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Sunday , October 21 2018
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Video+Story: H-P Sports In Depth: UTEP Talks Coach’s Departure, Preps for WKU

UTEP will meet defending Conference USA champion WKU in its annual Homecoming game on Saturday at 6 p.m.  Ticket and concessions are in place as the Miners not only celebrate Homecoming, but “National Tailgate Weekend” as well.

In addition, the UTEP men’s basketball team will be signing autographs in the stadium concourse prior to the game, and free schedule posters will be given away. This is the Miners’ 86th Homecoming contest.

WKU will make its way to the Sun City for the first time as UTEP will host the Hilltoppers in the 86th Homecoming Game on Oct. 7. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. in the Sun Bowl. The Miners will compete in their second Conference USA contest of the season after taking on C-USA West foe Rice on Sept. 9 in the Sun Bowl.

The Miners (0-5, 0-1 C-USA West) are coming off a 14-point setback at Army West Point on Sept. 30, while the Hilltoppers (2-2, 0-1 C-USA East) had their bye week following a 33-21 victory over Ball State on Sept. 23. Quardraiz Wadley made the first start of his career at Army and made the most of the opportunity.

The sophomore tailback ran for a career-high 156 yards with his first career score. The UTEP defense also found the end zone for a second consecutive week as junior Kahani Smith took a pick-six 52 yards to the house late in the contest.

The Miners are looking to end a two-game Homecoming skid, as their last victory came in 2014 – a 42-35 win against Old Dominion.

Tickets start at just $10 and are available by calling 747-5234 or visiting Ticketmaster.  Also, $5 beer and $2 hot dogs will be sold in the Sun Bowl Stadium.

***UTEP Weekly News Conference 10/2

Director of Athletics Bob Stull

(On naming an interim head coach)

“I have not made a decision on what I’m going to do yet.  I’m going to take a little bit more time.  I’m going to talk to the coaches individually.  I want to talk to some of the players before I make this next decision.  I just don’t want to rush into it.  Within the next couple of days [a coach will be named].  Hopefully by tomorrow.”

 

Offensive Coordinator Brian Natkin

(On coach Kugler stepping down)

“This is an extremely difficult situation not only for our team but for our coaching staff.  Me especially, I have known coach Kugler for 21 years.  He was the tight end coach when I got recruited.  He was one of the major reasons why I came to this university.  I want to thank coach Kugs for everything he did, not only for this university but for me personally.  He is a Miner through and through.  There was nobody that wanted to change this program more than he did.  He spilled his heart into this.  He wasn’t using it as a jumping board to get to a bigger program.  His main objective when he got here was to switch the program around and make it a consistent winner.  He gave everything he had to it and unfortunately I guess it wasn’t good enough.  

“Coach Kugs has been a father figure for me for a long time, he has been a mentor, he has been a confidante, he has been a close friend.  He is already missed.  This is a tough business.  Coaching is hard enough and when you throw a wrench in it like this at midseason, it makes it a little tougher.  It’s a tough deal.  We’re all dealing with it and our staff is in it together.  We’ve got an extremely tight-knit staff and it’s going to stay that way.  There’s not going to be any fracturing with us.”

“Tom [Mason] and I have talked about it already.  We’re not going to allow that to happen.  We’re going to stay the course and we’re going to make sure we keep this team and the coaching staff together.  We’ve still got a lot of football to play, so moving forward that’s going to be our main goal.”

(On the Army game)

“I thought it was really a tale of two halves.  We came out in the first half and we were able to move the ball successfully.  I think you guys saw what we want to be.  It might not be the most popular thing, but it gives us the best opportunity for our guys to win a football game.  We went into halftime tied 14-14.  We had some momentum going.  We didn’t have the success that we wanted in the second half.  But the first half, we did control the clock.  We ran the ball when we wanted to.  We mixed in a little pass.”

“We saw what Quardraiz Wadley can do.  He is an extremely strong running back.  He rushed for a total of 156 yards, which is a good day of work.  Our offensive line got it clicking.  Our fullbacks and tight ends were blocking and our wide receivers bought in to what we’re trying to get done.  They are blockers number one.  In this offense, that’s the way it’s going to be until it’s proven otherwise.  I think we took some shots, we had some success, we had some stuff called back from penalties. ”

“Really, the penalties the last two weeks, that’s something we’re going to address offensively that we have to clean up.  It’s something that is holding us back right now.  We had a touchdown called back.  We actually had two explosive plays called back in the pass game, one to David Lucero and one to Erik Brown that were both called back.  So we had three positive plays that got called back and when we’re not a big passing team, and we complete three passes that are explosive plays, we’ve got to take advantage of that. 

“Ryan [Metz] got hurt, he had a little scramble down there in the tight red zone.  He got banged up a little.  I don’t know his status for this week.  Zack [Greenlee] came in.  I thought Zack did a nice job of handling the offense.  We had some run checks that he got us in and out of. He did a good job of putting us in the right position.  He was extremely efficient.  He was 7-of-13, he threw the touchdown pass to David.  I liked what he did in the game and I thought at that time he gave us the best opportunity to win. ”

“Tyler Batson had a good receiving game, he had five catches for 80 yards.  Three or four of them weren’t easy catches.  He went up and plucked them from the sky, took a couple of shots, got knocked down and popped right back up, which was good to see.  He had a couple of explosive plays.  David Lucero had a touchdown pass.  He had a couple of other catches. ”

“Quardraiz Wadley had a sling pass off a checkdown on protection that got us into scoring position right before the half.  Overall, it is steps in the right direction.  There are no moral victories.  Moral victories don’t work with me.  We lost a game.  We were in it in the first half.  In the second half, we didn’t make enough plays.  I think we saw the ability to be a better offense.  We’re going to keep making strides.  My job as a coach is to put them in the best position possible to be successful.  We’ll continue to do that.”

(On WKU)

“They were Conference USA champions last year.  They’ve got 11 guys returning on defense that started at least one game last year for the conference championship team.  They are a 4-2-5, which is a little different defense from what we have played in the past.  So we are going to have to adjust our minds.  We have been playing quite a bit of odd fronts lately.  They are strong at linebacker.  #4 and #25 are both good football players.  #4 is their leading tackler.  Secondary wise, they’ve got #7, he’s a corner.  They’re extremely athletic in the secondary.  #7 has got two interceptions.  The defensive line, they are big, as big as we’re going to see all year.  They’ve got a 300-pound nose, 285-pound defensive tackle and 265-pound defensive ends. 

“They play a lot of cover one, they’re going to load the box, they’re going to force us to beat them with the pass.   We’re going to have to throw the ball.  We will continue to run, we’re going to always hang our hat on running the ball.  Nobody is going to be able to talk me out of that.  We’re built that way.  We’ve got the running backs, we’ve got our offensive line, we’ve got receivers that have bought in.  We’re going to continue to do that. It may not be the most popular, but it’s what we do here at UTEP.”

“We’re always going to base it on being physical and starting with the run and using the run to set up the pass, where a lot of teams do it a little different.  We’ve been hard at work and this has been a tough morning for all of us.  We’re sitting in there trying to game plan for Western Kentucky.  We just lost our head man.  We lost our leader.  Whatever happens, there isn’t going to be any politicking with our staff.  Whatever they decide is the best situation, we’re going to have to move forward.  I do think we’ve got quality coaches on our staff and we’ve got a tight knit group that’s going to do whatever it can to rally the troops these last seven games.  We’re going to do whatever we can to put a product on the field that’s not only competitive, but goes out there to win every single week.”

(On facing a man defense)

“We’ve seen a lot of man this year.  If you watch the games, you can see it.  Teams play us in man.  We’ve got to win versus man coverage, and that’s something we haven’t done.  At the skill position, we’ve got to run better routes.  We’ve got to create separation, being creative with it.  We’ve got to be good route runners.  That’s something I have been preaching the last two weeks, and I will continue to preach that.”

(On Quardraiz Wadley’s performance)

“He was great.  He fell on the ball one time and just got the wind knocked out of him.  He popped up, he wasn’t tired at all.  We’ll watch him.  We don’t want to wear him down to the ground.  When you have a guy that’s run the ball and run the ball successfully and he’s not winded and he shows no signs of it, and he has gotten so much stronger than he was last year, you run him.  That’s what you do.  If he’s working and he’s in shape and he’s not banged up and tired, you run him.”

(On the team making strides offensively)

“There are a few philosophical changes.  We have been doing a little more running out of the gun, which is kind of my background.  Not really changing schematically, but just moving the quarterback back and putting a running back on one side or the other.  It’s not a huge change.  But Wadley definitely helps.  He is a difference maker.  He ran for 156 yards and he looked really good.”

(On preventive measures to keep Ryan Metz’s shoulder healthy)

“We’ve got to work with him on sliding.  He has been pretty good at that.  He had two opportunities to take a foot-first slide, and one of them he almost tripped and landed on his head, and the other one he got hit.  They are unnecessary hits that he doesn’t need to take.  We’ve just got to continue drilling it.  And a lot of it has to do with reads, a lot has to do with receivers getting open and creating separation, but he’s smart.  He knows what he has to do.  But in the heat of battle, with all these bodies flying around, he’s got to realize it’s not a bad thing to slide feet first.”

Defensive Coordinator Tom Mason 

(On coach Kugler stepping down)

“It was a shock and I really appreciated the opportunity that I had to work with Sean Kugler.  I thought he was a quality guy.  Obviously I’m a little bit older coach and I know the qualities that Sean brought to the program.  I really appreciated the things that he did for the kids.  At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about.  It’s about graduating these kids, it’s about keeping a program from self-destructing.  You read that stuff all over in the paper, or on the blogs and the internet about these programs self-destructing.”

“Kugs ran a quality program.  I was really surprised when he hung it up yesterday.  But I have been in that situation before and sometimes as a head coach the losses start to weigh on you and it gets to the point where sometimes you have to step down and step aside.  I hated to see it happen, I really did.  But I really appreciate my time with coach Kugler.”

(On the Miners’ defensive approach)

“My philosophy is just to get better every game.  Obviously we are really young on the defensive line.  We’ve started three freshmen there at times.  We’ve got some experienced linebackers.  I thought our secondary has been playing pretty well.  But you’ve got to be realistic about it too.  Oklahoma is probably the best team in the country.  Arizona is a little better than people thought they were.”

“That game last week at Army, I thought our kids played extremely well.  We had about four breakdowns but that’s what happens when you play the option.  We don’t see that option, we get three days to prepare for it, this is probably about the fifth time I’ve coached against one of the academy schools.  That’s tough duty because you’re never going to play against that offense again the rest of the year.  Now we’ve got to transition into a spread offense.  There are some challenges to it.  But that’s what we signed up for too.”

(On facing a spread offense)

“We’re prepared for that.  That’s what we built this defense around, defending the spread offenses.  I think I’m known as one of the better spread coordinators in the country.  You go back and you’ve got to redo what you’ve been doing all along.  And that’s the hardest thing is transition. 

I know when I was at SMU, we’d play Navy and then turned around and played Houston the next week.  You’ve got some challenges there.  You go from six yards and a cloud of dust and you’ve got to defend everything on the field and you’ve got to defend speed.  That’s the challenge but I think our kids are going to be fine with it.  We’re more wired for that than we are the option, that’s for sure.”  

(On defending WKU)

“You’ve got to be a little more aggressive.  Really, what happened this year is we’ve got a lot of young kids playing and a lot of new kids in the defense.  Those kids couldn’t run the system as well as it should be.  So I had to pare back some of the pressures that we have been running.  Now I can start to pick it back up a little bit. 

“We won’t get too crazy with it this weekend but as this thing progresses, and we’ve got seven games left, we’ll build that blitz package more and more.  But this thing is built on pressure.  This is what we do and we’re going to pressure those guys.  And I want them to know coming in that they’re going to get blitzed.”

(On WKU quarterback Mike White)

“I really like the way he throws the ball.  I always chart the quarterbacks and where their completions are on the field and where they like to throw the ball.  We had some real tendencies on the quarterback from Arizona.  But this kid, he throws the ball all over the field.  I think he’s got a strong arm, he’s an NFL prototype quarterback.  I think he’s a really good one, one of the better ones we’ll see this year, except maybe the Oklahoma kid.  That kid is special.”

***

HOMECOMING FACTS

UTEP is 38-46-1 all-time in its Homecoming games, including a 6-3 mark since the 2008 season. The Miners fell to Old Dominion, 31-21, in last year’s Homecoming contest. The Miners’ longest winning streak is six (1937-42) in Homecoming games, while the longest losing streak is nine (1978-86). UTEP’s biggest victory came against NM State in 1942, a 61-6 beatdown of the Aggies, while a 76-24 loss to Colorado State in 1973 was its worst. The first Homecoming game was played in 1929, as the Miners defeated NM State, 8-0.

UTEP is 19-33 at the Sun Bowl in Homecoming games since it opened in 1963.

The only tie happened in 1948 against Hardin-Simmons, a 27-27 final. Since the modern day of football started in 1965, Donald Buckram had the best rushing performance in a Homecoming game, as he ran for 262 yards and four touchdowns in 2009 against no. 12 Houston. Brooks Dawson threw for the most yards (426 in 1967 vs. NM State), while Jordan Palmer threw for the most touchdowns (five in 2004 vs. Hawai’i).

Bob Wallace accounted for the most receiving yards (233 in 1967 vs. NM State), while Jeff Motouri hauled in the most receptions (12 in 2007 vs. East Carolina).

ABOUT WKU

The Hilltoppers are coming off their bye week, but improved to 2-2 overall after a 33-21 victory over Ball State on Sept. 23. QB Mike White threw for 319 yards on 28-of-44 passing with a touchdown and a pair of interceptions.  The rushing attack only gained 52 yards, but did find the end zone two times – a Marquez Trigg two-yard punch in the second quarter and a Jakairi Moses five-yard score in the fourth quarter.

Moses led the team with 56 yards on 12 carries. With the score 26-21, Joe Brown took an interception 34 yards for a TD with 13 seconds left in the contest to seal the victory.

WKU opened its Conference USA slate against LA Tech in Bowling Green, Ky. as the Bulldogs edged the Hilltoppers 23-22 on Sept. 16. WKU opened the 2017 campaign with a 31-17 victory over Eastern Kentucky and followed with a 20-7 loss at Illinois. Triggs leads the rushing attack with 136 yards for an offense that has gained 299 yards with a 2.4 average per attempt. Trigg, Moses, D’Andre Ferby and White have each rushed for a pair of touchdowns. Quinton Baker has also found the end zone.

White has thrown for 1,047 yards (261.8 yards per game, ranks third in C-USA) and a pair of touchdowns with three interceptions. Nacarius Fant leads the team in receptions (21) for 197 yards, while Lucky Jackson leads the team in receiving yards (253) on 20 catches. Jackson and Deon Yelder each have one receiving score. WKU has given up 14 sacks. Defensively, J Iyiegbuniwe leads the squad with 33 tackles, while Devon Key has tallied 32 stops.

Brown leads WKU with a pair of interceptions, including a pick-six, while Drell Greene and Antwon Kincade have each registered interceptions. Overall, WKU is averaging 23.2 points per contest (ranked no. 8 in C-USA), while yielding 20.2 points per game. The Hilltoppers are averaging 336.5 yards per game (ranked 10th in C-USA) and 74.8 rushing yards per game (last in C-USA). WKU is at 44 percent (25/57) on third down conversions and 50 percent (3/6) on fourth down attempts.

SERIES HISTORY

WKU won the only previous matchup between the teams, 35-27 on Nov. 8, 2014 in Bowling Green.

THE LAST MEETING

Wonderful Terry gave WKU the lead for good with a 90-yard interception return in the fourth quarter, as the Hilltoppers rallied from a 13-point second-half deficit and topped the Miners, 35-27, on Nov. 8, 2014 at L.T. Smith Stadium. UTEP led 27-14 after Nathan Jeffery scored on a three-yard run with 3:35 remaining in the third quarter, but WKU scored the game’s final 21 points.

Clinging to a 27-21 advantage, the Miners were in position to pad their lead facing third and six at the WKU 16-yard line with about 13 minutes remaining. But Terry snatched a ball thrown by UTEP quarterback Jameill Showers at the 10-yard line and raced to the end zone.

The Miners went third and out on their next series and the Hilltoppers put it away with a six-play, 73-yard drive, capped by a 10-yard pass from Brandon Doughty to Leon Allen. A string of 17 consecutive first-half points, including a 92-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Autrey Golden, lifted the Miners into an early 20-7 lead. It was Golden’s sixth career kickoff return for a TD, tying him for second in Conference USA history and tied for third in NCAA history.

Doughty completed 23 of 34 passes for 324 yards with three touchdowns for the Hilltoppers. UTEP actually outgained WKU in total yardage, 394 to 358, as the Miners put up 236 yards on the ground. Josh Bell and David Hamm led the rushing attack with 68 yards apiece.

LAST WEEK

In a tight first half, UTEP tied the contest 14-14 with 35 seconds left after a Zack Greenlee to David Lucero touchdown, but Army West Point used a 21-7 second half to get past the Miners, 35-21, on a brisk and misty Sept. 30 at Michie Stadium in West Point, N.Y. Quardraiz Wadley was a bright spot for the Miners as he gained a career-high 156 yards and his first career touchdown.

The sophomore running back used patience and hit the holes to gain big yards, including long runs of 19, 18 and 13 yards. Wadley also tallied his first career catch for 15 yards. The Miners gained season-highs in rushing yards (152) and first downs (16). Army West Point (3-2) was led by Andy Davidson’s 100 yards rushing and quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw’s 93 yards. The Black Knights rushed for 353 yards on the day. Wadley put UTEP on the board first on a one-yard rush in the first quarter.

It was Wadley’s first career score and the first lead for the Miners in 2017. UTEP took the ball 81 yards on 15 plays (8:23), while Wadley accounted for 67 of those yards on nine carries. Army answered with a five-play, 75-yard drive (2:32) that was capped by a Davidson 32-yard touchdown. The Black Knights then took a 14-7 lead on a 92-yard, 12-play scoring drive that resulted in a Calen Holt 19-yard touchdown.

The Miners tied the game right before the half as Greenlee, who replaced injured Ryan Metz in the first quarter, led the charge on an eight-play, 73-yard drive (2:39) that resulted in Lucero’s first touchdown in a UTEP uniform – a two-yard reception. But Army regained momentum and used a pair of third-quarter drives to take a 28-14 lead. The first was a five-play, 73-yard drive and the second was a three-play, 55-yard drive that resulted in a rare Army passing score – Bradshaw to Jordan Asberry for 42 yards. Kahani Smith highlighted the Miner defense with a 52-yard pick-six late in the contest. UTEP’s first pick-six since 2015.

The UTEP defense had a chance to give the ball back to the offense, but Army fought for a first down on a fourth-and-2 late in the game to seal the win. Bradshaw gained three yards on the play. Alvin Jones and Treyvon Hughes each tallied eight tackles to lead the defense, while Devin Cockrell and Jamar Smith recorded six stops each.

For Smith, it was a career high. Trace Mascorro, who scored a defensive touchdown the previous week at NM State, registered a career-best four tackles at the nose tackle position. Tyler Batson hauled in five passes for a season-high 80 yards, while Lucero finished with 15 yards on a trio of receptions.

SEASON HIGHS

UTEP scored a season-high 21 points at Army on Sept. 30. The Miners also tallied season highs in rushing yards (152) and first downs (16).

RED ZONE OFFENSE TOUCHDOWNS

UTEP is 87.5 percent (7-8) in red zone touchdowns in 2017, which is tied for no. 7 nationally and ranks first in Conference USA.

KICKOFF RETURN DEFENSE

UTEP is ranked no. 1 in Conference USA and no. 3 in the FBS in kickoff return defense (12.0 avg.).

PENALTY RANKINGS

UTEP ranks fifth in Conference USA and tied for 45th nationally with 25 yellow flags in 2017. UTEP’s 5.0 penalties per game rank tied for 29th in the FBS, while it ranks 42nd in penalty yards (217) and 29th in penalty yards per game (43.4). The Miners also rank fifth in penalty yards (217) and fourth in penalty yards per game (43.4) in C-USA.

FEWER YELLOW FLAGS

UTEP was penalized four times for 35 yards against Arizona on Sept. 15. In week two, the Miners were only penalized two times against Rice. It marked 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.

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 pervious 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.

156 RUSHING YARDS

Quardraiz Wadley is the second Miner to rush for 156 yards as he accomplished the feat at Army on Sept. 30. Joseph Polk hit 156 in 1998 versus San Jose State.

WADLEY’S TOTAL OFFENSE

Quardraiz Wadley racked up 171 yards of total offense as the sophomore recorded his first career reception – a 15-yard catch out of the backfield — in the second quarter at Army on Sept. 30.  It helped set up a touchdown.

FIRST DOWN DOVE

Sophomore RB Kevin Dove, a 245-pound tailback, grinded out his team-leading eighth first down on a career-long 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 79 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 two receptions for five yards against Arizona on Sept. 15. Fields tallied a season-long 18-yard reception against Rice on Sept. 9. Fields has 22 yards on four receptions early in his collegiate career.

BATSON RETURNS

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 leads the team in receptions (12) and yards (150), while scoring a touchdown against Arizona on Sept. 15 – his first since 2015.

LUCERO’S FIRST TD

Junior transfer TE David Lucero found paydirt at Army on Sept. 30 – a two-yard catch in the end zone. The score was Lucero’s first as a Miner, while it was his first Division I score. Lucero scored a touchdown at Arizona Western Community College last season. Lucero ranks second on the team in receptions (11) and ranks third in receiving yards (102). Lucero also hauled in a season-long 18-yard pass at NM State.

TERRY’S CAREER NIGHT VS. ARIZONA

Junior WR Terry Juniel registered career-highs in receptions (four) and yards (82), including a season-long 40-yard grab against Arizona on Sept. 15. Juniel’s previous high was a 44-yard effort on a pair of receptions at LA Tech on Oct 1, 2016. Juniel’s eight receptions in 2017 are tied for third on the team while his 108 receiving yards lead the offense.

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 eight receptions (84 yards).

ALL-AMERICAN STATUS

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.

GUERRA GETTING PLAYING TIME

Sophomore OL Ruben Guerra made the second start of his career at Army on Sept. 30. The Miners rushed for a season-high 152 yards against the Black Knights. Guerra made his first career start against Arizona on Sept. 15. Guerra has played in all five games in 2017, while seeing his first college action against North Texas last season.

PICK-SIX SMITH

Junior transfer DB Kahani Smith took a tipped pass and returned it 52 yards for a score at Army on Sept. 30. It’s the second defensive touchdown for UTEP in 2017 and the first pick-six by a Miner since Kalon Beverly’s versus Incarnate Word in 2015.

BACK-2-BACK GAMES WITH A DEFENSIVE TD

In back-to-back weeks, the UTEP defense scored a touchdown. The first came from Trace Mascorro at NM State on Sept. 23 on a scoop-and-score for 26 yards. Kahani Smith followed with a pick-six at Army on Sept. 30. The last time the Miners went back-to-back games with a defensive score was in 2014 – a Jimmy Musgrave 19-yard pick-six at UTSA on Oct. 25, and two scores against Southern Miss on Nov. 1 in El Paso when Trey Brown went 51 yards on an interception and a Nick Gathrite 59-yard fumble return.

Prior to 2014, the 2008 season was the last time the Miners scored defensive touchdowns in consecutive games. Anthony Morrow took an interception 27 yards to the end zone and Robert Soleyjacks returned a fumble 24 yards for a score against NM State (9/20/08). The next week, Josh Ferguson scored on a 45-yard fumble return and Dane O’Neil recovered a fumble in the end zone against UCF (9/27/08).

LEADING TACKLER

Alvin Jones registered eight more tackles at Army on Sept. 30. Jones currently leads the team in tackles (39) and tackles per game (7.8). Jones ranks 13th in tackles per game (7.8) and fifth in total tackles (39) in Conference USA. Jones has led the Miners in tackles in each of the last two seasons, recording 93 stops during each campaign.

ALVIN THE BALL HAWK

Senior LB Alvin Jones amassed 15 tackles, a sack and 1.5 tackles for loss against Arizona on Sept. 15, the second-most stops in his career. Jones’ career high is 16 tackles twice. The first came against FIU on Oct. 8, 2016 in the Sun Bowl, and Jones followed with another 16-tackle performance at Rice on Nov. 19, 2016.

KEEPING UP WITH ALVIN’S CAREER

Senior Alvin Jones has 280 career tackles (fourth-most at UTEP since the 2000 season) after tallying eight stops at Army on Sept. 30. Jones racked up 15 tackles against Arizona on Sept. 15. Jones also registered a sack and 1.5 tackles for loss against the Wildcats. Jones now has 11.5 career sacks (needs half a sack to crack the program’s all-time top 10 list) and 31.5 career tackles for loss, which now ranks sixth on the program’s top 10 list. Brian Young ranks fifth with 32.0 tackles for loss.

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.

DOUBLE-DIGIT STOPS

Alvin Jones has reached double digits in tackles 10 times during his career after his 15-tackle output on Sept. 15 against Arizona. 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, including his career high of 16 stops, in four contests (12 vs. NM State; 16 vs. FIU; 16 at Rice; 12 vs. North Texas).

HUGHES’ FIRST START

Sophomore LB Treyvon Hughes, who was switched to linebacker from running back prior to the season, made his first career start on either side of the ball at Army on Sept. 30. Hughes responded with eight tackles to tie for the team lead against the Black Knights. Hughes’ total was the second most in his career, while his career high was set against Rice on Sept. 9. Hughes has 26 tackles on the season, ranking tied for second on the team.

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. 9. 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.

ACTION JACKSON

Graduate student LB Julian Jackson tallied four tackles at Army on Sept. 30. Jackson, a transfer from Wake Forest, recorded seven tackles in each of his first three games in a UTEP uniform. Jackson’s seven stops also tied for his college career high. Jackson’s 26 total tackles rank tied for fourth 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 33 stops. 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.

OPERATION LINEBACKER

Four of the top five leading tacklers for the Miners are linebackers. Alvin Jones leads the way with 39 stops, while Dante Lovilotte ranks second (33), while Julian Jackson and Treyvon Hughes are tied for fourth (26).

JAMAR SETS CAREER HIGH

Junior transfer LB Jamar Smith tallied a career-high six tackles at Army on Sept. 30. Smith also registered his second tackle for loss against the Black Knights. Smith’s previous high was a five-tackle effort in his first game in a UTEP uniform at no. 7 Oklahoma, while his first tackle for loss came against Arizona. Smith has recorded 18 tackles and 2.0 tackles for loss in his first season with the Miners.

MASCORRO’S CAREER HIGH

A week after recording a defensive touchdown, true freshman NT Trace Mascorro registered a career-high four tackles at Army on Sept. 30. His previous high was three against Arizona on Sept. 15. Mascorro has tallied 12 tackles with a tackle for loss (three yards).

SCOOP-AND-SCORE MASCORRO

Freshman DL Trace Mascorro scored a touchdown at NM State on Sept. 23. It was Mascorro’s first career scoop-and-score, and first touchdown for the UTEP defense in 2017. Mascorro gained 26 yards on a fumble recovery and chipped in with a tackle against the Aggies. The last defensive score came from Kalon Beverly, a pick-six against Incarnate Word on Sept. 26, 2015.

JUSTIN-TIME ROGERS

For the second year in a row, sophomore DB Justin Rogers intercepted the first pass of the season for the UTEP defense. Rogers picked off a pass at NM State in the first quarter on Sept. 23. It was Rogers’ second career pick. Rogers’ first interception came against FIU in the Sun Bowl last season, which was also the first for the Miners’ defense in 2016. Rogers tied his career best with five tackles (four solo) and half a tackle for loss against the Aggies. Rogers has recorded 15 stops with half a tackle for loss.

OTHER DEFENSIVE NOTABLES VS. ARMY

Senior LB Johnny Jones (four) and junior DL Christian Buckingham (three) registered career highs in tackles at Army on Sept. 30.

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 (9-10 PAT, 1-1 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.

DAS BOOT

El Paso native Alan Luna punted five times for 189 yards with two inside the 20-yard line at Army on Sept. 30. 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 43.2-yard average ranks 40th in the FBS and fourth in Conference USA. Luna leads the league in total punts (35) and punt yards (1,511). Luna ranks sixth in punt yards and is tied for fourth in total punts in the FBS.

LUNA CAREER NOTES

Senior Alan Luna ranks sixth on the program’s all-time list in career punt yards (6,938) and sixth in career punts (162). Ian Campbell ranks no. 5 in career punts (165), 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.

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.

LOCAL FLAVOR

The 2017 roster features 30 players from the El Pas0/Las Cruces area — 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), WR Kavika Johnson (Mayfield [Las Cruces]), 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), FB Forest McKee (Onate [Las Cruces]), 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

Ten players from El Paso grace the two-deep heading into the WKU game. RG Derek Elmendorff, TB Joshua Fields, K/P Jason Filley, FB David Jackson, MIKE Alvin Jones, LG Markos Lujan, K/P Alan Luna, WR (Z) Warren Redix, WR (X) Eddie Sinegal and QB Mark Torrez are listed on the two-deep chart. Of the 10, four of the players (Elmendorff, Jones, Luna, and Redix) are listed no. 1 at their respective positions.

GRADUATE STUDENT-ATHLETES

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, walk-ons RB TK Powell, WR Keynan Foster, LB Johnny Jones, FB David Jackson and FB Robert Pufhal earned scholarships for their performances on the field and in the classroom.

BOWL MANIA

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.

UP NEXT

UTEP will hit the road for a contest at Conference USA West Division foe Southern Miss on Oct. 14 in Hattiesburg. Kickoff is set for 5 p.m. MT/6 CT at M.M. Roberts Stadium. The Miners last played at Hattiesburg on Halloween 2015. The Golden Eagles got by the Miners, 34-13. The game was delayed due to a lightning storm, then a tornado warning ensued and postponed the contest for over an hour.

UTEP Football Coach Sean Kugler Steps Down

Sean Kugler stepped down as UTEP’s head football coach on Sunday, effective immediately.

“After meeting with coach [Bob] Stull and discussing my future and the future of this program, we mutually agreed the best thing is for me to step down as the head coach,” Kugler said.  “My love for UTEP is in my heart forever, and my love for all the players that I have coached here is even stronger.  We have accomplished many things together — a bowl appearance in 2014, a perfect APR score, the highest GPA in team history and countless players getting their degrees.  I am so proud of my players and their behavior off the field representing El Paso as great ambassadors in community service.

“I would like to thank coach Stull and Dr. [Diana] Natalicio for this great opportunity.  I would like to thank the Miner fans who I love for all your support throughout my career as a player, assistant and head coach.  I am proud to be a Miner for life.”

“We really appreciate the dedication and hard work that coach Kugler has brought to this program, and we are proud of the accomplishments during his tenure as head coach,” Director of Athletics Bob Stull said.  “After a long discussion, we have agreed that it is best for him and the program that he step down.  Sean will always be a Miner and we wish him the best in his coaching future.”

Kugler concludes his UTEP tenure with a record of 18-36, including an 11-22 mark in Conference USA play.  He led the Miners to a winning season in 2014 (7-6) and a berth in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl.

Immediate future plans for the UTEP football program will be announced at the weekly football media luncheon on Monday at 11:30 a.m.

UTEP lost to Army on Saturday 35-21.

H-P Sports In Depth: Coach Kugler Talks NMSU, Looks Ahead to Army

UTEP will take on Army West Point for a second consecutive season on September 30. Kickoff is set for 1:30 p.m. MT/3:30 ET at Michie Stadium in West Point, N.Y. Saturday’s matchup will be the second meeting between the Miners and the Black Knights.

Both programs are coming off setbacks on Sept. 23 as UTEP fell to NM State for the first time in nine years and Army was edged by Tulane, 21-17. Army and UTEP met for the first time last season in the Sun Bowl. The Miners are looking for their first win in the Eastern Time Zone (0-21-1).

(OPENING STATEMENT)
“For this past game, the Captain of the Week is Quardraiz Wadley. Top Gun for special teams is Adrian Hynson. We had a couple of injuries in this game that will be probably long-term for some of these guys. Tight end Josh Weeks injured his foot, broke that and he’ll be out for a considerable amount of time. Then Keynan Foster, who’s been doing a nice job for us at the slot receiver position and as a returner, injured his knee in that game. So, he’ll be out for some time, which challenges our depth right now having 11 players out. But we’ll have to overcome that.”

(ON NM STATE LOSS [SEPT. 23])
“Offensively, in this game, the story was five turnovers. We threw five interceptions – three of those in the first half. I do want to emphasize that Ryan Metz will be our quarterback moving forward. At halftime, we tried to create a spark for our team, which didn’t work, unfortunately for us. But I want everyone to know that Ryan is our quarterback moving forward. We have all the confidence in world that he’s going to do the job. We do need better play from the [quarterback] position. We only completed 29 percent of our passes in that game. And on the year, we have six interceptions and only two touchdowns. That needs to change. We need to play to their strengths and what they do best and game-plan it that way and try to execute it.

“We didn’t do a good job on third downs and, again, we were hindered by [dropped passes] with three of those being on third downs; one of those drops ended up being an interception. And of our turnovers, two turned into 14 points for NM State. The one that was really the turning point in the game when it was 14-7, we had an opportunity with the ball and had a pick-six right before the half and turned it into a 21-7 game and kind of turned the tide in the game for us.

“We did the run the better, but not the quite to the efficiency we need to as a team. But we did have 135 yards rushing and that needs to continue to improve in increments in order for us to have a chance to win. And then Quardraiz Wadley came back from injury and, in his first performance, I thought he did very well. He had 19 carries, which is about the load we wanted to give him. He had 77 yards and a 4.1 average. I think he’s an outstanding running back, and he’s just going to get better and better as he gets more carries. We will make a positional change with Walter Dawn Jr. Being that Quardraiz is back, Walter is going to play receiver for us and try give us some spark out there and create plays out there. There’s a lot of things that he can do with motion and those type things that we’ll try to take advantage of.

“As I mentioned, Ryan Metz is our quarterback. So, Zack Greenlee and Mark Torrez will battle throughout the week of practice for as far who will be the no. 2 [quarterback]. And that’s how we’ll move forward at that position.

“Defensively, we did not contain running back [Larry] Rose III, who, again, I always felt he was the best running back we’ll face all year. I still think that and I think he’s a talented young man. He had 144 yards and two touchdowns. He popped a long one that was kind of a backbreaker for us. Many of those runs came on third downs when we had opportunities to get off the field and we didn’t contain him. Their quarterback [Tyler Rogers] played extremely well and he’s gotten better. He was at 60 percent efficiency, he had two touchdowns as well. He was more effective late in the game. I thought we had him bottled up pretty good early in the game. We did gain two turnovers, an interception by Justin Rogers and then we had a fumble recovery for a touchdown by Trace Mascorro that was forced by Johnny Jones. So [Justin] Rogers made a nice play on the ball in the first quarter, which gave us a nice opportunity. But we gave the ball right back to them and that was a good play.

“We did have zero quarterback sacks and only two quarterback hits. We have to generate more pressure on the quarterback, whether that is through blitzing, and guys winning their individual techniques one-on-one. Probably won’t come into play this next game [at Army], because this is a team which doesn’t throw the ball very often, if at all. But in the future, we need to amp that up.

“On third downs, they were efficient and we weren’t. Again, probably a tale of the game, they we’re 53 percent on third downs.

“The backbreaker for us was a 99-yard drive. [Alan] Luna did a nice job, Adrian Hynson made a great play pinning the ball down at the one-year line. And we had several opportunities within that drive to get off field and did not execute that.

“On special teams, I really feel, minus the one punt return against Arizona [on Sept. 15], has been solid. And all units throughout the season. Luna was at a 44.1 average with a long of 53 [yards], three inside the 20-yard line and the one that was pinned down at the five-yard line. [NM State] only had one return for five yards with a very dangerous returner.

“On punt returns, Terry Juniel had three returns for 10 yards with a long of seven yards. We need to get better hold ups there. He had one where he tried to outrun the coverage and we just need to put our foot in the ground and run north and south on that one; he’ll learn from that.

“On kickoff cover, I think [Brady] Viles was doing a nice job. He had two touchbacks and the one that was returned was an onside kick for zero yards.

“On kickoff return, we’ll miss Keynan Foster in that category. But Terry Juniel will step into that role for [Foster], along with Warren Redix and he’s very capable. But we did have a long [return] of 30 yards from Juniel when he was in there after Keynan Foster got injured. And again, Viles was 2-for-2 on PAT’s and we had no field goal opportunities.

“Sounds like a broken record, but it was a very disappointing loss. My hat goes off to [NM State] head coach [Doug] Martin. I have a lot of respect for him and I think he’s doing an outstanding job there at NM State. [NM State] out played us in every phase; probably with the exception of special teams. They earned that win. We’ve competed with them for five years and we’re 4-1. But it’s the last one that counts and it was very disappointing one.”

(ON PLAYING AT ARMY WEST POINT [SEPT. 30])
“We move onto Army. Again, this is an outstanding football team. A team that won their bowl game last year. They started off this year, beating Fordham, 64-6; beat the University of Buffalo, 21-17; played an outstanding game at Ohio State. I know they were on the losing end of that game, but it was a very close game and ended just getting away from them at the end. And then they just lost a close game this past weekend at Tulane.

“As always, they’re very disciplined; only 32 yards per game in penalties. They’ve only had five turnovers on the year and they’ve gained three. So, they’re in the negative category. And as always, they’re a well-conditioned team, as you would expect that and they outscore their opponent 34-14 in the fourth quarter.

“Offensively, it’s a triple option offense. It’s fullback and quarterback based. They have a retuning quarterback who played against us last year – [Ahmad] Bradshaw, who is a senior, he leads their team in rushing at 439 yards with a 7.0-yard average and four touchdowns. They return their fullback that started against us last year, [Andy] Davidson, no. 40, 207 yards with a 5.3 average and one touchdown. And then they have a slot runner, who’s 5-foot-9, 195 pounds [RB Kell Walker] and averages 8.7 per carry, so they utilize him in a lot of the perimeter runs.

“They have three seniors returning on a very physical offensive line. They’re averaging 27 points per game, but they average 366 yards rushing a game. They only have nine yards passing per game, but I will say this, you have to keep your eyes focused in this game, because the second you lose your responsibility and take your eyes off your man, they can hit you with a long pass at any time. So, we have to play very disciplined football.

“They’ve been great with time of possession at 34 minutes. That’s something that we aspire to do. And then they been great on third downs at 43 percent in red zone touchdowns. They’ve been sacked zero times. But again, they don’t put the ball into the air that much.

“Defensively, they’re very stingy, only giving up 20 points per game. It’s an aggressive, odd blitzing scheme. These guys fly to the football. They’re only giving up 190 yards per game at 6.6 per play. But again, they’ve been great on third downs at 33 percent. They’ve been great in the red zone with only 50 percent touchdowns. They’ve only been on the field for 26 minutes a game because of the way their offense steals possessions. And they have nine quarterback sacks. This is an aggressive defense that gets after the quarterback and we will have our challenge there.

“Defensively, their outside linebacker Cole Christiansen, who played against us last year, is 6-foot-2, 225 pounds and leads their team in tackles and also tackles for losses. His backup is second on team in tackles. So, they get great production from their outside linebackers. They have safety who’s third on their team in tackles. He’s got a tackle for loss, a sack, an interception return for a touchdown and a forced fumble. That player is no. 7 Jaylon McClinton. And then the outside linebacker played against us last year, that we thought very highly of, a big outside linebacker, his name is Alex Aukerman, he’s 6-1, 260 [pounds]. He leads their team in tackles for loss and sacks.

“Their top interior d-lineman that is a defensive end named John Voit. He leads their team in tackles for losses and second on the team in sacks. They’re an outstanding defense with a lot of returning starters. And it will be a challenge for us.

“Special teams, as you would expect, they have great coverage units. These guys fly around. On punt, teams only average 2.0 yards a return against team. And then kickoff coverage team, they only average getting back to the 17-yard line. So, these guys fly down the field and they’re very physical. Their punt return is no. 6, he’s got three returns on the year. And then their kickoff returner is no. 5, he’s got a 22-yard average. And their kicker is 2-for-4 on field goals and 13-of-14 on PAT’s.

“We know what we are against. It’s a long road trip for us. We need to energize our team. Right now, we’re a wounded animal. But in my mind, you either make a decision. You can fight back or just lay down. Our mentality is to fight bac and start this thing one game at a time.”

(ON KEEPING THE TEAM MOTIVATED)
“Well, you challenge them as well. As a man, you either fight back or you lay down. We’re going to continue to work, try to continue to put together the best game plan we can, and continue to try to develop the players that we have. We are down players, injury wise. Guys are going to have to step up in their roles and compete in those roles. And as a head coach, you got to keep the kids motivated, you have to keep them going to class, keep them doing to the right things on-and-off the field, and keep pushing them in the right direction. That’s all you can do. There’s no magic formula.”

(ON EVALUATING NEWLY APPOINTED OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR BRIAN NATKIN)
“I thought he called a good game. I think you saw a really good glimpse in the first quarter of the style of offense that we want to be. We held the ball 11 minutes, we had a long, time-consuming drive that was balanced with run-and-play action. And again, the game got out of hand with turnovers and it turned into a passing game in the second half, which again, we’re not quite built for at this point. We ran the ball more effectively, the time of possession was better, but the turnovers killed us. And some of those were decisions and some of them were based off drops. I don’t blame that on play calling, I thought for his first game he did an outstanding job.”

(WITH GAME TIED 7-7 AT NM STATE, ONE PLAY THAT YOU SAW AS A BACK BREAKER)
“I mentioned the two. One of the 99-yard drive against us on defense. And then offensively, the pick-six right before halftime. Those were the two plays that turned the tide.”

(ON UTEP DEFENSE CIRCLING ARMY GAME ON CALENDER AFTER GIVING UP 66 POINTS LAST YEAR)
“Well, there’s been a lot of time put into it. I know [defensive coordinator] coach [Tom] Mason and his staff did a lot of research in the offseason seeing what we can do better to defend the triple option. We spent more time in training camp than we ever have and did a lot of periods against the option. So, there’s been more time invested. We have to go out and try to execute that on game day.”

(ON METZ’S SHOULDER; NOT READY TO MAKE THROWS OR JUST RUST?)
“Ryan [Metz] will be the same. He’s not going to make an excuse; I’m not going to make an excuse for him. But ultimately, he did throw the interceptions. We did try to make spark change at halftime that didn’t go. I even pulled [Metz] over to the side after the game to tell him he’s our guy and always our guy. He fought through pain in the game; he’s a tough kid and he’ll do whatever it takes to help his team win.”

(ON WALTER DAWN JR. MOVING BACK TO WR)
“Walter [Dawn Jr.] has shown the ability to make plays and he can make dynamic plays. He gave us some good plays at the running back position, but with Quardraiz [Wadley] back, I think it frees up Walter to do so many more things for him. It makes no sense for him to be waiting on the sidelines, waiting to get carries after Quardraiz, when he can be on the field full time, making plays for us.”

(ON NEW UTEP WR ERIK BROWN)
“Erik Brown is a junior college receiver from Riverside [CC]. He’s a bounce-back from Cal. He started college career at Cal. He had to pass a math class late and didn’t get it done on time during training camp and extended into the first week of school. So, we did sign him late. We’re trying to get him caught up to speed as fast as we can. He played minimally [at NM State] because he isn’t ready. He’s only been here a week. But the kid has a lot of talent and he’s got great burst. He has a great attitude. He wants to learn, he wants to make plays for us. You’ll see no. 13 on the field quite a bit. As he can handle it, we’ll try to develop him and get him into the game plan.”

***UTEP vs Army in Depth

SERIES HISTORY
Army loomed victorious in the only previous matchup between the teams, 66-14 on Sept. 17, 2016 in the Sun Bowl.

CONNECTIONS
Two players, one from each roster, played at Vandegrift High School (Austin, Texas) – UTEP freshman QB Alex Fernandes and Army West Point junior DB Max Regan.

100 yard American Flag displayed at the Sun Bowl

ABOUT ARMY
The Black Knights dropped to 2-2 after their 21-17 loss at Tulane on Sept. 23 in New Orleans, La. Sophomore RB Connor Slomka gave Army a 17-14 edge after he found the end zone on a five-yard run off a 15-play, 71-yard drive that ended with 5:32 left in the contest. The Green Wave used a 19-play, 75-yard drive that was capped by a Jonathan Banks four-yard run with 23 seconds left in the contest. Sophomore QB Kelvin Hopkins Jr. threw an interception to end the game.

The Black Knights rushed for 371 yards, their third 320-plus yard game of the season. Junior RB Andy Davidson led the way with 130 yards on 26 carries (5.0 avg.), while senior QB Ahmad Bradshaw gained 65 yards on 10 attempts with a score. The Army QBs combined for zero completions on five attempts with two picks. Junior LB James Nachtigal led the defense with six tackles. Army opened the season with a convincing 64-6 win over Fordham behind 513 rushing yards and eight scores. Army followed with a 21-17 triumph over Buffalo on Sept. 9 and was then dropped at no. 8 Ohio State, 38-7. The Black Knights are averaging 27.3 points per game, while giving up 20.5 per contest.

Army is averaging 366.3 rushing yards per game, ranking third in the FBS. Bradshaw is leading the way with 439 yards on 63 attempts (7.0 avg.) with four scores. Junior RB Darnell Woolfolk (5-foot-9, 235 pounds) has also scored four times with 260 yards rushing. Davidson has rushed for 207 yards and a score. Sophomore LB Cole Christiansen leads the team with 22 tackles (13 solo). Senior LB Alex Aukerman leads the way with 3.0 sacks for a defense that has totaled 9.0 on the season. Aukerman has also tallied a team-best 5.0 tackles for losses. Sophomore DB Jaylon McClinton has the team’s only interception.

THE LAST MEETING
Andy Davidson and Chris Carter combined for 200 of Army’s 424 yards rushing, as the Black Knights cruised to a 66-14 victory over UTEP on Sept. 17, 2016 in the Sun Bowl. Army scored the game’s first 38 points and kept the Miners off the scoreboard until early in the third quarter. The Black Knights did not punt and racked up 598 yards.

Zack Greenlee completed 7-of-15 passes for 106 yards, and Aaron Jones rushed 11 times for 67 yards for the Miners, who were held to 269 yards. Davidson gained 17 yards on 106 carries, and Carter added 94 yards on nine attempts. The Black Knights were playing with heavy hearts after cornerback Brandon Jackson lost his life in a car accident the previous week. They rode the emotional wave to a 38-0 lead as four players scored rushing touchdowns and Max Regan added a 13-yard fumble recovery for a score before UTEP collected its first points. Rated no. 4 nationally in time of possession coming into the game, the Black Knights dominated the stat line 41:40 to 18:20.

LAST WEEK
Larry Rose III rushed for 144 yards and scored three touchdowns, leading NM State to a 41-14 victory over UTEP on Sept. 23 at Aggie Memorial Stadium. The Aggies snapped the Miners’ school-record eight-game winning streak in the FirstLight Federal Credit Union Battle of I-10. UTEP is 4-1 versus the Aggies under head coach Sean Kugler. Rose compiled 189 all-purpose yards with two rushing touchdowns and one receiving. Tyler Rogers completed 26-of-43 passes for 283 yards with a pair of scores for the Aggies.

The Miners tried two different quarterbacks (Ryan Metz in the first half, Mark Torrez in the second half), but their offensive woes continued. They finished with 227 yards of offense, including 81 on their only scoring drive in the first quarter. Their other touchdown came on a 26-yard fumble recovery by Trace Mascorro late in the game. Metz, returning to the lineup after missing a game with a shoulder injury, threw three interceptions in the first half and finished 6-of-18 passing for 54 yards.

Torrez was 4-of-16 passing for 38 yards with two picks and also rushed seven times for 31 yards. After the teams traded interceptions on their second offensive series, the Aggies drew first blood when Rose broke free for a 40-yard touchdown run. The Miners tied it up with an impressive 12-play, 81-yard drive as Quardraiz Wadley, making his 2017 season debut, rushed four times for 30 yards in the sequence. Metz targeted his tight ends on the drive as Josh Weeks and David Lucero reeled in passes of six and 11 yards respectively.

UTEP ate 6:52 off the clock on the series as Metz finished it off with a five-yard touchdown run. In the first quarter, UTEP controlled the clock for 11:07 to NM State’s 3:53. The Aggies gave the Miners a taste of their own medicine in the second quarter as they took the ball at their own three-yard line and moved 97 yards on 15 plays over five minutes and 23 seconds. Rose scored on a 28-yard scamper, going over 100 yards for the game in the process and putting the Aggies ahead 14-7.

The Aggies increased their lead to 21-7 late in the second quarter when, on third and four deep in Miner territory, Metz’s pass intended for Keynan Foster was picked off by the Aggies’ Shamad Lomax and returned 19 yards for a touchdown. The Miners got within field goal range right before halftime, but Lomax picked off Metz to end the scoring threat. The Aggies put together a seven-play, 60-yard drive in the third quarter as Rose found the end zone for the third time. His two-yard TD reception from Tyler Rogers made it 27-7 in favor of NM State.

Rogers accounted for three touchdowns on the night. He connected with Conner Cramer for a 10-yard score late in the third quarter and ran for a four-yard TD early in the fourth. Wadley had a promising start to his sophomore season, gaining 77 yards on 19 carries. NM State put up 462 yards of offense and applied pressure defensively, collecting seven tackles for losses, three sacks and four quarterback hurries. The Aggies’ offensive efficiency was buoyed by a 9-for-17 effort on third down, compared to UTEP’s 2-for-15.

UTEP VS. THE MILITARY
UTEP is 1-14 all-time against Air Force, while posting a 2-0 mark against the 8th Calvary (1922, 1923), 2-0 record versus the 20th Infantry (1914, 1915), a victory against the 260th Coastal Artillery in 1941 and a victory against the 4th Artillery in 1915, while falling to the 2nd Artillery the same season. The Miners were also 12-7-1 versus NM Military. UTEP fell to Army West Point in 2016 in the first meeting between the two programs. UTEP has never faced Navy in its 100 years of football.

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.

SEASON HIGHS FOR OFFENSE
UTEP’s 12-play, 81-yard scoring drive in the first quarter at NM State on Sept. 23 was the most plays and longest of the season to this point. The drive ended on a QB Ryan Metz five-yard touchdown rush. UTEP also gained season highs in rushing yards (135) and first downs (15) versus the Aggies.

RED ZONE OFFENSE
UTEP is 5-for-5 in red zone touchdowns in 2017, which is tied for no. 1 nationally. The Miners are one of 17 programs at 100 percent.

KICKOFF RETURN DEFENSE
UTEP is ranked no. 1 in Conference USA and no. 3 in the FBS in kickoff return defense (11.5 avg.).

FEWER YELLOW FLAGS
UTEP was penalized four times for 35 yards against Arizona on Sept. 15. In week two, the Miners were only penalized two times against Rice. It marked 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.

PENALTY RANKINGS
UTEP ranks fourth in Conference USA and tied for 36th nationally with 20 yellow flags in 2017. UTEP’s 5.0 penalties per game rank tied for 25th in FBS, while it ranks 34th in penalty yards (167) and 22nd in penalty yards per game (41.8). The Miners also rank fourth in penalty yards (167) and penalty yards per game (3.7) in C-USA.

WADLEY’S RETURN
Sophomore RB Quardraiz Wadley made his season debut at NM State on Sept. 23 and rushed for a career-high 77 yards on the night. Wadley’s previous high was a 36-yard effort to open the 2016 season against NM State in the Sun Bowl. Wadley rushed for 168 yards during his freshman season.

FIRST DOWN DOVE
Sophomore RB Kevin Dove, a 245-pound tailback, grinded out his seventh first down of the season on a rushing play at NM State on Sept. 23. Dove gained three yards on a third-and-1 during the first quarter against the Aggies. 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 62 yards this season.

JOSHUA TAKES THE FIELD
True freshman RB and El Paso native Joshua Fields registered a season-high two receptions for five yards against Arizona on Sept. 15. Fields tallied a season-long 18-yard reception against Rice on Sept. 9. Fields has 22 yards on four receptions early in his collegiate career.

METZ’S RUSHING SCORES
Junior QB Ryan Metz rushed for a five-yard score in the first quarter at NM State on Sept. 23, his second of the season and third of his career. Metz’s first career rushing score came at NM State in 2015 during UTEP’s 50-47 OT win. Metz found the end zone against Rice in the Sun Bowl on Sept. 9 on a one-yard run in the fourth quarter.

21 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 21st 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.

TORREZ GETS EXTENDED ACTION IN BACK-TO-BACK GAMES
Freshman QB Mark Torrez was inserted under center in the second half at NM State on Sept. 23. Torrez rushed for 31 yards, including a long of 18 yards, and completed four passes. Against Arizona on Sept. 15, Torrez made his way to the field in the second quarter and engineered a six-play, 34-yard drive (3:10) that resulted in K Brady Viles’ 53-yard field goal before the half. Torrez hit WR Terry Juniel on a pair of passes, the first for 13 yards on a first-and-10 and a 21-yard strike on a first-and-10 that set up the made field goal attempt. Torrez also made a few plays with his feet, escaping Wildcat defenders to avoid sacks.

TORREZ’S FIRST TOUCHDOWN
Mark Torrez hit paydirt on a six-yard quarterback keeper to the right side in the beginning of the third quarter against Arizona on Sept. 15. Torrez paced the Miners on a four-play, 76-yard drive that took 2:11. Torrez connected on a 14-yard pass to TE David Lucero on a second-and-7. A roughing the passer call on Arizona moved the ball 15 more yards for the Miners during the scoring drive.

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).

LUCERO’S LONG RECEPTION
Junior TE David Lucero hauled in a career-long 18-yard reception during the second quarter at NM State on Sept. 23. Lucero is tied for the team lead with eight catches for 87 yards (10.9 avg.) this season. Lucero registered season highs in receptions (three) and yards (31) against Rice on Sept. 9. Lucero hauled in a 14-yard reception against Arizona on Sept. 15. Lucero ranks t-first on the team with eight catches (87 yards).

TERRY’S CAREER NIGHT VS. ARIZONA
Junior WR Terry Juniel registered career-highs in receptions (four) and yards (82), including a season-long 40-yard grab against Arizona on Sept. 15. Juniel’s previous high was a 44-yard effort on a pair of receptions at LA Tech on Oct 1, 2016. Juniel’s seven receptions in 2017 are tied for second on the team with WR Kavika Johnson. Juniel’s 108 receiving yards (13.5 avg.) and yards per game (27.0) lead the offense.

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 t-first on the team with eight receptions (84 yards).

ALL-AMERICAN STATUS
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.

FIRST PICK ROGERS
For the second season in a row, sophomore DB Justin Rogers intercepted the first pass of the season for the UTEP defense. Rogers picked off a pass at NM State in the first quarter on Sept. 23. It was Rogers’ second career pick. Rogers’ first interception came against FIU in the Sun Bowl last season, which was also the first for the Miners’ defense in 2016. Rogers tied his career best with five tackles (four solo) and half a tackle for loss against the Aggies.

SCOOP-AND-SCORE MASCORRO
Freshman DL Trace Mascorro scored a touchdown at NM State on Sept. 23. It was Mascorro’s first career scoop-and-score, and first touchdown for the UTEP defense in 2017. Mascorro gained 26 yards on a fumble recovery and chipped in with a tackle against the Aggies. The last defensive score came from Kalon Beverly, a pick-six against Incarnate Word on Sept. 26, 2015.

ALVIN THE BALL HAWK
Senior LB Alvin Jones amassed 15 tackles, a sack and 1.5 tackles for loss against Arizona on Sept. 15, the second-most stops in his career. Jones’ career high is 16 tackles twice. The first came against FIU on Oct. 8, 2016 in the Sun Bowl, and Jones followed with another 16-tackle performance at Rice on Nov. 19, 2016.

LEADING TACKLER
Alvin Jones has led the Miners in each of the last two seasons, recording 93 stops during each campaign. Jones is leading the UTEP defense in tackles (31) and tackles per game (7.8) once again in 2017. Jones ranks tied for 12th with two other players in tackles per game (7.8) and ranks tied for eighth in total tackles (31) in Conference USA.

KEEPING UP WITH ALVIN’S CAREER
Senior Alvin Jones has 272 career tackles (fifth-most at UTEP since the 2000 season) after tallying six stops at NM State on Sept. 23. Jones racked up 15 tackles against Arizona on Sept. 15. Jones also registered a sack and 1.5 tackles for loss against the Wildcats. Jones now has 11.5 career sacks (needs half a sack to crack the program’s all-time top 10 list) and 31.5 career tackles for loss, which now ranks sixth on the program’s top 10 list. Brian Young ranks fifth with 32.0 tackles for loss. 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.

DOUBLE-DIGIT STOPS
Alvin Jones has reached double digits in tackles 10 times during his career after his 15-tackle output on Sept. 15 against Arizona. 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, including his career high of 16 stops, in four contests (12 vs. NM State; 16 vs. FIU; 16 at Rice; 12 vs. North Texas).

ACTION JACKSON
Graduate student LB Julian Jackson tallied seven more tackles against Arizona on Sept. 15. Jackson, a transfer from Wake Forest, recorded seven tackles in each of his first three games in a UTEP uniform. Jackson’s seven stops also tied for his college career high. Jackson’s 22 total tackles rank tied for fourth 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.

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. 9. 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 has registered 18 tackles this season.

Recovering Fumbles
UTEP has recovered a pair of fumbles, one by junior DB Nik Needham (vs. Rice) and the other by freshman DB Joseph Pickney (vs. Arizona), the first of their respective careers.

IN THE NIK OF TIME
Junior DB Nik Needham recorded the first full sack of his UTEP career on Sept. 9. 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 versus the Owls. Needham has recorded 15 tackles on the season.

Defensive Notables At NM State
Senior LB Dante Lovilotte and junior DB Kalon Beverly each tallied eight tackles to lead the Miners. It was a season high in tackles for Beverly, while he also registered his first career half tackle for loss. Senior DB Devin Cockrell registered six tackles against the Aggies. Senior DL Sky Logan registered a season-high four stops, while Kahani Smith notched four stops, the second-most for the junior transfer. Lovilotte ranks second on the team with 29 tackles, while Cockrell ranks third with 24 stops. Beverly is tied for fourth with 22 tackles.

KEYNAN’S SPECIAL EFFORT
Sophomore WR/KR Keynan Foster returned a season-high 28-yard kickoff against Arizona on Sept. 15. The speedster returned four kickoffs for 94 yards, both season highs. Foster also hauled in a career-long 13-yard pass against the Wildcats and tallied 107 all-purpose yards. On the season, Foster ranks fifth in kickoff return average (22.8), fourth in return yards (205) and is tied for third in total kickoff returns (nine). Foster’s 51.3 average per game is ranked fourth in C-USA.

JUNIEL’S LONG KO RETURN
Junior WR Terry Juniel returned a pair of kickoffs at NM State on Sept. 23 for 50 yards. Juniel returned one 30 yards for a career long. His previous high was a 26-yard return against NM State 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. Vile was good on one of two PAT attempts against the Wildcats. Viles has nine points (6-7 PAT, 1-1 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.

DAS BOOT
El Paso native Alan Luna punted eight times for 353 yards, third-most in his career, with one inside the five-yard line at NM State on Sept. 23. 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 44.7-yard average ranks 33rd in the FBS and fourth in Conference USA. Luna leads the league in total punts (30) and punt yards (1,322). Luna ranks sixth in punt yards and is tied for fourth in total punts in the FBS.

LUNA CAREER NOTES
Senior Alan Luna ranks sixth on the program’s all-time list in career punt yards (6,749) and moved to sixth in career punts (157) after Saturday’s performance at NM State. Ian Campbell ranks no. 5 in career punts (165), 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.

RECENT COACHING CHANGES
UTEP Head Coach Sean Kugler appointed Brian Natkin as offensive coordinator on Sept. 18. Natkin, who was an All-American in 2000 at the tight end postion for UTEP, previously coached the tight ends and served as the team’s special teams coordinator. Natkin was co-offensive coordinator at Midwestern State during the 2011 campaign. The Mustangs went 10-1 in 2011, while leading the nation in total offense (531.9 ypg) and scoring (48.6 ppg). Natkin’s coaching career began as a graduate assistant at UTEP in 2004 and 2005. In 2006, Natkin coached the offensive line at Northern Colorado before spending five seasons (2007-11) at Midwestern State. Other moves by Kugler included Chuck Veliz taking over as quarterbacks coach, and safeties coach Don Yanowsky assuming duties as special teams coordinator.

LOCAL FLAVOR
The 2017 roster features 30 players from the El Pas0/Las Cruces area — 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), WR Kavika Johnson (Mayfield [Las Cruces]), 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), FB Forest McKee (Onate [Las Cruces]), 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
Ten players from El Paso grace the two-deep heading into the Army game. RG Derek Elmendorff, TB Joshua Fields, K/P Jason Filley, 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 10, five of the players (Elmendorff, Jones, Luna, Metz and Redix) are listed no. 1 at their respective positions.

GRADUATE STUDENT-ATHLETES
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. Tulsa head coach Phillip Montgomery son plays for the Golden Hurricanes. 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. Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez, has his son Rhett playing for the Wildcats. And Bobby Wilder of Old Dominion has his son Derek playing for the Monarchs. Other coaches that have their son’s playing for them is Rick Stockstill at Middle Tennessee (Brent) and Dabo Swinney of Clemson (Will).

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.

BOWL MANIA
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.

UP NEXT
UTEP will host WKU for the first time ever in the 86th Homecoming game on Oct. 7. The Miners will start a string of seven consecutive Conference USA games versus WKU. Kickoff against the Hilltoppers is set for 6 p.m. in the Sun Bowl. The meeting will be just the second-ever between UTEP and WKU. The two teams first met on Nov. 8, 2014 in Bowling Green, Ky. with WKU coming out on top 35-27. The Miners rushed for 236 yards, while the Hilltoppers threw for 324 yards in the back-and-forth contest.

H-P Sports In Depth: Coach Kugler Talks UTEP-OU, Rice Game Preps

UTEP Football Head Coach Sean Kugler spoke to the media Monday, talking about Saturday’s loss to Oklahoma and this coming week’s contest vs Rice.

(On Last Week’s Loss at Oklahoma)

“We faced an outstanding Oklahoma team and did not do the things necessary to give ourselves the chance to compete.  We talked about not turning it over.  We did have one turnover.  Kevin Dove had a fumble on a third and short situation.  We didn’t run the ball as efficiently as we wanted to.  We did at times.  I thought Walter Dawn had some outstanding runs in that game.  But there were other times I felt we really left yards on the field, where the back could’ve put his foot on the ground and gone north and south.  We’ve got to get better at that moving on.  Our goal is always 4.5 [yards] per rush.  We were only at 3.5 against a very stout front.

“We talked about catching the catchables.  We had three drops in that game that all ended series, two of them on third downs.  We can’t allow that to happen.  The thing I was most disappointed with from an offensive standpoint, we had some pre-snap penalties and assignment errors.  We had two formation penalties where the linemen weren’t set when we were putting things in motion.  We’ve got to be cleaner with that.  We did have a holding call on short yardage where the ball bounced.  I probably put that more on the back than the young man who was holding.  We did have one clock issue.  In the first game, you would expect to have a couple of those things.  But against a team like that, you can’t afford to be in a first and 15.

“Some positives offensively, again, the play of Walter Dawn.  I really thought Ryan Metz was efficient.  I didn’t think he had a lot of help around him as far as drops and those type things, but I thought the protection was clean.  We really only gave up one sack and that was more the left tackle getting chipped by the back, it wasn’t necessarily him getting beat.  So I thought there were some positives up front moving forward.  Defensively, they dominated us.  They were 7-for-7 in the red zone.  We really had difficulty containing and covering their tight end.  That guy is a future first round draft pick.  He is one of the best I’ve seen at the collegiate level.

“Their quarterback is outstanding and it showed in that game as a guy who buys time with his legs, he is very patient and very poised and he had some outstanding deep ball throws as well.  We didn’t do a great job stopping the run.  They were 4.7 [yards] per clip.  I mentioned the quarterback’s efficiency and really, the only time he has been inefficient was if we got a lot of pressure on him.  We only had one sack and two quarterback hits, not enough on that guy.

“A big negative that came out of this game that will carry into the next game, Alvin Jones was ejected in the second half for a targeting foul.  Anytime you go up near the head area, you’re putting your fate in the referee’s hands.  Unfortunately for us, we not only lost him for the remainder of the game, we also lose him for the first half of the Rice game, which will be an opportunity for somebody like Jamar Smith or Treyvon Hughes to step up and pick up that flag for the first half.  We did not force any turnovers and as I mentioned we lost one, so we’re -1 for the year.  Probably the most disappointing thing was we had a lot of missed tackles on defense.  Guys that are usually surefire tacklers, again, a lot of that had to do with Oklahoma and their talent but a lot of that had to do with not pulling the trigger on certain plays, which we’ve got to get better at moving forward.

“I thought special teams was a positive.  I think Luna was outstanding, he had a 44-yard average.  The coverage was outstanding, he had a 38.2 net.  He got three inside the 20 and it really should’ve been four, Michael Lewis stumbled on that and it would’ve been easily downed at the one.  So Luna had a great day, he was the special teams player of the week and received the Top Gun Award.  Punt return, we only had the one return that Terry Juniel fair caught, so nothing there.  Kickoff cover, I thought the coverage was good.  We had one touchback.  You saw Viles’ strength of his leg on that.  We did have one return that they took from inside the end zone and they only returned it 23 yards, so the coverage was good there.  Kickoff return, I thought there was great communication as far as when to return and hold it back.  We had two returns for 45 yards and a long of 23 with Keynan Foster.  I think that tandem with him and Warren Redix will be good for the future.  And we had no field goal opportunities in that game.

“Again, you look back on it, time of possession was not in our favor and the turnover battle was not in our favor.  They did an outstanding job on third downs, 57 percent, where we were at 33 percent.  If I had to look at one positive, most of the players in our program did get the opportunity to compete, and it gave us a chance to really evaluate a lot of the younger guys who have not been in that arena moving forward.”

(On Rice)

“They’re sitting in the same boat as us.  They had a game the week before and actually had this week as a bye week.  They lost to a very powerful Stanford team in Australia.  This is a team that got after us towards the end of last year.  The same type of situations, they didn’t do a good job against Stanford with time of possession or third downs, but this team has a lot of returning talent.  Their quarterback is new, he’s a redshirt freshman.  I feel they’ve upgraded there from an athletic standpoint.  You’re seeing these guys run a little bit more option with him.  He’s got a pretty nice deep ball and they’ve got some targets he can throw it to.  This kid was an All-State quarterback in high school, he was a 3,000-yard passer.  Against Stanford he was 7-of-18 for 69 yards.  He was sacked two times versus Stanford.

“Both running backs are back and they are both compact guys, built about the same.  #45 Sam Stewart, he had 500 yards and six touchdowns last year.  Against Stanford he had 82 yards and a 4.7 average.  He can also catch the ball out of the backfield, he had three catches for 41 yards.  This Walter kid, he’s about the same size 5-8, 210, he had 345 yards last year and five touchdowns.  He had three carries for 45 yards [against Stanford].  So they are kind of working those two in the rotation.  They are very similar backs, hard charging backs, difficult to tackle.

“Much like the last team we played, Rice has all of the starters coming back in their offensive line.  We felt they were a solid offensive line last year.   They got after us in the trenches and probably the best one is an All-Conference player, Trey Martin, their center.  He sets the front and makes all the calls, he’s very athletic and capable.  Rice always seems to have a taller receiver, each year they have a guy who’s 6-4 or 6-5 who they throw some fade balls to.  Collectively as a group they’ve got four receivers over 6-3, big outside receivers in particular #18, he’s a guy that had five receptions against us last year.

“Defensively, it’s kind of unique, they don’t list a lot of starters coming back but they have a lot of guys who were injured and out last year.  They gained quite a few guys who played in 2015 back from injuries.  They have 15 players who have starting experience on the defensive side of the ball.  Their best player on defense, and probably the best player on the team who was their team MVP last year is Ellerbee, a linebacker.

It seems like this guy has been there for five years now.  He is an All-Conference player, he led Conference USA in tackles last year.  This kid has got a motor and it showed against Stanford.  He had 10 tackles, a tackle for loss and a quarterback hit against Stanford to start off his season well.

“Another guy we have a lot of respect for is #44.  Again, this is a team that transitions from a four-down look to a three-down look.  They are showing more odd pressures this year.  #44 is a guy that they can line up as a defensive end, he’s also the guy that they can line up as an outside linebacker, much like Oklahoma did last week with #31.  He’s got good size, 6-2, 250, he’s got a high motor, he had three tackles, a tackle for loss and a sack versus Stanford last week.  He had some good get offs on their tackles.  He’s a guy we’re going to have to handle.

Another guy we have a lot of respect for is their defensive lineman #90, 6-5, 250.  He had 41 tackles and five sacks last year.  He is a very high motor guy, he plays hard on every snap, and they gained back a hard-hitting safety, #17 Ibe.  He is a physical hitter, he had five tackles in the opener against Stanford.  So new scheme, new coordinator, probably from a schematic standpoint very similar to what we saw at Oklahoma, a lot of odd pressures, some four down looks as well and we’re going to have to be dialed in on that.

“Special teams, their punter is also their kicker.  His name is Fox.  He averaged 40.7 and against Stanford he had a long of 62 so he’s got a capable leg.  He had one touchback and a bounced kick on kickoffs.  He had 25 touchbacks in 2016, so he’s another strong-legged kicker that we’ll see.  The punt returner, Ellerbe #25, he had one return for 12 yards on punt return.  And then he had a 29 return against Stanford.  So they have a capable returner.

These guys always play hard on special teams.  Rice is always a well-coached team.  I think David Bailiff gets the most out of his players year in and year out.  It’s going to be a battle.  We’re going to need the fans here for our home opener.  Our players are going to be excited about playing in the Sun Bowl in front of the home fans, and I hope everybody turns out to support our team.”

(On paring down the defensive rotation)

“You’ll see some guys out there more, getting more reps and you’ll some guys’ reps diminish because of performance.  Usually, the jump from your first game to your second game is the most drastic when you change personnel.  Again, we’ll hopefully gain back [Jayson] VanHook as well.  That gives us a little more depth at the linebacker spot.  I did feel good about what Treyvon Hughes and Jamar Smith did when they went in there, so it gives me a little more confidence that when we go through a first half without Alvin Jones, we can have somebody step up in there.  Defensive line, some of the young guys that really took a step forward, Trace Mascorro played against an All-Conference center and really did an outstanding job.  And Dedrick Simpson was really active and in on a lot of plays.  Those guys really stood out.  I thought our corners held up well against them.  The deep ball issues that we had were more from the safety position.  But our cornerbacks looked like they belonged out there.”

(On evaluating the pass rush at Oklahoma)

“We didn’t generate a lot of pressure, we only got two quarterback hits and the one sack.  We probably missed another sack too.  We’ve got to generate more pressure than that.  Then again, you’ve got potentially five guys off that offensive line that will be playing on Sundays.  So that’s the best offensive line that we will see in 2017.”

(On preparing for Rice’s defense)

“When you look at last year’s film, you just kind of evaluate personnel.  Really you only have one game to go by this year, and it was a mixture of four down and three down.  So we’ll prepare for that.  Again, we saw a lot of that against Oklahoma.  We see a lot of that from our own defense in training camp.  We have had a lot of preparation versus the odd front, and we have had preparation versus the over and under fronts as well.  And their personnel is good.  So that’s going to be the main challenge, us matching up versus their personnel.  But I really feel this game is going to be won up front on both sides of the ball, offensive and defensive lines.  We’re going to challenge both of our groups in this game and they’re going to have to get the job done for us to have a chance to win.”

(On opening conference play early)

“Urgency is a good word and intensity is a good word, because anytime you get into conference play it’s for real.  To have a conference game your second game, yeah it is the earliest I’ve had a conference game as a player or a coach.  It gets your focus early, knowing that you could be 1-0 in conference or 0-1 in conference right after week two.  It does get your attention.  Rice is a team that got after us last year.  We have to get after them this year to have a chance to win this game.  The fact we’re playing in front of our home folks, we’re going to need their support as well.  Our players love playing in front of the Miner fans.  It’s going to be an exciting game.”

(On evaluating Ryan Metz’s performance at Oklahoma)

“He did a good job getting us in the right audibles when the box was outnumbered and threw some hitches and those type things.  Two of those completions were taken back from penalties.  Three of his completions were taken back from drops, and he still had an efficient game.  I was pleased with Ryan’s play, in fact I was pleased with all three quarterbacks.  What I said at the beginning of camp, I’m very comfortable with all three quarterbacks.  I think we can win with all three quarterbacks.  And Ryan didn’t show anything that made me think differently in that game.”

(On the offensive line’s play at Oklahoma)

“They did do an outstanding job early and even at the end of the game, there were some holes there and that’s probably where I was a little bit frustrated.  There were some balls that bounced that could’ve probably stuck in there, just like they did early in the game.  And that’s what happens when you’ve got young backs.  They need to see this on film and see ‘I just need to stick my foot in the ground and get the yardage that I can.’  You saw Walter Dawn bounce a short yardage play, which is a no-no, and he ended up losing yards and we ended up getting a holding call on that.  You just have to stick it in there in those circumstances.  The one positive in short yardage, I think Kevin Dove is an outstanding short yardage back.  He can get hit at the line of scrimmage and still create a pile because of his strength and moving forward, that’s probably the guy that you’ll see.”

(On the first scoring drive at Oklahoma)

“We didn’t capitalize on that.  But it was an outstanding drive, it was efficient.  Ryan was efficient, he completed two third downs on that.  Warren Redix made a good play to keep that drive going.  Walter made two outstanding runs.  And Walter has the ability to do that.  He’s a fiery player, he’s a tough player.  When he hits the seams, and just keep in mind he has been at running back for one game and had some outstanding runs.  He’ll get better and better as he sees these things on film and can correct his errors.”

(On the injury situation)

“Just a couple of banged up guys with shoulder injuries, I don’t think anything that will keep them out of this game.  So I think we came out of it relatively healthy.  If you’d told me before the game that we’d have these injuries, I would’ve taken it.  We didn’t have any devastating injuries.  The main thing is losing Alvin for the first half.  The good thing is we don’t lose him for the whole game.  He’ll be frothing at the mouth at halftime to come out and try to make up for lost time.  Somebody is going to have to step up and pick up the slack.  Jamar Smith and Treyvon Hughes are going to have to do the job inside.

(On Jayson Van Hook’s status for Saturday)

“We’re going to ease him into the process this week and do some contact drills with him and see where he holds up.  That would be an added bonus for us, because this kid can really fly.  And they run a lot of option, so it would be a big benefit having an edge guy who can run like he does.”

(On the team’s mental state following the Oklahoma loss)

“I think they’re excited and ready to go.  I think they were embarrassed by their play.  If you go into the locker room and they’re happy after a game like that, then you’ve got major issues.  They were down and they were upset with how they played, the players and coaches and everybody.  I think this is a team that’s very unified.  I think this is a team that you’ll see bounce back.  There are going to be ups and downs throughout the year.  We started out with a tough game, we didn’t match up against that team and we didn’t help ourselves with some of the production and play that we had in that game.  Where we’re at right now, we’re 0-1 and playing a conference team coming to our place and our stadium.  Our kids will be energized and ready to go.”

(On what Rice has gone through the last couple of weeks)

“I don’t know if it’s going to be a problem for them, they can also rally around that and use that as fuel.  I would imagine that’s what they’re doing is try to rally around that.  We’ve got players on our own team that have issues in Houston.  We’ve got one kid, Kevin Dove, who had horses back there and lost every single horse in their horse farm.  Our thoughts go out to David Bailiff and his team.  I can’t imagine some of the things that they’re going through.  But they are coming here to play a football game and we are here to play a football game.  After the game, certainly he and I will get together and talk, because we’re good friends.”

(On his relationship with David Bailiff)

“You just talk.  You go off each other’s experience.  David went through the same year that we did, he had a ton of injuries.  He went through the same thing.  You just talk about, is there a different way that we can practice?  Is there a different way that we can handle this situation?  You rely on each other.  Ultimately it is competitive, but there are friendships and there are guys you have respect for, and certainly David Bailiff is one of those.”

***

MINERS TO OPEN HOME SLATE AGAINST C-USA FOE RICE

UTEP will begin its home schedule with its Conference USA lid lifter as West Division foe Rice makes its way to the Sun City on Sept. 9 for a 6 p.m. kickoff in the Sun Bowl. The Miners and Owls are both coming off losses to top-25 opponents.

Rice fell to no. 14 Stanford, 62-7, in Australia on Aug. 27, while UTEP was defeated at no. 7 Oklahoma 56-7 on Sept. 2. Walter Dawn Jr. rushed for a career-high 56 yards on seven attempts with a touchdown against the Sooners. Dawn Jr. picked up 49 of those yards on four carries during UTEP’s lone scoring drive.

The Miners will play in the friendly confines of the Southwest for the next three weeks as they host Pac-12 opponent Arizona on Friday, Sept. 15 and will face I-10 rival NM State in Las Cruces on Sept. 23.

HURRICANE HARVEY RELIEF EFFORTS

UTEP Athletics is making an effort to help those impacted by Hurricane Harvey. UTEP Marketing will manage bins that will be set up at the Sun Bowl to collect emergency kit items (water, blankets, towels, Band Aids, antibiotic ointments, baby diapers, baby food/formula, shampoo/conditioner, soap, deodorant, toothpaste/toothbrush and sanitizer) at Saturday’s game. Bins will also be set up at Memorial Gym and University Field respectively on Friday (Sept. 8) when UTEP volleyball hosts Samford and UTEP soccer hosts Incarnate Word.

SERIES HISTORY

Rice has won nine of the last 11 games between the Texas rivals and leads the series 13-7. The Miners took a 5-4 edge in the El Paso ledger with a 24-21 victory over the Owls on Nov. 6, 2015.

UTEP IN C-USA OPENERS

The Miners are 5-7 in Conference USA openers (4-3 home, 1-4 away). UTEP won its first five C-USA openers from 2005-09, and has dropped its last seven. The Miners are 7-5 in C-USA home openers (won six straight from 2005-10, lost five of last six).

UTEP IN C-USA HOME GAMES

UTEP is 25-23 in C-USA home games since joining the league for the 2005 season (3-1 in 2005, 2-2 in 2006, 1-3 in 2007, 3-1 in 2008, 3-1 in 2009, 3-1 in 2010, 1-3 in 2011, 1-3 in 2012, 1-3 in 2013, 4-0 in 2014, 2-2 in 2015, 1-3 in 2016). The Miners are 8-8 in C-USA home games under coach Sean Kugler.

OPENING WITH RICE

Rice has never served as UTEP’s first Conference USA opponent. The Miners have faced Rice in the month of November nine times in 12 years in C-USA, and in 15 of the last 20 seasons dating back to their Western Athletic Conference days. This is the first meeting between the teams in the month of September.

TAKING ON TEXAS

Since joining Conference USA, UTEP is 14-22 versus its Lone Star State counterparts (Houston 2-6, North Texas 3-1, Rice 3-9, SMU 4-4, UTSA 2-2). The Miners are 9-8 against C-USA Texas schools in the Sun Bowl.

RESULTS AFTER PLAYING A TOP 25 OPPONENT

UTEP has dropped seven of nine games following a loss to top-25 opponents since 2009. The Miners defeated NM State 38-12 on Sept. 19, 2009 after falling to no. 24 Kansas the week prior. That same season, UTEP came up with a big victory against no. 12 Houston in the Sun Bowl on Oct. 3 following its loss at no. 2 Texas.

THE LAST MEETING

UTEP scored the game’s first three points on a Jay Mattox 37-yard field goal. But Rice followed with 34 unanswered in the first half on its way to a 44-24 victory at Rice Stadium on Nov. 19, 2016. The Owls outgained the Miners, 482 yards to 232, as UTEP amassed only 42 yards in the first half. Mattox’s field goal followed a Gene Hopkins sack-and-strip of 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. Alvin Jones racked up 16 tackles with a sack for the Miners. Aaron Jones ran for 75 yards and hauled in a touchdown on a 42-yard reception. Rice starting quarterback Tyler Stehling left the contest with an injury during the first series, but Tyner completed 18-of-25 passes for 196 yards with a pair of scores.

Jowan Davis led the Owls with 84 rushing yards and a score, while Cameron Decell added 53 yards receiving on four catches. UTEP’s Ryan Metz completed 19-of-34 passes for 169 yards and a pair of scores, with an interception that was taken back by Destri White for a 23-yard pick-six. Kalon Beverly scored his second career touchdown on an 80-yard return after a blocked field goal attempt. Beverly also intercepted a pass and tallied seven tackles.

SCOUTING RICE

The Owls opened the 2017 campaign with a 62-7 loss to no. 14 Stanford in Sydney, Australia, at Allianz Stadium on Aug. 27. The Cardinal scored the game’s first 55 points before Rice running back Austin Walter found the end zone on a 23-yard run late in the contest. The Owls tallied 14 first downs (eight rush, five pass, one penalty) and 241 yards of offense.

The Rice defense surrendered 656 yards of offense, with 369 coming via the passing game. Running back Samuel Stewart led the Owls with 112 all-purpose yards (71 yards on 15 carries and career-high 41 yards on three catches), while tight end Robby Wells III paced the squad with four receptions for 19 yards. Redshirt freshman quarterback Sam Glaesmann completed 7-of-18 passes for 69 yards in his collegiate debut.

Defensively, 2016 All-Conference USA first team linebacker Emmanuel Ellerbee led the team with 10 tackles, while posting a breakup and a quarterback hurry. In his first year as a starter, Ellerbee led the league in tackles with 118, while adding 8.0 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks and an interception.

CONNECTIONS

UTEP sophomore RB Kevin Dove and Rice redshirt senior OL Trey Martin both played at El Campo High School (El Campo, Texas). UTEP freshman DB Joseph Pickney and Rice redshirt juniors WR Aston and RB Austin Walter played at Crosby High School (Crosby, Texas). UTEP senior WR Tyler Batson (Westfield HS), and Rice freshman WR Austin Conrad (Klein HS), redshirt sophomore WR Cameron Johnson (Klein Collins HS) and freshman WR Austin Trammell (Klein HS) all hail from Spring, Texas.

UTEP freshman DL Dedrick Simpson and 13 players from Rice are from Houston, Texas. UTEP sophomore RB Walter Dawn Jr. (Poteet HS), and Rice redshirt junior CB Jorian Clark (Horn HS), graduate student LB DJ Green (Horn HS) and senior SAF Destri Whitaker (Horn HS) are from Mesquite, Texas. UTEP Head Coach Sean Kugler and Rice tight ends coach David Sloan have crossed paths on multiple occasions.

Kugler coached with the Miners during the 1993 and 1994 seasons, while Sloan played at New Mexico during those two years. Kugler was the tight ends coach with the Detroit Lions during the 2001 season where Sloan played tight end and led the Lions with seven touchdown receptions, while being named as a Pro Bowl alternate. UTEP’s Assistant AD for Football Operations, Nate Poss, is a graduate of Rice University and played for the Owls from 1973-76.

A pair of WRs in UTEP junior Alan Busey (Robert Service HS [Anchorage]) and Rice redshirt junior Lance Wright (Fairbanks [North Pole HS]) played high school football in Alaska.

LAST WEEK

Three Oklahoma quarterbacks combined to complete 32-of-36 passes for 496 yards, as the no. 7 Sooners opened the season with a 56-7 victory over UTEP on Sept. 2. Heisman candidate Baker Mayfield completed his first 16 passes, and finished 19-for-20 for 329 yards in the first half as Oklahoma surged to a 35-7 lead. He was relieved by Kyler Murray to start the second half, and Tanner Schafer came on late in the fourth quarter.

The Sooners scored touchdowns on five of their six first-half possessions. Mark Andrews was the other offensive star for OU in the first 30 minutes, reeling in seven catches for 134 yards. After Oklahoma (1-0) opened the scoring by moving 76 yards on six plays, capped by a two-yard touchdown run by Rodney Anderson, the Miners (0-1) mounted an impressive season-opening drive. Walter Dawn Jr. rushed four times for 49 yards on the eight-play, 78-yard sequence, and finished it off with a 17-yard dash into the end zone as UTEP knotted the contest at 7.

After that, the Sooners continued to roll offensively while the Miners were forced to punt eight times. Dimitri Flowers scored on a three-yard run for OU, then the Sooners went back to the passing game as Mayfield found Grant Calcaterra (16 yards), Andrews (five yards) and CeeDee Lamb (four yards) for TDs. Oklahoma had 419 yards of offense in the first half to UTEP’s 95. The Sooners tacked on a few more touchdowns in the second half behind Murray, who threw a 43-yard pass to Lee Morris and handed off to Jaxon Uhles and Marcelias Sutton for short scoring runs.

Murray was equally as razor-sharp as Mayfield, finishing 10-of-11 passing for 149 yards. Schafer was 3-of-5 for 18 yards while coming on for the Sooners’ final offensive series. The Miner defense had to play a large chunk of the second half without senior linebacker Alvin Jones, who was ejected for targeting and will miss the first half of the Rice game.

Jones picked up five tackles with several family members in attendance including his brother Aaron, the Miners’ all-time leading rusher who made the Green Bay Packers’ final roster the same day. Ryan Metz completed 10-of-18 passes for 56 yards in his first season-opening start before giving way to Zack Greenlee late in the third period. Dawn Jr. rushed for a career-high 56 yards on seven attempts and was the Miners’ top offensive performer.

Oklahoma finished with 676 yards of offense, including 180 on the ground as three backs ran for 50+ yards – Abdul Adams (53), Sutton (52) and Trey Sermon (51). Jeff Badet added 91 yards on four receptions for the Sooners. UTEP tallied 167 yards of offense – 94 passing and 73 rushing. Alan Luna punted eight times for 352 yards, a 44.0-yard average.

BIG CROWDS

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.

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.

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.

RISING DAWN

Starting tailback Walter Dawn Jr. impressed in his first college start at no. 7 Oklahoma. 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.

BIG BLOCK FROM A LITTLE GUY

Walter Dawn Jr. not only impressed with his 8.0-yard average per carry, but his 5-foot-6, 175-pound frame put a big block on an OU defender on a third-and-six play. The block let Ryan Metz roll to his left as he hooked up with Warren Redix on a 15-yard pass play. The Miners and Dawn Jr. would eventually find paydirt on the scoring drive.

DOVE RUNNING HARD

Kevin Dove only had 17 yards on five carries at no. 7 Oklahoma, but gained three first downs in short yardage situations, and the way he ran for those first downs was impressive. The sophomore’s first carry came during the first quarter on a third-and-two where he grinded his way for five yards.

The stout OU defense simply could not bring down the 6-foot, 245-pound tailback; even after the whistle blew, Dove kept pounding away. In the third quarter on a third-and-one, Dove came up with another five yards in which he fought his way for the first down. Dove’s third first down came on another third-and-one play in the fourth quarter in which he gained another five yards. Dove also registered a seven-yard reception during the third quarter.

JOSHUA TAKING THE FIELD

True freshman running back from Americas High School in El Paso Joshua Fields saw his first collegiate action at no. 7 Oklahoma. Fields carried four times and tallied a reception during his college debut. Fields checked in with 1:46 left in the second quarter.

AWATT’S DEBUT
Another true freshman running back saw his first college action at no. 7 Oklahoma. Ronald Awatt, a 5-foot-11, 205-pound tailback, recorded a pair of carries for eight yards. Awatt’s long rush was a six-yard dash at the end of the contest.

BLOCK, FOREST, BLOCK

FB Forest McKee from Onate High School in Las Cruces, N.M. made his college debut at no. 7 Oklahoma. McKee made key blocks and even caught a pass for two yards in the fourth quarter.

UTEP SIGNAL CALLERS

A trio of UTEP quarterbacks played under center at no. 7 Oklahoma; while their numbers weren’t big, the three didn’t turn the ball over and were only sacked once. The three quarterbacks (Ryan Metz, Zack Greenlee & Mark Torrez) combined for 94 yards on 16-of-27 passing.

Starting QB Metz went 10-of-18 for 56 yards with a long pass of 15 yards to Warren Redix. Greenlee entered the contest in the third quarter, going 5-for-8 with 31 yards and a long pass of 13 yards to David Lucero. Torrez, a redshirt freshman from Eastwood High School, checked in during the fourth quarter and completed his only pass attempt, a seven-yard toss to Keynan Foster.

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-fo-1 (seven yards).

NO INT’S TOSSED

UTEP didn’t throw an interception at no 7 Oklahoma. UTEP was one of 48 programs to not throw an interception in week one. The Miners attempted a combined 27 passes.

PASS CATCHING DEBUT

Five Miners made their debuts at no. 7 Oklahoma as TE’s David Lucero and Josh Weeks, and WR’s Alan Busey, Keynan Foster and Nesly Ovincy saw playing time. Lucero led the newcomers with 13 yards on two catches, while Busey also registered a pair of receptions (nine yards). Weeks also hauled in a six-yard catch and Foster tallied a seven-yard grab.

RETURNING KO’S

Keynan Foster returned a pair of kickoffs for 45 yards (22.3 avg.) with a long of 23 yards in his UTEP debut at Oklahoma. Foster’s career long kickoff was a 25-yard return back in 2015 while at Florida A&M. He finished with seven kickoff returns for 97 yards that season.
RED ZONE OFFENSE
UTEP scored a touchdown, a 17-yard run by Walter Dawn Jr., at no. 7 Oklahoma. It was the only red zone attempt, as UTEP was one of 63 programs to be perfect in red zone offense during week one.

OFFENSIVE LINE HOLDING ITS OWN

The UTEP offensive line received its first test of 2017 as it faced a stout no. 7 Oklahoma defense. The Miners kept their protection intact as they allowed only one sack. UTEP was one of 35 programs that allowed one sack in its opening contest this past weekend. The Miners were also one of five Conference USA schools to only surrender one sack in week one.

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, senior Tanner Stallings and junior Derron Gatewood 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 (38) at the left guard position during his three years with the Miners. Senior Derek Elmendorff, after playing in all 12 games last year, has plenty of game experience with 20 career starts at the right guard position. Sophomore Greg Long will provide depth to the line after the El Paso native was named to the All-Conference USA freshman team. Long started a game at right guard before starting three at left tackle.

Junior Jerrod Brooks will add 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. 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 Saturday at OU (2013-17) the Miners have allowed 75 sacks in 50 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 Derron Gatewood (6’2”, 305 pounds), RG Derek Elmendorff (6’3”, 310 pounds) and RT Greg Long (6’4”, 270 pounds). The average weight of the starting five is 307 pounds, while the average height is just under 6-foot-4.

ALL-AMERICAN STATUS

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.

DEVIN’S SOLO ACT

Senior Devin Cockrell tied for the team lead with nine tackles at no. 7 Oklahoma. Of the nine, six were solo stops, putting Cockrell tied for no. 4 in Conference USA and tied for no. 57 nationally after week one. Cockrell is five tackles away from 200 in his career after Saturday’s effort.

LEWIS’ COMEBACK GAME

Sophomore DB Michael Lewis returned to the gridiron after missing all of 2016. Lewis registered a career-high nine tackles at no. 7 Oklahoma. His previous high was six stops at Southern Miss on Halloween 2015. Lewis made the start against the Sooners after starting in eight of 12 games played during his freshman season in 2015. Lewis produced solid numbers his first season, tallying 38 tackles and a pair of breakups.

KEEPING UP WITH ALVIN’S CAREER

Senior Alvin Jones has 246 career tackles (seventh-most at UTEP since the 2000 season) after recording five tackles at no. 7 Oklahoma. 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.

DOUBLE-DIGIT STOPS

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).

ACTION JACKSON

Transfer LB Julian Jackson produced solid numbers in his UTEP debut. The senior led all UTEP linebackers with seven tackles, while it was also his collegiate high. Jackson’s previous high came at Wake Forest when he recorded five stops against Tulane on Sept. 1, 2016. Jackson also registered half a tackle for loss.

LOVE FOR LOVILOTTE

Senior LB Dante Lovilotte registered his first full sack in a UTEP uniform. Lovilotte sacked Heisman Trophy Candidate Baker Mayfield for a loss of 10 yards during the first quarter on a fourth-and-three play. Lovilotte tallied half a sack against Old Dominion on Oct. 29, 2016. Lovilotte finished Saturday’s contest with three tackles.

TREYVON’S DEFENSIVE DEBUT

LB Treyvon Hughes, who was a running back during his freshman season in 2015 and missed all of 2016 due to injury, made the switch to linebacker with his 6-foot-1, 255-pound frame. Hughes saw his first action on the other side of the ball at no. 7 Oklahoma in which he registered three tackles and a quarterback hurry.

FIRST START FOR PARSEE

LB Dylan Parsee received his first collegiate start at no. 7 Oklahoma. Parsee came up with a career-high four tackles (three solo), surpassing his previous high of two against Army on Sept. 17, 2016.

JAMAR’S DEBUT

LB Jamar Smith, a transfer from Holmes CC, registered five tackles – all solo – at no. 7 Oklahoma. Smith was active last season as he led his squad with 90 tackles in 10 games.

OTHER DEFENSIVE NOTABLES

There were eight other UTEP defensive players who made their debuts and contributed defensively, as LB Kalaii Griffin (three tackles, 0.5 TFL), DL Dedrick Simpson (three tackles, 0.5 TFL), DB Jesse Montgomery (two tackles), DB Khalil Rashaad-Brown (tackle, QB hurry), LB Chris Barnwell (two tackles), NT Trace Mascorro (two tackles), DB Kahani Smith (tackle) and DE Christian Buckingham (tackle) took to the gridiron on Saturday.

4TH-DOWN DEFENSE

The UTEP defense made a stop on a fourth-down play at no. 7 Oklahoma. Dante Lovilotte sacked quarterback Baker Mayfield on a fourth-and-three for a loss of 10 yards. UTEP is one of 57 programs to rank no. 1 in that department after week one.

DAS BOOT

El Paso native Alan 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 moved to seventh from ninth on the program’s all-time list in career punt yards (5,779) and ranks ninth in career punts (135) after Saturday’s performance. Tom Galloway ranks no. 8 in career punts (137), while the overall leader is Jerry Walker (298). Rick 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).

LOCAL FLAVOR

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

Thirteen players from El Paso grace the two-deep heading into the Rice game. LB Chris Barnwell, RG Derek Elmendorff, TB Joshua Fields, K/P Jason Filley, FB David Jackson, MIKE Alvin Jones, RT Greg Long, LG Markos Lujan, K/P Alan Luna, QB Ryan Metz, WR (X) Warren Redix, WR (Z) Eddie Sinegal and QB Mark Torrez are listed on the two-deep chart. Of the 12, five of the players (Elmendorff, Filley, Long, Luna, Metz and Jones) are listed as no. 1 at their respective positions.

GRADUATE STUDENT-ATHLETES

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.

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.

BOWL MANIA

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.

UP NEXT

UTEP will continue its homestand as Pac-12 opponent Arizona will make its way back to the Sun City after a 40-year absence on Sept. 15 for a Friday night contest. Kickoff is slated for 8 p.m. on ESPN. The Wildcats and Miners last met in 2003, while the last time the two programs met in El Paso was on Nov. 19, 1977 when both were members of the Western Athletic Conference.

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 mac@utep.edu 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.

Coach Kugler announces Mason as UTEP’s Defensive Coordinator

UTEP football head coach Sean Kugler announced the hiring of Tom Mason as the Miners defensive coordinator on Saturday.

“Tom is an outstanding coach, who comes highly recommended and brings a lot of experience to UTEP, “ said head coach Sean Kugler. “He has 38 years of experience in coaching many of those as a defensive coordinator.”

Tom Mason brings nearly 40 years of defensive experience to the Miners.

“We feel his defensive scheme fits our personnel and I am looking forward to him working with our players,” said Kugler.

Mason served as the defensive coordinator and inside linebackers coach for Hawaii during the 2015 season. During his time with the Rainbow Warriors, Mason mentored defensive lineman Kennedy Tulimasealii, who garnered All-Mountain West first team honors. Tulimasealii was featured on the preseason watch list for Polynesian Player of the Year and led the conference in tackles for loss with a season total of 18.5, ranking 16th in the nation.

He racked up 63 tackles this season, including 42 solo stops. Tulimasealii finished the season ranked third in tackles among MW defensive linemen and notched eight quarterback hurries, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Mason also helped inside linebacker Julian Gener finish the season with team highs of 95 tackles and 62 unassisted tackles, ranking sixth in the MW in tackles and third in solo tackles (27th in NCAA).

Prior to Hawaii, Mason was the defensive coordinator at SMU for seven years. During his tenure with the Mustangs, he transformed the SMU defense into one of the nation’s best, helping the program regain its former glory while working under former UH head coach June Jones. Mason’s defense aided SMU to four consecutive bowl seasons and a narrow loss in the 2010 Conference-USA Championship Game.

The Mustangs hit a new high in that journey in 2012 with the defense under Mason’s guidance, posting two shutouts and tying an NCAA interception record, ranking 15th in rush defense with just 118 yards per game, while also tying for third in takeaways (37), ranking second in fumble recoveries for touch­down (16) and led the nation in interceptions for touchdown (8).

Mason guided numerous SMU players to all-conference honors, including cornerback Kenneth Acker, who was named all-American Athletic Conference (AAC) and was selected by the San Francisco 49ers in the sixth round of the 2014 NFL Draft. Five Mustang defenders earned All-Conference USA honors in 2012, with first-teamers Ja’Gared Davis and Margus Hunt, while the 2011 season saw eight SMU defenders earn all-C-USA accolades, highlighted by first-teamers Richard Crawford and Taylor Thompson.

The 2012 squad capped off its fourth consecutive year in a bowl, putting Mason’s defense on display in defeating Fresno State 43-10 in the Sheraton Hawai‘i Bowl, highlighted by Hunt’s two-forced fumble, three-sack Co-MVP performance, holding FSU to just 16 yards rushing.

SMU closed the 2011 season with a BBVA Compass Bowl win that saw the Mustangs limit Pittsburgh to just 10 rushing yards and a bowl-record-low six points.

The 2010 season saw Davis and Thompson tabbed all-CUSA first-teamers, with a narrow 16-14 loss to Army West Point in the Armed Forces Bowl. Mason’s defense played to the challenge, limiting the Black Knights to only 229 yards of offense despite the loss.

In 2009, Mason transformed SMU’s defense from a 4-3 scheme to a 3-4 and the results were immediate. In SMU’s 45-10 win over Nevada in the Sheraton Hawai‘i Bowl, the Mustang defense held the Wolf Pack’s No. 1-ranked rushing offense to a season-low 137 yards—more than 200 yards below its average. Under his tutelage, SMU linebacker Chase Kennemer was named first team all-C-USA and seven other Mustangs were tabbed for honorable mention all-conference honors.

Mason arrived at SMU after spending seven seasons at Fresno State, where he coached linebackers. There, he developed numerous standout linebackers including 2007 WAC Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Riley, 2006 first team all-WAC honoree Dwayne Andrews and 2003 first-teamer Bryce McGill.

Mason joined the Bulldog coaching staff in 2001 after spending one season as linebackers coach with the Las Vegas Outlaws of the XFL. He also spent time in the pro ranks as receivers coach for the British Columbia Lions of the Canadian Football League and as defensive backs coach for NFL Europe’s Scottish Claymores.

Mason boasts an extensive collegiate resume, having served as defensive coordinator (1999) and secondary coach (1998-99) at Nevada and defensive coordinator at both Northern Iowa (1997-98) and Boise State (1993-96). At Boise, Mason helped coordinate a Bronco defense that reached the 1994 NCAA Division I-AA National Championship Game and then served as Boise’s interim head coach from August through November 1996.

Prior to his time in Boise, he was defensive coordinator at Portland State (1982-86), helping lead the Vikings to four playoff appearances and two national championship games. He also served as the linebackers coach at Eastern Washington (1981-85) and was the defensive line coach at Walla Walla (Wash.) Community College (1978-80).

As a player, Mason began his career as a linebacker at Idaho before transferring to Walla Walla (Wash.) Community College. He finished out his playing career at Nevada from 1976-77. Mason received his bachelor’s degree in physical education and a Master of Science degree in physical education and post-secondary education from Eastern Washington.

Mason and his wife, Jami, have a daughter, Brenna.

Author: UTEP Athletics

UTEP edges North Texas 20-17 to end the 2015 season

Freshman Warren Redix’s first career touchdown – a 32-yard reception – and Dashone Smith’s 65-yard pick-six surged UTEP to a 20-17 victory over North Texas on a chilly Saturday afternoon at Apogee Stadium.

“We had five turnovers and it wasn’t pretty,” head coach Sean Kugler said. “These kids are resilient, they fought to the end and I’m very proud of them.”

The Miners ended the 2015 season with a 5-7 mark (3-5 in Conference USA), while the Mean Green finished with one victory (1-11, 1-7 C-USA). It was the second year in a row UTEP won its final regular season game.

Redix’s go-ahead score came at 7:51 remaining in the contest. With the score 17-13 after a Cortney Finney 13-yard fumble return for a score, the Miners used a jet sweep to the right as Kavika Johnson pitched the ball to Redix who cleared the edge and took it to the house.

North Texas opened the scoring with a Trevor Moore 28-yard field goal. Jaquan White fumbled on UTEP’s prior possession that helped set up the score.

UTEP took a 6-3 lead, as it opened the second half with an eight-play, 75-yard drive that resulted in Johnson’s first-career rushing score – a five-yard run. The Miners ran the ball on all eight plays, led by Warren Redix’s career-long run of 27 yards that put his squad at the North Texas 29-yard line. Johnson added a 19-yard rush, while Jeremiah Laufasa rushed for 19 yards. However, Jay Mattox missed the PAT.

“We put Kavika in to spark the offense and he did a very good job of that,” Kugler noted. “So we stuck with him in the second half and our offense did a good job.”

UTEP gained only 84 first-half yards, but finished with 256 total yards in the game.

Tre Johnson gave the Mean Green a 10-6 lead when he returned a punt 53 yards during the middle of the third quarter. UTEP answered with Smith’s pick six, giving the away team a 13-10 advantage in the third period at the 5:32 mark.

With the score 20-17 in favor of UTEP and 4:18 remaining in the game, North Texas’ DaMarcus Smith ran for a 32-yard gain to the UTEP 30-yard line. But a targeting penalty and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty knocked back the Mean Green to its own 40-yard line. UTEP forced a turnover on downs on the drive to help seal the victory.

Johnson led the rushing attack with 75 yards and a score, while Laufasa grinded out 62 yards. UTEP rushed for 187 yards on 48 attempts. Redix led the team with 42 yards on three catches and a score.

Despite the offense turning the ball over five times, the UTEP defense yielded season-lows in total yards (205) and first downs (10).

“It was a credit to our defense playing hard the entire time,” Kugler said.

Trey Brown led the defense with seven tackles, while Jimmy Musgrave, who knocked out starting quarterback Andrew McNulty with a rib injury, tallied five stops. Roy Robertson-Harris chipped in with a team-leading 2.0 tackles for loss and Alvin Jones, who left the game with an injury, registered a sack early in the contest. Jones finished with 6.5 sacks in 2015.

Author: UTEP Athletics