one play.
GREENLEE UNDER CENTER
Zack Greenlee leads the UTEP quarterbacks in passing efficiency (120.1), passing yards (347), and throwing scores (three), while only tossing one interception in 60 pass attempts. Greenlee has completed 35 passes, fashioning a 58.3 passing percentage. Greenlee has also rushed for 25 yards and a score.
QB RUSHING SCORES
All three UTEP quarterbacks have rushed for at least one touchdown in 2017. Junior Ryan Metz has scored two – a one-yard score against Rice and a five-yard dash at NM State. Freshman Mark Torrez found the end zone on a six-yard rush against Arizona and senior Zack Greenlee, most recently, ran for a five-yard score against WKU. It’s the first time since at least 1990 that three UTEP quarterbacks have found the end zone with their legs during a single season.
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.
DOVE RUNNING HARD
Sophomore RB Kevin Dove uses his 6-foot, 245-pound frame to bulldoze over defenders as he rushed for a career-high 69 yards on a career-most 15 attempts against WKU on Oct. 7. Dove got stronger as the game went on as he rambled for a career-long 23-yard rush in the fourth quarter against the Hilltoppers. Dove’s previous high was a 59-yard effort on 10 carries against Houston Baptist in 2016. In 2017, Dove has rushed for 148 yards on 37 carries (4.0 avg.).
FIRST DOWN DOVE
Kevin Dove grinded out three more first downs against WKU on Oct. 7, for his team-leading 11. His first came during the second quarter on the Miners’ touchdown drive. Dove ran for 11 yards on a first-and-10. Dove gained his second for nine yards on a third-and-2 in the third quarter. His third was a big gain of 23 yards on a first-and-10 late in the fourth quarter. Dove tallied a first down on a 17-yard run off a second-and-4 play at Army on Sept. 30.
Dove gained three yards on a third-and-1 during the first quarter at NM State on Sept. 23. Against Arizona on Sept. 15, Dove tallied his sixth first down of the season, and gained five yards on a second-and-4 in the second quarter. Dove gained two 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. Dove has rushed for 148 yards this season, ranking second on the team.
JOSHUA TAKES THE FIELD
True freshman RB and El Paso native Joshua Fields registered a season-high seven-yard rush against WKU on Oct. 7. A few weeks back, Fields recorded a season-best two receptions for five yards against Arizona (Sept. 15). Fields tallied a season-long 18-yard reception against Rice on Sept. 9. Fields has 22 yards on four receptions and has rushed for 12 yards early in his collegiate career.
WADLEY’S BIG DAY
Sophomore tailback Quardraiz Wadley made his first career start and used patience to gain a career-high 156 yards on a career-most 28 attempts (5.6 avg.) at Army on Sept. 30. Wadley also scored his first career touchdown – a one-yard plunge during the first quarter. Wadley’s previous high was a 77-yard effort at NM State on Sept. 23, his first action of 2017. Wadley has rushed for 233 yards on 47 carries (5.0 avg.) to lead the Miners.
NEW 100-YARD RUSHER
Quardraiz Wadley entered the 100-yard game club after his 156-yard output at Army. Wadley is the first UTEP running back other than Aaron Jones or TK Powell to gain over 100 yards rushing in a single game since 2014. Jones hit over 100 yards numerous times in his college career, while Powell rushed for 124 yards against LA Tech in 2015.
Alvin Jones registered 12 more tackles against WKU on Oct. 7. Jones currently leads the team in tackles (51) and tackles per game (8.5). Jones ranks seventh in tackles per game (8.5) and third in total tackles (51) in Conference USA. Jones has led the Miners in tackles in each of the last two seasons, recording 93 stops during each campaign.
Alvin Jones has reached double digits in tackles 11 times during his career after his 12-tackle output on Oct. 7 against WKU. 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 other contests in 2015 (at NM State; vs. Rice; at Old Dominion; vs. LA Tech). In 2016, Jones registered double-digit tackles, including his career high of 16 stops, in four contests (12 vs. NM State; 16 vs. FIU; 16 at Rice; 12 vs. North Texas). Jones registered a season-high 15 tackles against Arizona on Sept. 15, his first double-digit effort in 2017.
KEEPING UP WITH ALVIN’S CAREER
Senior Alvin Jones has 292 career tackles (third-most at UTEP since the 2000 season) after tallying 12 stops against WKU on Oct. 7. Jones also registered a sack and 2.5 tackles for loss against the Hilltoppers.
Jones has 12.5 career sacks, now ranking tied for ninth with Menson Holloway on the program’s top-10 list. Jones’s 34.0 career tackles for loss rank tied for fifth with Brian Young. Barron Wortham leads the all-time list with 45.0 tackles for loss. Jones’s 14.5 tackles for loss in 2015 rank tied for ninth on the single-season list, while his 5.0 tackles for loss at NM State on Sept. 19, 2015 were 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.
IN THE NIK OF TIME
Junior DB Nik Needham was almost ejected for targeting against WKU on Oct. 7. But after a replay review it was determined that Needham was not targeting, was not ejected and ended up with a career-high five pass breakups against the Hilltoppers. Needham’s performance is tied for most all-time with Wesley Miller, who recorded five pass breakups at Rice on Oct. 26, 2013.
Nik Needham, after registering a career-high five pass breakups versus WKU, now has six in 2017, ranking second in Conference USA behind WKU’s DeAndre Farris (nine) and tied for 18th nationally. Needham also cracked the program’s top-10 list, now ranking ninth with 22 career pass breakups. Jahmal Fenner leads the all-time list with 25 in his career. Needham has tallied 26 tackles with 2.0 tackles for loss (five yards), a sack (three yards) and a fumble recovery.
LEWIS’ SOLID EFFORT
Sophomore Michael Lewis tied his career high with nine tackles against WKU on Oct. 7. Lewis also recorded his first career quarterback hurry against the Hilltoppers. Lewis established his career best with a nine-tackle outing at no. 7 Oklahoma to open the 2017 season. Lewis missed all of last season but has made an impact thus far, ranking fifth on the team with 29 tackles.
Graduate student LB Julian Jackson tallied a career-high eight tackles against WKU on Oct. 7. Jackson, a transfer from Wake Forest, recorded seven tackles in each of his first three games in a UTEP uniform. Jackson’s eight stops against the Hilltoppers is also tied for his college career high. Jackson’s 34 total tackles rank tied for second on the UTEP defense. Jackson also recorded his first pass breakup against the Wildcats and recorded half a tackle for loss at no. 7 OU.
LOVE FOR LOVILOTTE
Since transferring to UTEP, senior LB Dante Lovilotte has produced tackles for the Miners. Lovilotte ranked second on the team in tackles (89) last season and currently ranks second in 2017 with 37 stops after registering four against WKU on Oct. 7. Lovilotte recorded four tackles at Army on Sept. 30. Lovilotte also registered his first full sack at no. 7 Oklahoma to open the season. Lovilotte tied his career best with a season-high 11 tackles against Rice on Sept. 9. At NM State, Lovilotte registered a quarterback hurry and a pass breakup.
Four of the top six leading tacklers for the Miners are linebackers. Alvin Jones leads the way with 51 stops, while Dante Lovilotte and Julian Jackson are tied for second (34) and Treyvon Hughes is sixth (28).
OTHER DEFENSIVE NOTABLES VS. WKU
A pair of true freshmen had big games against WKU on Oct. 7 as DL Dedrick Simpson registered his first career sack for an eight-yard loss on a third-and-five play during the third quarter and NT Trace Mascorro registered a career high five tackles.
TERRY’S SPECIAL EFFORT
Junior WR/KR Terry Juniel resumed returning kickoffs after an injury to Keynan Foster and responded with career highs in kickoff return yards (105), long return (35) and returns (six) at Army. Juniel’s previous highs were four returns for 76 yards at no. 11 Texas in 2016, and a 30-yard return at NM State on Sept. 23. Juniel is averaging 19.4 yards on eight returns (155 yards) in 2017. Juniel averaged just over 18 yards last season.
BRADY’S FIRST FIELD GOAL ATTEMPT
Sophomore K Brady Viles connected on his first collegiate field goal, a 53-yard boot as the first half expired against Arizona on Sept. 15. Viles was good on one of two PAT attempts against the Wildcats. Viles has 12 points (11-12 PAT, 1-4 FG). Viles’ field goal was the longest for the Miners since Dakota Warren connected on a 57-yard kick against NM State on Sept. 18, 2010. Viles played his first year of college football at Arizona Western College, where he connected on 3-of-3 PATs and was used primarily as a kickoff specialist last season.
VILES’ FIRST KICK WAS A LONG ONE
Brady Viles’ first field goal was a 53-yarder. It’s the longest first made field goal by a Miner since at least 1960. Viles is one of three Miners to hit a 50-plus yard field goal on their first try since 1960. Bronko Belichesky’s first career field attempt was a made 52-yarder against Pacific on Sept. 15, 1973. Jose Martinez connected on a 51-yarder on Sept. 1, 2007 against New Mexico.
El Paso native Alan Luna punted five times for 239 yards against WKU on Oct. 7. Luna opened 2017 with eight punts for 352 yards for an average of 44.0 yards at Oklahoma. The senior punter placed three inside the 20-yard line against the Sooners to tie his career high. Luna also placed three inside the 20 at LA Tech on Oct. 1, 2016. Luna’s 43.8-yard average ranks 32nd in the FBS and third in Conference USA. Luna is tied for the league-lead in total punts (40) while leading in punt yards (1,750). Luna ranks fourth in punt yards and total punts in the FBS.
LUNA CAREER NOTES
Senior Alan Luna ranks sixth on the program’s all-time list in career punt yards (7,177) and fifth in career punts (167). Steve Folkner ranks no. 5 in career punts (186), while the overall leader is Jerry Walker (298). Campbell ranks no. 5 in career yards (7,328), while the overall leader is Walker (12,193). Luna’s career high for yards is 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). In week two against Rice, Luna registered a 63-yard boot, the second-longest of his career, while his third-longest went 61 yards at Old Dominion in 2015.
CATCHING UP WITH COACH PRICE
UTEP interim head coach Mike Price made his 2017 debut against WKU in the 86th Homecoming Game. Price has 48 wins with the Miners, the second most in program history behind Mack Saxon (66 wins). Price led UTEP to back-to-back eigtht-win seasons (2004 & 2005) and a trio of bowl appearances (2004 Ev1.net Houston Bowl, 2005 GMAC Bowl & 2010 New Mexico Bowl).
CHALKING UP WINS
Mike Price is the fifth-winningest active FBS coach with 177 wins. Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly (235 wins) leads the way, while Alabama’s Nick Saban (211), Kansas State’s Bill Snyder (205) and Georgia Tech’s Paul Johnson (180) round out the list.
UTEP will have its bye week following the Southern Miss contest. The Miners will continue action on Oct. 28 against UTSA in the Sun Bowl at 6 p.m.