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
(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.”
“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.”
(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.”
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.).
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.
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).
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
UTEP will face eight opponents in 2017 who advanced to a bowl game in 2016. The Miners opened with Oklahoma (Sugar Bowl) on Sept. 2 in Norman. After UTEP’s contest at NM State on Sept. 23, the next seven opponents are Army (Heart of Dallas Bowl), WKU (Boca Raton Bowl), Southern Miss (New Orleans Bowl), UTSA (New Mexico Bowl), Middle Tennessee (Hawai’i Bowl), North Texas (Heart of Dallas Bowl) and LA Tech (Armed Forces Bowl). Syracuse and Notre Dame lead the list with 11 bowl opponents each, while Duke, Ole Miss and South Carolina will see 10. Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, UCF, Clemson, Colorado State, Florida, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Illinois, Kentucky, LSU, UMass, Miami, Mississippi State, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Tulsa, Utah State, Vanderbilt, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest will face nine bowl opponents in 2017.
UTEP will 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.