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Twenty-Three UTEP Student-Athletes to Graduate on Saturday

Twenty-three past and present UTEP student-athletes will walk across the graduation stage on Saturday and receive their diplomas from the university.

The list includes 11 representatives from the football program, four from men’s track & field, three from women’s track & field, two from softball, and one apiece from men’s basketball, soccer and tennis.

Graduating this weekend will be All-Americans Samantha Hall (track & field) and Will Hernandez (football).

Seventeen graduates hail from the United States, while two come from Jamaica, one from American Samoa, one from Australia, one from Kenya and one from Nigeria.

Ten of the graduates (Adebola Akomolafe, Christian Buckingham, David Jackson, Johnny Jones, Alan Luna, Ademiju Oyebanjo-Odofin, Orion Prescott, Israel Ramsay, Matilda Tench, Trey Touchet) earned placement on the Conference USA Commissioner’s Academic Roll during their careers for posting grade point averages of 3.0 or better.

Touchet was a three-time recipient of a Conference USA Commissioner’s Academic Medal for achieving a GPA of 3.75 or higher.

Adebola Akomolafe (Women’s Track & Field)

Part of the team that won the first indoor and outdoor conference championship in school history … helped the Miners to three consecutive indoor conference titles … registered the eighth-best mark in program history in the hammer throw with 52.22m (171-04) … captain of the women’s team for two seasons … finished her college career with bests of 46.13m (151-4) in the discus, 17.66m (47-11.25) in the weight throw and 52.22m (171-04) in the hammer throw … earned a spot on the 2017 C-USA Commissioner’s Academic Honor Roll … Biological Sciences major.

 

James Bias (Men’s Track & Field)

Part of the team that won the 2014 Conference USA Indoor Championship … ran the anchor leg on the 4x400m relay that took second at the 2014 C-USA Indoor  Championships … part of the 4x400m relay that qualified for the 2017 NCAA Championships, clocking in with a time of 3:03.15 which ranks second in school history … finished his career with personal bests in the 60 (6.87), 100 (10.51), 200 (21.06) and the 400m (47.24) … two-year team captain … Computer Science major.

 

Christian Buckingham (Football)

The transfer from El Paso Community College played for the Orange and Blue during the 2017 campaign … defensive lineman saw action in the first four games before suffering a season-ending injury … notched four tackles and one quarterback hurry … member of the 2017 Conference USA Commissioner’s Academic Honor Roll …Biology major.

 

Kristopher Christian (Football)

Member of the Miner football team for three seasons … saw action in eight games during the 2015 season … recorded a tackle on special teams versus UTSA …Criminal Justice major.

 

Devin Cockrell (Football)

Played and started in 47 games for the Miners … tallied 247 tackles during his career … also totaled 15.5 tackles for loss, 11 pass breakups, eight quarterback hurries, three sacks, three interceptions and one fumble recovery … led all UTEP defensive backs in tackles during the 2016 and 2017 seasons … was named the 2016 Top Gun Player of the Year, awarded to the best special teams performer … as a true freshman, led the team in tackles with 76 … Multidisciplinary Studies major.

 

Zack Greenlee (Football)

Played two seasons for the Miners after transferring from Fresno State … saw action in 17 games, making 11 starts at quarterback … threw for a total of 1,513 yards on 124-of-254 passing with nine touchdowns … during senior campaign, rushed for 114 yards and a pair of scores … threw for over 100 yards in eight contests … opened his UTEP career by throwing for three touchdowns on 15-of-27 passing, with 229 yards and no interceptions during a start and victory over rival NM State … Leadership Studies major.

 

Miranda Gutierrez (Softball)

Played in 22 games for the Miners … made six starts during her senior season … scored five runs … went 2-for-2 and scored a run during game one against Florida Atlantic … drew a walk and crossed the dish during UTEP’s victory over FAU … scored three runs and connected on three hits against the Owls on Senior Weekend … Multidisciplinary Studies major.

 

Samantha Hall (Women’s Track & Field)

Part of the team that won the first indoor and outdoor conference championship in school history … helped the Miners to three consecutive indoor conference titles … competed at the NCAA Outdoor Championships in 2015 and 2017 … won the discus throw at the C-USA Outdoor Championships in 2015 and 2017 … set a school record in the discus throw in 2015 with a mark of 58.50m (191-11) … completed her college career with bests of 14.90m (48-10.5) in the shot put and 34.38m (112-9.5) in the javelin … earned All-C-USA First Team honors for the 2015 season … garnered second team All-American accolades during her final season … Economics major.

 

Will Hernandez (Football)

Started at left guard in every game played (49) since his freshman season in 2014 …

the first Miner offensive lineman to receive Associated Press, CBS Sports and FOX Sports All-American honors … two-time Pro Football Focus First Team All-American … also the first UTEP offensive lineman since 2009 to earn All-Conference USA first team recognition … one of 11 Miners ever to be invited to the prestigious Senior Bowl … appointed the 2016 Pro Football Focus Pass Protector of the Year … named to the 2017 Outland Trophy Watch List … Kinesiology major.

 

David Jackson (Football)

Member of the Miner football team for three seasons … saw action in 10 games on special teams in 2016 … played in the Miners’ last home game versus LA Tech in 2017 … listed on the 2016 C-USA Commissioner’s Academic Honor Roll …Multidisciplinary Studies major.

 

Johnny Jones (Football)

Played in 22 games for UTEP … saw action on defense and special teams … notched a total of 26 tackles, three tackles for loss and one forced fumble … during junior campaign recorded a season-high four stops against Army … two-time member of the C-USA Commissioner’s Academic Honor Roll … Multidisciplinary Studies major.

 

Evans Kiprono (Men’s Track & Field)

Competed in both cross country and track and field for UTEP … part of the team that won the 2014 Conference USA Indoor Championship … helped the Miners capture back-to-back conference cross country titles (2015, 2016) … garnered All- Conference USA third team honors in the 10,000m in 2014 … notched an All-C-USA second team honor in the 10,000m in 2015 … finished his career running a personal best 10,000m time of 31:09.16 … helped the Miners finish 11th in the nation at the 2015 NCAA Cross Country Championships … Biological Sciences major.

 

Alan Luna (Football)

The former walk-on played in 36 games for the Miners … finished collegiate career ranked third on the program’s all-time list for career punts (206) and punt yards (8,910) … 79 punts in 2017 rank tied for fifth on the program’s single-season list, while his 3,483 yards rank fifth on the school’s single-season list … a two-time member of the Ray Guy Award Watch List … during senior season ranked second in Conference USA and fifth in the FBS in punt yards (3,483) … two-time member of the C-USA Commissioner’s Academic Honor Roll … International Business major.

 

Brian Madunezim (Football)

Was a two-year football letterwinner, seeing action in 20 games … notched a total of

36 tackles, four quarterback hurries, one forced fumble, one tackle for loss and two

assisted sacks … during the 2016 season played in all 12 games, making six starts

and totaling a career-best 32 tackles … registered a career-high eight tackles against

Army … Computer Science major.

 

Tommy McCoy (Men’s Track & Field)

Captain of the track and field squad for two seasons (2015, 2016) … helped the men

finish second at the 2014 and 2015 C-USA Outdoor Championships … registered six

top-10 finishes during the 2015 outdoor season … finished his college career with

bests of 53.38 in the 400m hurdles and 51.14 in the 400m … History major.

 

Ademiju Oyebanjo-Odofin (Men’s Track & Field)

Notched 11 top-10 finishes in the 400m hurdles in his career at UTEP … helped the

Miners to a second place finish at the 2015 C-USA Outdoor Championships … clocked

in with a personal-best time in the 400m hurdles at the Brutus Hamilton Challenge

during his final season, with an effort of 55.39 seconds … finished his career with

personal bests in the 200m (22.71), 400m (51.03) and the 600m (1:26.08) … three-time member of the C-USA Commissioner’s Academic Honor Roll … Construction Management major.

 

Kiki Pepi (Softball)

Played in 155 games, making 153 starts in three seasons with the Miners … became

the seventh Miner to reach the 100-RBI mark with 103 … ranks second on the

program’s all-time list with 331 career assists … 134 assists in 2016 set a school

record, while her nine assists at FIU in 2016 is a single-game standard … led the

Miners in RBI her last two seasons … Organizational & Corporate Communication

major.

 

Orion Prescott (Football)

Saw action in all 12 games during the 2016 season … rushed for 14 yards on three

carries … ran for 11 yards on two attempts with a long rush of 10 yards during a

victory over Houston Baptist … tallied a three-yard run during a season-finale win

versus North Texas … two-time member of the C-USA Commissioner’s Academic

Honor Roll … Multidisciplinary Studies major.

 

Israel Ramsay (Women’s Track)

Part of the team that won the first indoor and outdoor conference championship in

school history … helped the Miners to three consecutive indoor conference titles …

team captain for two seasons … competed at the 2015 NCAA West Preliminary

Round in the high jump, long jump and 4x100m relay … competed at the 2017 NCAA

West Preliminary Round in the 4x100m relay … part of the C-USA champion

4x100m relay teams in 2015 and 2017 … finished her college career with bests of

1.76m (5-9.25) in the high jump and 5.95m (19-6.25) in the long jump … earned a

spot on the 2017 C-USA Commissioner’s Academic Honor Roll … Multimedia

Journalism major.

 

Matilda Tench (Tennis)

Appeared in 111 singles and 103 doubles matches for the Miners, tallying 94 wins …

ranks sixth in UTEP’s all-time record book for career singles wins with 46 … had a

career-high 14 singles wins and 15 doubles victories during the 2014-15 season …

two-time member of the Conference USA Commissioner’s Academic Honor Roll …

Kinesiology major.

 

Bri Thomas (Soccer)

Evolved into one of the top scoring threats in Conference USA while starring for her

hometown Miners … a three-year starter who was used as a defender, midfielder

and forward, she recorded 13 goals and eight assists for 34 points in more than

4,500 minutes of playing time … saved her best for last with eight goals and four

assists for a 20-point senior season in 2016 … Multidisciplinary Studies major.

 

Trey Touchet (Men’s Basketball)

Has appeared in 69 games for the Miners, making five starts … has collected 224

points, 84 rebounds, 66 assists and 23 steals … scored in double figures five times

during his sophomore season (2016-17) … three-time recipient of a Conference USA

Commissioner’s Academic Medal … three-time member of the C-USA

Commissioner’s Academic Honor Roll … on a Presidential Scholarship at UTEP …

Kinesiology major.

 

Augie Touris (Football)

Played for the Miners for three seasons as a blocking tight end … saw action in 16

games, making five starts … played in all 12 games during the 2017 season, seeing

the field on offense and special teams … recorded his first career catch, a five-yard

snag during the first quarter against WKU … Creative Writing major.

Hernandez Earns Spot on CBS Sports All-America Team

Left guard Will Hernandez continues to receive post-season recognition earning a spot on the 2017 CBS Sports All-America second team on Tuesday.

This is Hernandez’s fourth honor; he previously was named to the AP All-America second team, Conference USA first team and Pro Football Focus All-American first team.

The senior is the only C-USA student-athlete to earn a spot on the CBS Sports All-America team.

The All-American started in all 49 games played during his career at the left guard position. Hernandez also just accepted his invitation to the 2018 Reese’s Senior Bowl on January 27 at 1:30 pm CT in Mobile, Al.

Hernandez protected the blindside allowing zero sacks against WKU and UTSA and only allowed one sack at no. 7 Oklahoma and at C-USA West Division Champions North Texas.

UTEP’s Hernandez Named to AP All-America Team

Senior Will Hernandez was named to the AP All-America second team for the second consecutive year on Monday.

The left guard is the first UTEP student-athlete to receive back-to-back AP All-America honors. The Las Vegas, Nev., native is one of six Miners to earn AP All-America honors (Ed Bunn ‘92, first team, Baron Wortham ‘93, second team, Brian Natkin ‘00, first team, Johnnie Lee Higgins ‘06, second team, Aaron Jones ‘16, third team).

Hernandez is also one of two Conference USA student-athletes to be named to the AP All-America teams (Devin Singletary, FAU).

The captain previously was named to the 2017 Pro Football Focus All-American first team and All-C-USA first team. The All-American started in all 49 games played during his career at the left guard position. Hernandez also just accepted his invitation to the 2018 Reese’s Senior Bowl.

Hernandez protected the blindside allowing zero sacks against WKU and UTSA and only allowed one sack at no. 7 Oklahoma and at C-USA West Division Champions North Texas.

UTEP Names Dana Dimel Head Football Coach

Dana Dimel was named the 26th head coach in UTEP football history by University President Diana Natalicio and Director of Athletics Jim Senter on Wednesday.

Dimel, 55, was previously the head coach at the University of Wyoming and the University of Houston.  He most recently served as the offensive coordinator, running backs coach and tight ends coach at his alma mater, Kansas State University, where he has worked since 2009.  He also spent three seasons on the staff at the University of Arizona.

UTEP and Coach Dimel are working on a mutually agreeable start date following completion of his coaching responsibilities with Kansas State in the Cactus Bowl on Dec. 26 in Phoenix.

 “We welcome coach Dimel, his wife Julie, son Winston and daughter Josey to El Paso,” UTEP President Diana Natalicio said.  “We look forward to an exciting new era of UTEP Football under his leadership.  His prior experience as a head coach at Wyoming and Houston and as offensive coordinator in the turnaround at Kansas State make him a great fit for UTEP and the El Paso community at this time.”

“We are very pleased to find a coach with the talent, expertise and experience of Dana Dimel,” UTEP Director of Athletics Jim Senter said.  “He has strong ties to the state of Texas.  He will immediately impact recruiting in the state of Texas and he is a proven winner.”

“I’m greatly looking forward to the opportunity at UTEP to build a program utilizing a ‘1-0’ concept,” Dimel said.  “I would like to thank President Natalicio and Jim Senter for the opportunity.  We will work diligently to elevate UTEP football to the highest level in Conference USA.  Having been a part of a major turnaround at Kansas State and having the success we did at Wyoming, I’m just really excited about the leadership challenge that’s ahead.”

Dimel is completing his third tour of duty with the Wildcats, including a year (2005) continuing work on his graduate degree.  Working under legendary coach Bill Snyder, he has been a part of 12 bowl teams during 19 seasons in Manhattan.  

The Wildcats have posted an 11-win season (2012), two 10-win campaigns (1995, 2011) and five nine-win seasons (1993, 1994, 1996, 2014, 2016) during that span, and have finished in the top-18 of the national poll on three occasions (2011, 2012, 2014).  They won the Big 12 championship in 2012.

Dimel has the most wins of any active offensive coordinator in college football since 2011 (60), and has been a part of eight straight bowl appearances including in 2017. The 2016 Wildcats defeated Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Baylor and TCU.  With Dimel calling the plays over the last seven seasons, the Wildcats have averaged 33.4 points per game and 6.2 yards per play. 

They have ranked third nationally in fewest turnovers per game behind LSU and Alabama over the last seven years.   

During Dimel’s tenure as offensive coordinator, Kansas State has routinely ranked among the nation’s best teams in red zone and third down efficiency.

In 2014, Kansas State led the nation in scoring efficiency (scoring drives/total drives) while shattering the school record for passing yards (3,736) and completion percentage (65.3).

Dimel’s play calling helped wide receiver Tyler Lockett leave K-State with the school’s career receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdown records, while quarterback Jake Waters broke the school marks for single-season passing yards (3,501) and total offensive yards (3,985).

In 2012 Dimel coached Heisman Trophy finalist Collin Klein, who passed for 2,641 yards and 16 touchdowns while rushing for 920 yards and 23 scores.

In 2011, Dimel led a rushing offense that saw Klein set a new Big 12 record and NCAA record by a quarterback with 27 rushing touchdowns while rushing for 1,000+ yards.

Dimel started his career at K-State as a graduate assistant from 1987-88 prior to being elevated to offensive line coach in 1989.  He took over as offensive coordinator in 1995.  Overall Dimel spent 10 seasons in Manhattan (1987-96) prior to accepting the head coaching position at Wyoming.  At the time of his hire, he was the youngest Division I-A head coach in the nation at the age of 34.

Wyoming’s three seasons at Wyoming (1997-99) produced a record of 22-13, with one eight-win season (1998, 8-3) and two seven-win campaigns (1997, 7-6 and 1999, 7-4).  In 1998, Wyoming was 6-2 in the WAC’s Mountain Division (second place).  Dimel coached three Academic All-Americans at Wyoming.

Dimel spent 2000-02 as the head coach at Houston.  Spearheading a major rebuilding effort, he led the Cougars to five wins in 2002 following a 0-11 campaign in 2001.  In Dimel’s final game with the Cougars, Houston upset conference champion Louisville.  Dimel brought in the top-ranked recruiting class in Conference USA in both 2001 and 2002.

He continued work on his graduate degree at Kansas State in 2005 prior to taking over as Arizona’s tight ends coach and, eventually, run game coordinator from 2006-08.  In 2008, he added running backs to his list of responsibilities as he was promoted to Associate Head Coach with the Wildcats.

The 2008 Arizona squad finished 8-5 while posting a bowl victory (Las Vegas Bowl) for the first time in 10 years.  Among Dimel’s protégés at Arizona was Rob Gronkowski, who has emerged as one of the top tight ends in NFL history with the New England Patriots.

During his initial tenure at K-State, Dimel coordinated an offense that established school records for touchdowns, points and yards in 1995. He mentored 11 offensive linemen who went on to sign NFL contracts over those 10 years, as well as three All-Americans.

During his career as a head or assistant coach, Dimel has coached 37 players who have gone on to play in the NFL.

Dimel was a two-year letterman as an offensive lineman at Kansas State.  He was a member of the Wildcats’ All-Decade Team for the 1980’s.  He signed a free agent contract with the Minnesota Vikings and attended training camp in 1987.

He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Marketing from Kansas State in 1986.

Dimel and his wife, Julie, have a son, Winston and a daughter, Josey.  His son is a junior fullback on the Kansas State football team who has scored 25 touchdowns over the last three seasons.  He is a three-time All-Big 12 player, garnering first team honors in 2015 and 2016.

Gallery+Story: UTEP’s Offense Comes to Life, but LA Tech Comes Out on Top 42-21

UTEP gained over 400 yards of total offense, true freshman running back Joshua Fields rushed for a career-high 137 yards with a touchdown and senior linebacker Alvin Jones racked up 15 more tackles to add to his career total, but LA Tech used a 28-0 first half to get past UTEP, 42-21, on ‘Senior Day Saturday’ in the Sun Bowl.

 The Miners (0-11, 0-7 Conference USA) outscored the Bulldogs (5-6, 3-4 C-USA), 21-14 in the second half, but it wasn’t enough as LA Tech’s Jaqwis Dancy and Boston Scott each hit over 130 yards rushing in the contest.

Fields, a native of El Paso and a graduate of Americas High School, rushed for 97-yards in the first half on his way to his first 100-yard game in his young career.

The Miners registered a season-high 424 yards of total offense – while hitting over 300 for the first time in 2017 and most since 555 yards of total offense against North Texas during the 2016 season finale. UTEP tallied a season-high 19 first downs and threw for a season-best 261 yards on 12 completions.

With the score 28-0 in third quarter, Fields got the Miners on the board when he found the end zone on an 11-yard rush with just over five minutes left in the third quarter. On the drive, junior Ryan Metz hooked up with Andress High School teammate sophomore Eddie Sinegal on passes of 18, 13 and seven yards. Another key play was a LA Tech offsides penalty on a fourth-and-3 that kept the drive going.

“I think Ryan [Metz] and [Eddie] Sinegal had a real good flow going with the play selection and knew what they were trying to do against us defensively and called the plays accordingly,” interim head coach Mike Price said. “We were able to run the football and that was really good to see. Then we executed and made some spectacular catches and runs with the ball, that was fun to see. I think that was the only difference. I don’t think our offense played a heck of a lot better in the second half than the first half, but we scored. We were able to run the ball in the first half and making those really spectacular catches and stuff. They guy competed the whole game, sixty minutes, which I mean, come on fellas we haven’t won a game all year.  I don’t know if you guys have ever been in sports on a team or anything like that that’s gone through that, I haven’t. It’s real difficult to stick in there and stay in there and so I’m proud of the players for that. They stuck in there and they made a game of it in the second half and it could have been worse.”

The touchdown was his second of Field’s young career and the first second-half offensive touchdown since Mark Torrez went six yards for a score during the third quarter against Arizona on Sept. 15.

With just over a minute left in the third, senior Tyler Batson made the score 28-14 after a catch-and-run down the sideline that went for a career-long 83 yards from Metz, who also got credit for a career-long pass completion. The drive went 87 yards on only three plays.

LA Tech answered though when it drove 75 yards on 13 plays that ended with a J’Mar Smith to Teddy Veal nine-yard touchdown toss that made the score 35-14.

In the back-and-forth second half, the Miners made it another 14-point game when Metz threw his second score of the contest – a 33-yard pass to junior Kavika Johnson. Metz, on the play, was about to get sack, but rolled out of it to his right and found Johnson on the catch-and-run, while breaking a pair tackles in the process on his way to pay dirt with just over nine minutes remaining in the contest. 

But LA Tech chewed up over six minutes of the clock on a 69-yard scoring drive on 11 plays that resulted with a Smith nine-yard scoring dash to make the score 42-21 and out of reach for the Miners.

The Bulldogs’ Amik Robertson intercepted a Metz pass with just over two minutes remaining in the game that sealed the win.

Back to the first half, the UTEP defense got the crowd of 16,597 excited as it opened the first quarter with two fumble recoveries on the Bulldogs’ first two possessions. Junior Kahani Smith recovered the first after senior Lawrence Montegut forced the fumble from Rhashid Bonnette. The second recovery came from senior Dante Lovilotte when sophomore Justin Rogers forced the ball out of Kam McKnight’s hands.

 The Miners, however, couldn’t capitalize on the forced fumbles.

“It was 28-0 at the half, and that happened so fast,” Price said. “We were in that game at seven-zip there and all of a sudden three touchdowns in six minutes, bang, bang, bang, an interception and being down twenty-eight to nothing was a difficult situation for our players. We had three scoring opportunities; three drives in the first half. We missed a fumble, we missed a field goal then we got stopped on downs. We were down there, where we moved the ball in a situation where we had a chance to get at lease a couple of touchdowns, which would have made it a little bit different. I don’t know if it would have changed what they [LA Tech] did in those six minutes, but it certainty would have put us a lot closer, fourteen to twenty-one at that point. Even in the third quarter I felt like, ‘Hey, maybe the defense will get a pick and run one in’ but they did a good job of really running the football in the fourth quarter and really kind of took us out of the game.”

LA Tech, after forcing a three-and-out on UTEP’s second possession, went 80 yards on 12 plays, capped by a Scott 23-yard scoring pass from Smith. The Bulldogs converted three third downs on the drive to keep the ball moving.

Kickoff returner junior Terry Juniel put his squad in great position after returning the kickoff 53 yards (second longest of his career) to the LA Tech 44-yard line. The Miners had a chance to get on the board with their third possession, but three penalties and a missed 38-yard field goal attempt kept them scoreless. The original field goal attempt was going to be a 33-yard attempt by junior walk-on Jason Filley before a five-yard false start penalty by senior offensive lineman Logan Tuley-Tillman moved the ball back.  

The Miners had another chance of getting on the board in the first half on their fourth possession. Senior Zack Greenlee had a ‘free play’ after a defensive offsides and found senior wide receiver Nesly Ovincy on a 41-yard reception – his first of the season – to the LA Tech 35-yard line. Fields followed with a 21-yard gain to the opponent 14-yard line, but then fumbled the ball on his ensuing possession.

LA Tech then took a 14-0 lead after recovering the fumble at its own 15 and responded with a five-play, 85-yard drive that resulted in a Jaqwis Dancy 54-yard touchdown with just over six minutes left in the first half.

UTEP’s first-half offensive woes continued on its fifth possession. After Fields gained 26 yards to the Bulldogs’ 36-yard line, Metz threw a pick-six to DaMarion King, who took it back 71 yards for a score and a 21-0 lead with just over three minutes left in the half.

After another UTEP three-and-out, the Bulldogs then took a 28-0 lead in the final two minutes of the first half on six-play, 72-yard scoring drive that ended with a 10-yard touchdown rush with 30 seconds remaining in the half.

Batson led the way with 94 yards on a pair of receptions, while Sinegal led the squad with five receptions for a season-high 69 yards. Johnson hauled in a pair of passes for 48 yards.

Metz, who replaced the starter Greenlee, threw for a season-high 202 yards on 9-of-17 passing and two touchdowns. Greenlee completed three passes for 59 yards.

Jones, along with his 15 stops, added half a sack with a tackle for loss and a pass breakup. Lovilotte registered eight tackles, while Smith and senior Devin Cockrell recorded seven tackles each. Senior Sky Logan was credited with half a sack and sophomore Kalaii Griffin registered his first career sack.

“We made some really great individual plays in this game and showed some explosiveness for the first time since I’ve been here so that was good. There’s no give-up on this team. Nobody gave up, I didn’t see anybody give-up, really moping.” Price said. “We just made some stupid mistakes, too many penalties and too many errors. I said the team that makes the least amount of mistakes wins the game and we certainty had our share of mistakes, penalties, interceptions, and then not capitalizing in the first half in the red zone when we had the opportunity to.”

The Bulldogs rushed for 343 yards and three scores led by Dancy’s 135 yards. Veal led the way in receptions (six) and yards (66), while Scott added a receiving score. Smith threw for 203 yards and two touchdowns. Dae’Von Washington led the LA Tech defense with eight tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss.

UTEP will conclude the 2017 campaign when it travels to Birmingham, Ala., to take on UAB. Kickoff is set for 11 a.m. MT/Noon CT at Legion Field.

The Miners and Blazers will meet for the first time in since 2010. UAB leads the all-time series 3-1.

Photos by Andres Acosta, Chief Photographer, El Paso Herald-Post

UTEP Football’s Hernandez Invited to 2018 Reese’s Senior Bowl

MOBILE, Al. – UTEP senior left guard Will Hernandez was recently invited to play in the 2018 Reese’s Senior Bowl on Jan. 27, 2018 in Mobile, Ala. Kickoff is set for 12:30 p.m. MT in Ladd-Peebles Stadium. The contest will be televised on NFL Network.

Hernandez is the first Miner to receive an invite since the 2008 Senior Bowl. The Las Vegas, Nevada, native has started at left guard in every game played (47 games) since his freshman season in 2014.

Since Hernandez made his first start on Aug. 20, 2014 at New Mexico, UTEP has boasted one of the better offensive lines in, not only Conference USA, but the nation.

The Miners ranked tied for eighth in FBS following the 2014 season, allowing only 13 sacks in 13 games. In 2015, the Miners moved up a few spots, ranking tied for sixth (12 sacks allowed in 12 games). Last season, UTEP ranked tied for third in C-USA (22 sacks allowed).

Hernandez was also instrumental in paving the way for current Green Bay Packers’ rookie running back Aaron Jones to become UTEP’s all-time rushing leader. Jones capped his career with a 301-yard output against North Texas in last season’s finale, as Hernandez and company helped open up big holes.

Hernandez joins 10 other Miners who have played in the prestigious bowl game. The list includes LB Fred Carr (1968), WR Reggie Barrett (1991), LB Keith Powe (1991), RB Toraino Singleton (1996), TE Brian Natkin (2001), LB Thomas Howard (2006), QB Jordan Palmer (2007), WR Johnnie Lee Higgins Jr. (2007), OL Oniel Cousins (2008) and DB Quintin Demps (2008).

Go to www.seniorbowl.com for more information.

North Texas Pulls Away in Second Half, Tops UTEP 45-10

DENTON, Texas – North Texas quarterback Mason Fine threw four scores, Jeffery Wilson rushed for 144 yards with a touchdown and North Texas (7-3, 6-1 Conference USA) took care of UTEP (0-10, 0-6 C-USA), 45-10, on a chilly Saturday night at Apogee Stadium.

The Miners’ offense struggled again, gaining 231 yards and 15 first downs to the Mean Green’s 472 yards of total offense and 27 first downs.

But after the Miners battled in the first half, finding themselves down 14-7, the Mean Green outscored their opponent 31-3 in the second half.

“I thought we, particularly on defense, played really well in the first half,” interim UTEP head coach Mike Price said. “But again, we couldn’t get anything going on offense. We still had a chance at halftime, but we aren’t a very good second half football team.”

The contest started positive as the Miners took a 7-0 lead early in the first quarter when senior Alvin Jones forced his third fumble of the season. Junior Kahani Smith scooped up the loose ball and returned it 45 yards for a touchdown to quiet the raucous crowd of 26,108. It was Smith’s second touchdown of the season and the third overall for the UTEP defense in 2017.

The Mean Green, however, answered as Fine and Jaelon Darden gave the Mean Green a 14-7 lead. The first score came with 48 seconds remaining in the first quarter when Fine tied the contest on a 13-yard pass to Darden. After a tight second quarter, UTEP was called for a passing interference that put the ball at the two-yard line. Fine hooked up with Darden for a second time on a short toss with just over two minutes remaining the in the first half.

The UTEP defense got off to a sluggish start in the second half as North Texas opened the half with a 75-yard scoring drive on eight plays that resulted in a Wilson one-yard touchdown to make the score 21-7.

The Miners helped the Mean Green with 31 penalty yards on the drive. The first penalty came on a facemask after Wilson gained 10 yards on the first play of the drive. Two plays later, the Miners were called for a roughing the passer that moved the ball to the UTEP 31-yard line. Prior to Wilson’s score, a passing interference was called in the end zone to set up the short run.

“We started out the third quarter on defense and got three penalties and gave up 75 yards,” Price said. “The defense wore down in the second half and we didn’t make any plays on special teams. It was a tough loss to a good team.”

The offense showed signs of light after UTEP scored on its first possession of the second half. Zack Greenlee, on a first-and-10 from the UTEP 39, threw up a jump ball as he was being rushed only for Warren Redix to come down with it against a pair of defenders for a gain of 34 yards to the North Texas 27-yard line.

Following an incomplete pass, Greenlee used a career-long 15-yard dash to get to the 12-yard line after almost being sacked. But the Miners could only muster up three more yards and settled for a Jason Filley 27-yard made field goal attempt (21-10).

With the score 28-10 after a Rico Bussey 60-yard touchdown pass from Fine, the Mean Green put the game away to begin the fourth quarter after Fine completed his fourth touchdown pass, this time to Jalen Guyton on a two-yard toss, giving North Texas a 35-10 lead.

Smith had a nice game as he registered a career-best nine tackles to go along with his touchdown.

“Smith has played well the whole year,” Price said. “He made some big plays for us.”

Senior Devin Cockrell recorded eight tackles, while Julian Jackson and Jones had seven stops each.

Eddie Sinegal, who entered the game with five catches, led the Miners with six receptions for 38 yards. Terry Juniel tallied four receptions for 38 yards.

Fine was effective as the sophomore finished 23-of-35 passing for 213 yards (154.5 rating) and Wilson racked up another 58 yards on seven receptions to go with his 144 rushing yards. Bussey led the Mean Green with 65 yards on three catches.

UTEP will host LA Tech on ‘Senior Day’ to close out the home portion of its schedule. The Nov. 18 kickoff is set for 1 p.m. in the Sun Bowl, as 22 seniors will play their final contest in the Sun Bowl.

The Miners will close out the 2017 season at UAB on Nov. 25.

Middle Tennessee Defeats UTEP 30-3

MURFREESBORO, Tn. – True freshman running back and El Paso native Joshua Fields produced a career-high 87 yards on 17 carries (5.1 avg.), but Middle Tennessee halted a two-game skid after getting past UTEP, 30-3, on Saturday night at Floyd Stadium.

The Miners (0-9, 0-5 Conference USA) struggled on offense, gaining 137 yards and six first downs, while the Blue Raiders (4-5, 2-3 C-USA) registered 400 yards of offense and 18 first downs. 

“I thought our defense at times played very well, kept us in the game for a while,” UTEP interim head coach Mike Price said. “We just couldn’t do anything on offense. The first half they blitzed us and we couldn’t get a ball off. It was a miserable effort on offense.”

Brent Stockstill, who was a game-time decision, made his first start since Sept. 9 at Syracuse. The junior threw for 190 yards on 13-of-30 passing and three scores. Nik Needham intercepted one of Stockstill’s passes, as it was Needham’s first of 2017 and second in his career.

Middle Tennessee got on the board first after Canon Rooker connected on a career-long 51-yard field goal.

The Blue Raiders then took a 17-0 lead after a pair of Stockstill touchdown tosses. The first came with 16 second left in the first quarter, a 25-yard hookup to Ty Lee, while the second was five-yard pass to Jimmy Marshall in the second quarter at the 4:35 mark.

After a Tavares Thomas two-yard touchdown run to put MT up 24-0, UTEP walk-on kicker Jason Filley got the Miners on the board with his first career field goal, a 26-yard kick with over six minutes to play in the third quarter. The drive went 67 yards on 15 plays (6:46) as Fields gained 61 of those yards on eight attempts.

Fields, on the scoring push, got the Miners past midfield after he gained a career-long 27-yard rush to the Middle Tennessee 48-yard line and hit a first down on a three-yard run on a fourth-and-2 play in the red zone to keep the drive going.

Alan Luna gathered a career-high 414 yards on nine boots (46.0 avg.), while Dante Lovilotte led the defense with seven tackles, while Needham recorded six tackles. Terry Juniel ran a kickoff back 49 yards, the third longest of his career and averaged 29.0 yards on three kickoff returns. Juniel also gained 13 yards on three receptions.

Warren Redix led the offense with 19 yards on a trio of catches.

UTEP will head to Denton to take on bowl-eligible North Texas (6-3, 5-1 C-USA) on Nov. 11 (3 p.m. MT). The Miners last visited Apogee in 2015 and prevailed 20-17 in the season finale.

Gallery+Story: Roadrunners Down UTEP 31-14

Jalen Rhodes rushed for two touchdowns, and Devron Davis had a crucial interception for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter as UTSA beat UTEP, 31-14, on Saturday night in the Sun Bowl.

For the fifth time in as many games in the series, the visiting team was victorious as UTSA moved to 5-2 overall (2-2 Conference USA) and UTEP fell to 0-8 overall and 0-4 in league play.

“That wasn’t very good,” UTEP Interim Head Coach Mike Price said.  “We played hard.  We certainly didn’t play real smart.  The team that makes the least mistakes in this game usually wins, and no question about it, we made not very smart plays and it came back to hurt us.”

The Miners fell behind 17-0 midway through the second period, but rallied with back-to-back touchdowns to make it a three-point game at halftime.  Zack Greenlee finished off a seven-play, 70-yard drive with a six-yard touchdown run.  Then the Miners capitalized on an interception by Roadrunner quarterback Dalton Sturm, as El Paso native Joshua Fields scored his first college touchdown on a five-yard scamper to cap a 40-yard drive.  Justin Rogers picked off the pass, tying him for team-high honors with two interceptions this season.

“I thought we had a real chance in the first half,” Price said.  “The defense, at times, is playing well enough to win in this league.  They didn’t have that many yards.  They were well below their average against us.”

The 17-14 score held up until late in the third quarter, when Rhodes punched it into the end zone from one yard out to put the Roadrunners up by 10.

The Miners fought gamely but wouldn’t score again, and Davis dealt the crippling blow by picking off Greenlee on a third-and-five deep in UTEP territory early in the fourth quarter before running 22 yards to the end zone.

Rhodes ran 14 times for 66 yards, but he was UTSA’s third-leading rusher as Tyrell Clay gained 71 yards and Sturm added 67.  The Roadrunners ended the night with 393 yards of offense, including 205 rushing.  Sturm completed 18-of-30 passes for 188 yards.

Greenlee was 8-of-29 passing for 133 yards for the Miners, who were held to 243 yards by Conference USA’s top defensive unit.  Erik Brown snared three catches for 52 yards, and Tyler Batson had two catches for 45 yards.

UTEP’s all-time leading rusher, native El Pasoan and Green Bay Packers rookie standout Aaron Jones returned to the Sun Bowl on Saturday night.  And his message to the fans, and the team, early in the second quarter appeared to give the Miners the offensive jolt that they needed to get back in the game before stalling in the second half.

“In the second half, we again fell apart,” Price said.  “We’re not a very good second half team.  I don’t know if our adjustments are good as coaches.  They probably aren’t good, if they were good then we’d do a lot better.  But we made some serious mistakes offensively in the second half.  We’ve got to quit making mistakes like that.  It wasn’t pretty.”

Kalon Beverly, Alvin Jones and Nik Needham tied for game-high honors with nine tackles apiece for UTEP.

The Miners will hit the road for consecutive games at Middle Tennessee (Nov. 4) and North Texas (Nov. 11).  Next weekend’s matchup with the Blue Raiders will kick off at 5:30 p.m. MT from Murfreesboro and will be televised on beIN SPORTS.

Complete UTEP Coverage:

Monster’s Musings: Hoping Against Hope as Miners Drop to 0-8

Photo Gallery by Andres Acosta, Chief Photographer El Paso Herald-Post

Monster’s Musings: Hoping Against Hope as Miners Drop to 0-8

On a chilly Saturday night at the Sun Bowl, the UTEP Miners were hoping to get their first victory of the year but, sadly that was not the case. The Miners fell to the UTSA Roadrunners 31-14

The Miners gave fans some hope that they might be able to get a victory when they scored 14 unanswered points in the second quarter to make the game 17-14 at halftime.

If it wasn’t for QB Zach Greenlee throwing an interception at the Roadrunner 5 yard line in the first quarter, the score might have been tied at halftime. But the sad truth is that – once again –  mistakes cost the Miners dearly.

In the third quarter, the Miner team that played so well earlier, couldn’t get anything done offensively and the defense gave up another touchdown making the score 24-14.

Even though the Miners were only down 10 points, it felt like they were down by 30 points.

The 4th quarter only got worse after Greenlee threw a pick six that made the score 31-14. Then, a holding penalty cost the Miners a 82 yard touchdown run by Kevin Dove. The only positive thing that happened in the fourth quarter is that the Miners were able to force a fumble and recover it, stopping another sure-fire score by UTSA.

Now I can bore you with a bunch of stats, I can tell you that the Miners looked like a really good football team in the 2nd quarter, but I won’t.

As painful as it is to write this sentence, the plain truth is that this team is bad, really bad.

The Mike Price experiment worked for one game, just one game, and now UTEP looks like the team that forced Sean Kugler to pack his bags and leave town. And the sad thing is that I don’t know how this team gets fixed.

It’s getting very hard for fans to watch UTEP play this way.

Fans were leaving the game when the score was 24-10; like I said earlier, even though it was only 10 points, the fans knew this Miner team doesn’t have it in them to come back.

The announced attendance was around 19,400 but realistically there were about 17,000 Miner faithful there.

And it’s sad because, as I watched the game from the stands – and not from the sidelines or the press box –  I saw that Miner fans want UTEP to succeed. They cheered for them every opportunity they got and in the end they left disappointed again.

The hope that the Miners gave the fans in the second quarter – and the last time they played in the Sun Bowl –  is starting to fade away. The Miners are now 0-8 this season and it doesn’t look like it’s gonna get any better anytime soon.

I hope I’m wrong though, I hope the Miners prove me wrong and get a victory next week against Middle Tennessee but with the way this team is playing, I’m hoping against hope.

 

H-P Sports In Depth: UTEP Returns to Action vs UTSA on ‘UTEP Legends Night’

Coming off its bye week, UTEP will host UTSA on Oct. 28. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. in the Sun Bowl. “Legends Night” will be celebrated in the Sun Bowl as the 2017 UTEP Athletics Hall of Fame Class will be recognized. Aaron Jones, former Miner and Green Bay Packers rookie sensation, is also expected to attend, as 1,000 lucky fans will receive a free bobblehead of UTEP’s all-time leading rusher.

The Miners (0-7, 0-3 Conference USA) are coming off a setback at Southern Miss on Oct. 14 in Hattiesburg, as the Golden Eagles prevailed 24-0. The Roadrunners (4-2, 1-2 C-USA) are coming off a 20-7 victory over Rice on Oct. 21 to end a two-game skid.

The Roadrunners have C-USA’s no. 1 ranked defense. These two programs played an epic five-overtime contest (first in C-USA history) last season in San Antonio. The Miners, who overcame a pair of 14-point deficits, came out on top, 52-49 after Ryan Metz found Warren Redix on a six-yard TD pass for the game winner.

From Coach Mike Price’s Weekly News Conference

(On UTEP’s last game at Southern Miss)
“I thought we came out with really good energy and enthusiasm for the first half. The momentum really got squandered when we fumbled on the one-yard line. We made a tremendous play on the interception, and then fumbled the ball back to them and gave them a touchdown, and otherwise it would’ve at least been 7-0 and we would’ve remained in the game with the enthusiasm that we started the game with. But I thought our defense played well again for two weeks in a row with great intensity and enthusiasm and we got three turnovers, which is something we’re striving to do as a defense and continue to improve on. But that fumble did change the momentum of that game, there’s no question about it. Our offense again was very poor. I don’t think we know who we are on offense, or we know who we are on offense and don’t like it. One of those things is where we stand, I think, in our opinion of the offense right now. Special teams are solid, OK. We got another great run from Terry [Juniel] on a kickoff return, he almost broke it for a touchdown. And we had no missed field goals. So those of you that were upset about that, we’re going to change that. You’ll be surprised and pleased with our field goals and PAT attempts in the future. And I think we just got a little worn out in the fourth quarter.”

(On the offense’s struggles)
“Kind of that statement I made about not knowing who we are is kind of where we’re at. I don’t know what kind of offense we are right now. But I don’t like that kind, whatever it is. Nobody does. Players and coaches and fans.”

(On getting a handle on the play caling)
“Coach [Brian] Natkin is working real, real hard, as are all the coaches. Every play is drawn up to be a touchdown in everybody’s playbook. If everyone does their job, you get a touchdown. Every play should be a good play to call, or it shouldn’t be in your playbook. So I don’t see that as being particularly poor. I don’t think it’s the play calling, it’s our execution that is poor.”

(On the quarterback situation for this week)
“Quarterback is still kind of up in the air. I don’t know how Zack [Greenlee] is, I haven’t seen him since Wednesday. He has been in for treatment. I think his groin is fine, but he’s still got a high ankle sprain. We’ll just have to see how that goes. Ryan [Metz] is better every day too. He was kind of a winged warrior when he was in that last game.”

(On UTSA)
“We’ve got the Roadrunners coming in here. They’re hard to kill, if you’ve seen any cartoons. They are an elusive bird. I think they’ve done a really good job there. Their program has come a long way. Frank Wilson, the new coach, and his associate head coach Jason Rollins, they are guys with really great reputations in the coaching profession. And their players play like it. They are well coached and they’re disciplined and they play well. Their offense is pretty explosive. They are averaging around 460 yards per game. Oh, what we would take for 460 yards a game on offense. They can move the football. They’ve got a really good quarterback. He’s a senior. He is really tough, #14 Dalton Sturm. He has got five or six school records already and he’s chasing all of the other passing records. He is a real good player. They have two running backs. #5 Jalen Rhodes has really been the guy that started the season out for them. He was closing in on all the career records in San Antonio. And then his backup, Tyrell Clay, has had a fantastic last two games. They have four solid receivers, all making about 20 receptions so far. They are really good on offense. Really good.

“On defense, they run a different defense. I kind of like it, a 4-2-5. It’s got five defensive backs. The safeties are kind of interchangeable. They have three safeties in the middle that either support or defend, and they’re active. The corners are pretty much on islands. Four down linemen, two inside linebackers and then these three safeties that roam and are really hitters. #14, #11 and #25 are all really good hitters. Their two inside linebackers, #55 and #31, are solid linebackers. Their best player, and maybe one of the best players we’ll see all season, is #93 Marcus Davenport, defensive end. He is 6-7, 255 pounds. He looks the part, plays the part, is the part. He is someone that you’ve got to know where he’s at all the time. Last game he had 11 tackles, two sacks, broke up a pass, picked up a fumble and ran it in for a touchdown. He is one of the best defensive ends that we have faced and probably the number one defensive end in the conference. Fantastic player, plays really hard, he is really talented and that’s a combination you can’t beat. Their special teams are solid. This is a solid team that we’re playing, and very well coached by a couple of good young coaches in the profession.”

(On Quardraiz Wadley’s status)
“Wadley is a question mark still. I just saw him yesterday and he’s still a question mark. I’m not sure if he’s going to play and how much he would play.”

(On UTEP and UTSA building a rivalry)
“When they first came into the league and they first started up, I thought that’s fine and dandy, because we used to recruit that area pretty good. Let’s not let them get good, because we’ll really have our hands full. I would’ve liked to have kept them a not really good program, and we could’ve gone in and recruited a little bit better out of there. Now they’re 4-2, they’re right in the race for the conference and they’re doing a really good job. Them and North Texas, I wasn’t really excited about having them join the league because it’s two really good recruiting areas and they’re both doing very, very well. It will be, and is, a rivalry.”

(On trying to find an identity on offense)
“I think it’s an evolving process. Like I said before, these players were recruited to a particular type of offense. The terminology is professional in its nature, having come from professional football, and real wordy. It’s a little hard to change horses in the middle of the race, but hopefully, and that’s on my part, what I’d like to do is help the offense produce more yardage and touchdowns and be a more wide open scheme. We’ll see how that goes on Saturday night.”

(On team morale)
“I think team morale is good. I saw everybody yesterday. We had dinner here. They want to win as bad as anybody. But their heads aren’t down, their heads are up. And their heads could be down. It hasn’t been a real fun year. But we’re trying to instill some fun. We had a really good scrimmage here Wednesday afternoon, with all the reserve players and scout team. That was a lot of fun for the players.”

(On what he sees from the players to indicate they’re still fighting)
“I thought we had energy here two or three weeks ago for my first game here and we had energy at Southern Miss. A lot of energy, and we played well in almost all phases against Southern Miss in the first half. We wore out in the fourth quarter, I think. We’re going to have to bring it again. This is a really good team. I’m asking the fans to have faith in us. Faith is belief without evidence. We haven’t given you a lot of evidence. But we’re going to. You wouldn’t want to miss this Saturday night as being the one where the Miners catch on fire. I’m asking more of the players than what they’re giving, but they are definitely responding well to the adversity that they have had. They’re not hanging their head, they’re not pouting, they’re not pointing fingers at other people. None of that. That’s hard to control when you’re going through what they’re going through.”

(On the process of selecting a quarterback for Saturday)
“I don’t know what the process will be. I’ll have to sit down with the coaches and talk about that a little further. The injuries have prevented us from being put in that situation. If they’re both healthy, that’s awesome. Because we’ll probably need both of them. We probably should’ve played Mark Torrez a little more, I would’ve liked to see what he could have done in the last game too.”

***on Saturday’s Game

2017 UTEP ATHLETICS HALL OF FAME
Antonio Davis (basketball, 1986-90), Seth Joyner (football, 1982-85), Blessing Okagbare (track & field, 2008-10), Cynthia Ruelas (volleyball, 1993-97) and Paul Stankowski (golf, 1987-91) form the 15th induction class into the UTEP Athletics Hall of Fame. The Miner greats will be honored during Saturday’s game against UTSA.

MORE ON JOYNER
Seth Joyner played football at UTEP from 1982-85. He arrived on campus as an undersized walk-on before hours in the weight room transformed him into a college standout and, ultimately, one of the NFL’s top linebackers. His Miner career produced 324 tackles before he was picked by Philadelphia in the 1986 NFL Draft.

Joyner played for the Eagles for eight seasons, where he was a three-time Pro Bowl selection and the 1991 Sports Illustrated NFL Defensive Player of the Year. He later played for Arizona, Green Bay and Denver, and was a part of the Broncos’ Super Bowl championship run in his final year as a pro (1998). Joyner was credited with 52 sacks and 24 interceptions in 195 NFL games. He is a member of UTEP’s Football Centennial Team.

ABOUT UTSA
The Roadrunners, who sports Conference USA’s no. 1 ranked defense, improved to 4-2 overall and 1-2 in Conference USA play after a 20-7 victory against Rice in the Alamodome on Oct. 21. UTSA, after starting 3-0 with a victory over Baylor, dropped its first two league contests (31-29 to Southern Miss, 29-26 to North Texas) before righting the ship versus the Owls. The Roadrunners and Owls played a tight first half, as Marcus Davenport put UTSA ahead in the first quarter on a 34-yard fumble return for a score.

Jared Sackett made the score 10-0 with an 18-yard field goal, but Rice answered with a 50-yard touchdown pass with four minutes left in the first half. But 10 unanswered points in the third quarter by UTSA put the game away as Dalton Sturm hooked up with Brady Jones on a 26-yard touchdown early in the second half and a Sackett made a 20-yard field goal with just over five minutes to play in the third. UTSA ranks third in scoring offense (31.2 ppg) and second in scoring defense (18 ppg) in C-USA.

The Roadrunners’ 458.7 yards of total offense rank third, while they rank first in total defense (303.3). UTSA’s rushing offense (222.3) ranks second and its rushing defense (124.3) ranks third in C-USA. Its pass defense (179.0) and opponent third-down conversions (27.5 percent) are both ranked no. 1 in C-USA. Sturm has thrown only one interception on 155 pass attempts as he ranks first in the conference in passing efficiency (165.2).

Sturm has tossed for 12 scores and 1,375 yards on 103 completions (66 percent completion percentage). Jalen Rhodes (496 rushing yards) ranks fifth in C-USA in rushing yards per game (82.7) and has scored four total touchdowns (three rush, one rec.). Rhodes ranks eighth in all-purpose yards per game (101.0). Josh Stewart leads the team in receptions (21), receiving yards (306) and receiving scores (three).

Sackett has made 11-of-12 field goal attempts and is 17-of-18 on PATs to lead the team with 50 points. His 10.0 points per game ranks second in C-USA. Ka’Kel Bass leads the defense with 35 tackles, while Davenport ranks second in C-USA in tackles for loss (12.0) and sacks (6.5). His tackles for loss per game (2.00) ranks first in C-USA. The UTSA defense has sacked the quarterback 18 times, ranking fourth in C-USA, and has intercepted seven passes.

CONNECTIONS
UTEP sophomore RB Walter Dawn Jr. and UTSA senior S Nate Gaines are from Mesquite, Texas, and played at Poteet High School. UTEP senior DB Devin Cockrell and UTSA junior S C.J. Levine are from Port Arthur, Texas, and played at Memorial High School. UTEP senior QB Zack Greenlee and senior CB Devron Davis are both from Stockton, Calif.

SERIES HISTORY
The series is tied 2-2 with the visiting team emerging victorious every time. The Miners won in San Antonio with a historic defensive effort, 34-0 in 2014, and outlasted the Roadrunners in a five-overtime thriller, 52-49, a year ago at the Alamodome. UTSA prevailed in El Paso during the 2013 (32-13) and 2015 (25-6) seasons.

THE LAST MEETING
Ryan Metz hooked up with Warren Redix for the game-winning six-yard touchdown as UTEP defeated UTSA, 52-49, in the first five-overtime contest in Conference USA history on Oct. 22, 2016 in the Alamodome. The Miners rallied from a pair of two-touchdown deficits (14-0, 28-14), the last coming early in the third quarter, to secure the victory.

UTEP knotted it at 28 on a 74-yard pass from Kavika Johnson to Walter Dawn Jr. with 1:11 to play in the third period. After neither team scored in the fourth quarter, the overtime sessions produced a total of 55 points – including 24 by UTEP. In the first overtime, Victor Falcon (UTSA) and Jay Mattox (UTEP) traded field goals.

In the second overtime, quarterbacks Metz and Dalton Sturm both threw 25-yard touchdown passes. In the third OT, Dawn scored on a 12-yard run and Metz completed the two-point conversion pass to Hayden Plinke as UTEP stayed alive after UTSA went ahead 46-38. Following a scoreless fourth overtime, Falcon booted a 33-yard field goal to put the Roadrunners ahead 49-46. But on second and five at the UTSA six-yard line, Metz threw a sideline pass to Redix for the winning points.

Metz tied his career high with a trio of touchdown passes, while completing 15-of-23 attempts for 211 yards. Aaron Jones rushed for 113 yards on 21 carries with a rushing score and two receiving touchdowns, while Dawn tallied two rushing touchdowns and a receiving score.

LAST GAME
Ito Smith rushed for 120 yards and two touchdowns, spoiling a solid performance by the UTEP defense as Southern Miss shut out the Miners, 24-0, on Oct. 14 at M.M. Roberts Stadium. The Miners allowed 286 yards through three quarters before finally wearing down in the final period, when Southern Miss scored the game’s final 10 points. The Miners finished with six first downs and 147 yards of offense.

The Golden Eagles got on the board with 8:26 remaining in the first quarter when Keon Howard threw a 52-yard touchdown pass to Jaylond Adams. After that, the defense stepped up and limited Southern Miss to 102 yards on its next five drives. The Miners also forced a season-high three turnovers in the first half as Devin Cockrell and Kahani Smith picked off passes, and Sky Logan recovered a fumble.

But the defense was put in a precarious position when Kevin Dove fumbled at the UTEP one-yard line in the final minute of the half. On the next play, Smith plowed into the end zone for his first score (two yards) and the Golden Eagles were up 14-0 at the midway point. The defense continued to shine in the third quarter but finally broke in the final period, when Southern Miss completed a 13-play, 80-yard drive with a 20-yard touchdown run by Smith.

Later, the Golden Eagles tacked on a 38-yard field goal by Parker Shaunfield. Zack Greenlee started at quarterback for the Miners and completed 5-of-10 passes for 63 yards before getting injured. His replacement, Ryan Metz, finished 9-of-17 passing for 67 yards with an interception. Alvin Jones led the Miners with 10 tackles.

FOLLOWING A WEEK OFF
UTEP has posted a 9-6 overall mark and a 5-4 home record following a bye week since the 2004 season. During the first Mike Price era (2004-12), the Miners were 6-5, including a 2-0 mark in each of his first two seasons (UTEP had two bye weeks in 2004 [vs. NM State, vs. Rice] & 2005 [vs. Houston, at Tulane]).

Price’s squads tallied wins in 2009 (vs. Tulsa) and 2011 (at Tulane), and losses in 2006 (at New Mexico) and 2007 (vs. Houston). UTEP had another two weeks off in 2008, where it went 0-2 (vs. NM State, vs. Rice). In 2010, UTEP’s bye week fell on the last day of the regular season. The Miners are 3-1 in their last four bye weeks, with victories against UTSA twice (2014 & 2016) and Florida Atlantic (2015).

COMMON OPPONENT FOLLOWING BYE WEEK
UTEP will face UTSA for a third time during the last four seasons following a bye week. The Miners are 2-0 is they blanked the Roadrunners, 34-0, in 2014, and won an epic five-overtime game, 52-49 in 2016, both at the Alamodome.

THE VERY BEST
The UTEP kickoff return defense has been solid as it ranks no. 1 in Conference USA and no. 4 in the nation at 14.5 yards per return.

MOST THIRD-DOWN CONVERSIONS
UTEP converted a season-high six third-down conversions (6-of-15) at Southern Miss on Oct. 14. The previous high was a 5-of-13 effort against WKU (Oct. 7) and a 5-of-12 outing at Army (Sept. 30).

SEASON HIGHS FOR WR JUNIEL
Junior WR Terry Juniel, who returned a kickoff for a career-high 59 yards at Southern Miss on Oct. 14, also recorded a career-best five receptions for 46 yards against the Golden Eagles. His previous high was four receptions against Arizona for a career-high 82 yards on Sept. 15. Juniel ranks third on the team in receptions (13) and second in receiving yards (154) in 2017.

JOSHUA TAKES THE FIELD
True freshman Joshua Fields registered season highs in carries (six) and rushing yards (13) at Southern Miss on Oct. 14. The graduate of Americas High School also hauled in an 18-yard reception against Rice on Sept. 9 in the Sun Bowl. Fields has rushed for 25 yards and has tallied four receptions for 22 yards in 2017.

QB RUSHING SCORES
All three UTEP quarterbacks have rushed for at least one touchdown in 2017. Junior Ryan Metz has scored two – a one-yard score against Rice and a five-yard dash at NM State. Freshman Mark Torrez found the end zone on a six-yard rush against Arizona and senior Zack Greenlee, most recently, ran for a five-yard score against WKU. It’s the first time since at least 1990 that three UTEP quarterbacks have found the end zone with their legs during a single season.

SCORING MULTIPLE WAYS
Kavika Johnson recorded his first career touchdown catch against WKU on Oct. 7 as he now joins a rare club of Miners who have scored a touchdown rushing, receiving and throwing. Johnson has thrown for four scores and has rushed for one (2015 at North Texas) during his career. Johnson joins Aaron Jones, Lorne Sam, Marcus Thomas and Omar Duarte as Miners who have accounted for a touchdown three ways since the 1998 season.

KAVIKA’S CAREER NIGHT VS. RICE
Junior WR Kavika Johnson produced career-highs in receptions (six), receiving yards (67) and long reception (40 yards) against Rice on Sept. 9. His previous highs were three receptions for 32 yards and a long of 27 yards at Rice on Nov. 11, 2016. Johnson ranks fourth on the team with 11 receptions for 124 yards (third-most on team) and a touchdown.

BROWN DELIVERS
Junior transfer WR Erik Brown, who just recently joined the program, made his first start against WKU on Oct. 7. Brown delivered with a pair of receptions for 32 yards. The first was an eight-yard catch for a first down on a third-and-4 in the third quarter. Brown followed with a 24-yard reception during the fourth quarter. Brown, in his second start, followed with a season-best 34 yards on a pair of catches at Southern Miss on Oct. 14. Brown has caught four passes for 66 yards in four games played.

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 is ranked second on the team in receptions (14) and leads the team in receiving yards (169), while scoring a touchdown against Arizona on Sept. 15 – his first since 2015.

LUCERO LOOKOUT
Junior TE David Lucero matched his season high with a trio of receptions (14 yards) against WKU on Oct. 7. Lucero caught three passes for a season-high 31 yards against Rice, while recording his first career touchdown with three receptions (15 yards) at Army on Sept. 30. Lucero currently leads the Miners in receptions (16) for 115 yards.

MIDSEASON ALL-AMERICAN STATUS
Senior OL Will Hernandez was named to the AP Midseason All-America team, chosen by a panel of 16 Top-25 poll voters, on Oct. 17. The guard garnered second team honors through seven games and has racked up 44 starts in four seasons for the Miners.

Hernandez is not new to the spotlight, having earned 2017 AP Preseason All-America second team recognition. Last season, the Las Vegas native 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. Hernandez is the only Conference USA student-athlete to earn recognition.

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.

DOVE RUNNING HARD
Sophomore RB Kevin Dove uses his 6-foot, 245-pound frame to bulldoze over defenders as he rushed for a career-high 69 yards on a career-most 15 attempts against WKU on Oct. 7. Dove got stronger as the game went on as he rambled for a career-long 23-yard rush in the fourth quarter against the Hilltoppers.

Dove’s previous high was a 59-yard effort on 10 carries against Houston Baptist in 2016. In 2017, Dove has rushed for 150 yards on 44 carries. Dove also has a team-best 11 first downs gained.

STEADY IMPROVEMENT
The UTEP defense has shown improvement the last few outings. After allowing 47.8 points per game in the first four contests, the defense has cut it in half, surrendering 24.7 points per contest over the last three games.

The defense also gave up 519 yards of total offense per game during the first four contests and has cut that to 379.3 per game during the last three outings. On Oct. 7 against WKU in the Sun Bowl, the Miners allowed season lows in points (15), first downs (18) and total yards of offense (282).

BACK-TO-BACK DOUBLE-DIGIT TACKLES
Senior LB Alvin Jones registered back-to-back games of double-digit tackles after reaching 12 against WKU on Oct. 7 and 10 more at Southern Miss on Oct. 14. It’s his first back-to-back effort since racking up 16 at Rice on Nov. 19 and 12 tackles against North Texas to close out the 2016 season. Back in 2015, Jones recorded 11 stops three games in a row (vs. Rice, at Old Dominion, vs. LA Tech).

MORE DOUBLE-DIGIT STOPS
Alvin Jones has reached double digits in tackles 12 times during his career after his 10-tackle output on Oct. 14 at Southern Miss. Jones’s first double-digit performance came against UTSA on Oct. 3, 2015 with a 10-tackle outing. Jones racked up 11 tackles in four other contests in 2015 (at NM State; vs. Rice; at Old Dominion; vs. LA Tech).

In 2016, Jones registered double-digit tackles, including his career high of 16 stops, in four contests (12 vs. NM State; 16 vs. FIU; 16 at Rice; 12 vs. North Texas). Jones registered a season-high 15 tackles against Arizona on Sept. 15, his first double-digit effort in 2017 and 12 stops against WKU on Oct. 7.

LEADING TACKLER
Alvin Jones registered 10 more tackles at Southern Miss on Oct. 14 after racking up 12 against WKU the week before. Jones currently leads the team in tackles (61) and tackles per game (8.7). Jones ranks sixth in tackles per game (8.7) and seventh in total tackles (61) in Conference USA. Jones has led the Miners in tackles in each of the last two seasons, recording 93 stops during each campaign.

KEEPING UP WITH ALVIN’S CAREER
Senior Alvin Jones has 302 career tackles (second-most at UTEP since the 2000 season) after tallying 10 stops at Southern Miss on Oct. 14. Jones has 12.5 career sacks, ranking tied for ninth with Menson Holloway on the program’s top-10 list.

Jones’s 34.5 career tackles for loss rank third on the program’s all-time list as Barron Wortham leads the all-time list with 45.0 tackles for loss and Gonzalo Floyd ranks second (41.0 TFL). 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.

300-TACKLE CLUB
Alvin Jones now has over 300 tackles in his career after being credited with 10 stops at Southern Miss. Jones joins Pete Shufelt (385 tackles), Fred Williams (375), Dale Kirry (335), Seth Joyner (325), Brian Young (322) and Richie Rodriguez (322) as Miners who have reached at least 300-plus stops during a career.

Barron Wortham leads the all-time list with 566 tackles. Doug Morgan (523), Tony Perea (459), Raymond Morris (458), Robert Rodriguez (443), Michael Comer (437), Fred Carr (410) and Hal Barnett (407) ranks as the next eight leading tacklers in program history.

Southern Miss Defeats Miners 24-0

HATTIESBURG, MS. – Ito Smith rushed for 120 yards and two touchdowns, spoiling a solid performance by the UTEP defense as Southern Miss shut out the Miners, 24-0, on Saturday night at M.M. Roberts Stadium.

The Miners (0-7, 0-3 C-USA) allowed 286 yards through three quarters before finally wearing down in the final period, when Southern Miss (4-2, 2-1 C-USA) scored the game’s final 10 points.

The Miners finished with six first downs and 147 yards of offense.

“Southern Miss is a good team,” UTEP interim head coach Mike Price said.  “Their back is really good.  I thought he did a nice job for them.  We were just awful on offense.”

The Golden Eagles got on the board with 8:26 remaining in the first quarter when Keon Howard threw a 52-yard touchdown pass to Jaylond Adams.

After that, the defense stepped up and limited Southern Miss to 102 yards on its next five drives.  The Miners also forced a season-high three turnovers in the first half as Devin Cockrell and Kahani Smith picked off passes, and Sky Logan recovered a fumble.

But the defense was put in a precarious position when Kevin Dove fumbled at the UTEP one-yard line in the final minute of the half.  On the next play, Smith plowed into the end zone for his first score (two yards) and the Golden Eagles were up 14-0 at the midway point.

“I thought in the first half we were really off,” Price said.  “Offensively, obviously, we were off the whole game.  That was hard for anyone to take.”

The defense continued to shine in the third quarter but finally broke in the final period, when Southern Miss completed a 13-play, 80-yard drive with a 20-yard touchdown run by Smith.  Later, the Golden Eagles tacked on a 38-yard field goal by Parker Shaunfield.

Zack Greenlee started at quarterback for the Miners and completed 5-of-10 passes for 63 yards before getting injured.  His replacement, Ryan Metz, finished 9-of-17 passing for 67 yards with an interception.

UTEP wasn’t able to get the ground game percolating as it gained 17 yards on 22 carries.  Terry Juniel led the Miners in the passing attack with five catches for 46 yards.  Juniel also had a couple of kickoff returns for 75 yards with a long of 38.

Southern Miss quarterback Howard threw for 221 yards, completing 16-of-27 passes with a TD and two interceptions.  Adams tallied 104 yards on a pair of receptions.

Southern Miss recorded 423 yards of offense, with 303 coming on four drives (40 plays).  The rest of the night, the Golden Eagles managed 120 yards on 32 plays.

Alvin Jones led the Miners with 10 tackles.  Devin Cockrell, Dante Lovilotte, Dylan Parsee and Smith added six tackles apiece.

“A lot of kids stepped it up [on defense],” Price said.  “Man, at times our defense just played wonderful.  They never gave up the whole game and just gave everything they’ve got.”

The Miners have their bye week coming up and will return to action in the Sun Bowl on Saturday, Oct. 28 against UTSA.  Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. MT.

 

HP Sports In Depth: Coach Price Talks WKU Loss, Looks Ahead to Southern Miss

UTEP will look to chalk up its first victory as the Miners (0-6, 0-2 Conference USA West) will play their first C-USA road game of the season at Southern Miss (3-2, 1-1 C-USA West) on Saturday.

Kickoff is set for 5 p.m. MT/6 CT from Carlisle-Faulkner Field at M.M. Roberts Stadium.

The return to Hattiesburg is the first for UTEP since Halloween 2015 and interim head coach Mike Price’s first since 2012. Hattiesburg was also the site of a 34-33 UTEP victory in 2012, Price’s last win as UTEP’s head coach.

The Miners are coming off a hard-fought 15-14 loss to two-time defending C-USA Champion WKU in the 86th Homecoming game on Oct. 7, in which the special teams units made the difference for both sides. The Miners missed three field goal attempts, and the Hilltoppers converted an early two-point conversion in the first quarter for an 8-0 lead.

UTEP took its first halftime lead of the season, but WKU scored the lone points in the second half for the one-point win. The Miners will have their bye week following the Southern Miss contest and will return to action against C-USA West foe UTSA on Oct. 28 in the Sun Bowl.

***Quotes from Monday’s News Conference with Mike Price

Coach Mike Price  (Opening Statement)
“First of all, I’m going to start out by thanking the over 20,000 people that were here Saturday night. I really haven’t had a chance to do that officially. Wow, they were loud! I’m not kidding you. It felt like we had 40,000 in this stadium again. It sure was fun at halftime leaving our stadium and them chanting ‘UTEP! UTEP!’ The players heard it. The players noticed it. It was awesome. Thanks a lot to El Paso for being here and supporting your football team and football program and school.

“I was very pleased that we played four quarters. We played four quarters of hard-nosed football. We wanted to take care of the football offensively. We felt like we needed to do that to win, and we had zero turnovers. We tackled much better than we have in the past. We limited our missed tackles to just a few in this game. That was great. They sure were right by recruiting [Terry Juniel]. He’s a quality punt returner and showed it on that punt return for a touchdown that they had the invisible penalty on. I was proud to be a Miner on Saturday night.

We did not win the game on the scoreboard, so that part we let slip through our fingers, but we’re proud of the way our players got ready for the game physically, but most importantly mentally and emotionally and they enthusiastically came to play.

They played with their heart. So they were ready to play in the first half and second half and that says a lot about the character of this team. It was not an easy week for anybody in the program and they had adversity and they overcame it in a huge way. We need to continue to get better. This isn’t the end of the season. We have games left. But if we continue to play like this and get a little bit better every week, we’re going to get in that win column.”

(On Quardraiz Wadley’s status)
“He’s going to be listed as OR [on the depth chart]. We won’t know his condition. I don’t know his condition right now. He’s going to have an x-ray, we need to analyze that and see how he’s doing.”

(On the high penalty count in Saturday’s game)
“I know we can eliminate four. We want to eliminate the penalties before the ball is snapped, and the penalties after the ball is blown dead. We had four penalties. I want that to be zero penalties. That’s our goal. What happened in-between the whistles and the snap, you can’t control as much. Is that pass interference or not pass interference?

Man, we broke on the ball great. We broke on the ball really well, knocked passes down, got to their quarterback, moved him around, hit him legally. He was a tired kid, I think, after the game. I was standing next to the official on the sideline and I said ‘Man, was that a great break up or what?’ He said, ‘That was perfect pass defense.’ That’s how I look at penalties. Eliminate those four and I would say we had a good day penalty wise, but that really sticks in my craw.”

(On goals for the rest of the season)
“Well, we plan on winning this weekend. That’s our goal. I think that we showed Saturday night that we can compete in this league, yes.”

(On the process of getting to know the players)
“Yeah, I probably know you guys better than I do the team. I’m glad they have names on the jerseys and that helps.”

(On Brady Viles’ performance last week)
“He kicked off tremendously. And he’s capable of making those kicks. He didn’t make them. So we’re going to try to help him get better, just like the other players.”

(On what it was like to return to the sideline Saturday)
“It was great. I called my wife before the game and said ‘I’m never nervous. What am I anxious about?’ But that’s part of being a coach, I think, is that excitement of the game and seeing the kids being excited. It’s really fun. They were excited and they were ready to play and it was really fun to be on the sidelines with them.

“I’m proud of the kids,” Price said. “It’s the seniors’ team. I want them to win for themselves, and we will. If we keep playing like this, we’ll win. It’s just a matter of time.”

I couldn’t help as much as I would’ve liked to have helped. I’ll gradually help a little bit more as the season goes on. But I thought the communication was really good. We got the plays in and out offensively and defensively and on time. The players were ready to play, snapping the football. At one point in that game, when they were going no huddle, would be a time probably if I had to do it again to call timeout and stop the clock, get them over to the sideline and give them a rest, settle them down a little bit and go back in.

But the other team is good, they’re on scholarship too, so 15 points, and we had that two-point play coached up. We had guys where they were supposed to be.

One man comes free, has a shot at him, and [it was] one of our missed tackles. I was talking to their coach this morning and I said boy, it hurts to get beat by a trick play.’ I’m usually on the other end of that.”

(On working with offensive coordinator Brian Natkin and defensive coordinator Tom Mason)
“It was excellent. I was listening to [the calls]. Half the time I didn’t know what it was. You might’ve seen me lean over to one of the quarterbacks and say ‘What’s that play?’ Because the terminology is different from what it was when I was here, and you have to catch up with that. And same with Tom.

In blitz situation, we went to prevent, got out of that and threw a couple of blitzes in there and stopped them and changed it up rather than just playing that prevent defense. You’ve got to play a little bit of that. But I thought he did a real good job. He blitzed at times when we were supposed to and didn’t at other times. Everyone on that field played their hearts out, played as hard as they could. And I thought Natty did the same thing, made some really good calls at appropriate times.

I think it could be a really great match between the two of us because he’s going to do the conservative, right thing to do and I’m going to do the crazy thing sometimes. It’s a nice balance.”

(On the improvements that need to be made for Saturday’s game)
“Number one, we’ve got to score more points. We can’t be shut out in the second half. We’ve got to eliminate those penalties that we talked about earlier. We need to continue to have the enthusiasm and spirit that we played with, and emotional intensity. And that’s about it. Make a couple of field goals. That would help.”

(On the perception that Zack Greenlee can’t run)
“I guess that’s your guys’ opinion. You saw him play more than I did. You saw more practices than I did. He took care of the ball really well on Saturday night, didn’t he? If it wasn’t there he tucked it and ran with it, slid, protected the ball. He had one snap just a little fast and hit him here, and the back was a little off time and he fumbled and botched the play.

Other than that, he threw it away when he had to. He threw a couple ones right in there that we need to catch. He was on rhythm, under control, I’m sure he was excited to be in the game. But that position, quarterback, you don’t see many guys hooting and hollering in there. They’re usually pretty calm, cool and collected, and he was. He was in rhythm. He’s got to play that way and he showed that he can do it.”

(On the energy the team played with Saturday, was that because of the coaching change?)
“No, it’s not because of me. It’s because of these football players. It’s all about the football team. It’s not about me. I’m just the manager here. I’m managing the program and helping the guys out and helping them get better. We want these seniors to feel good about it and leave with a good feeling. I didn’t miss a tackle myself on Saturday night. I didn’t complete a pass either myself. It’s all about them. It’s all about the players. And that’s why I’m so glad the community supported them the way they did.”

(On Southern Miss)
“I don’t care who we’re playing. I told the team that before the game. What I care about is how you’re playing. It’s an exciting place to play. It’s a lot of fun down there. The last time we played down there however, I think they had a huge rainstorm or something and lightning strike so the crowd wasn’t a factor. But they can be a factor and they’re right behind you.

Our team will really enjoy playing in there. They had a quarterback change at Southern Miss also. They went with #2, a good looking stop quarterback who played earlier in the season. He had the start against Kentucky. I don’t know if he got hurt or whatever. But they made a change. I think their backup, the guy that was a starter was injured a little bit. And this kid played well. He played really well.

Offensively, I think it’s all about #2 and #26, who is their tailback. They have an outstanding tall wide receiver who can really get hot if you allow him to get hot. He had four receptions, I think, last week. They do a lot of stuff on offense, a lot of different things, a lot of different formations. They’ll throw it all over the place and run it all over the place. Defensively, man they are going to be hard to block everybody, because you never know where they’re going to be. They run the radar where they stand up, they run all kinds of different defenses. They are constantly blitzing and pressuring the quarterback. They can run to prevent reverses and outside plays and stuff like that.

We have our work cut out for us offensively and defensively. And they’ll try trick plays, they started the game last week with a trick play. They are well coached. Their head coach, boy he has worked his way up for that job. He came from Alcorn and that’s not an easy place to win and he won big there. And he coached with my son Eric at Memphis. He’s a quality coach and they’ve got a quality staff. It’s a good program and it’s a neat place to play.

It’s a good, great experience for the players. And all they’ve got to do is come out with the same enthusiasm and the same attitude and just get a little bit better and change some of those things that we talked about, and we’ll have a chance.”

MIKE PRICE 2-0 IN HATTIESBURG
UTEP interim head coach Mike Price has recorded a 2-0 mark against Southern Miss in Hattiesburg. The first victory was a 40-37, double overtime decision on Oct. 4, 2008. Trevor Vittatoe threw for four touchdowns and Donald Buckram ran for a score. The second win came on Nov. 17, 2012 – a 34-33 triumph as Blaire Sullivan ran for 98 yards and a score. The win was also Price’s last as UTEP head coach before retiring at the end of the 2012 campaign.

SERIES HISTORY
The Golden Eagles took a 5-4 edge in the series ledger with a 34-7 victory in the Conference USA opener for both teams last season in the Sun Bowl. The teams have met seven times during the regular season and twice in bowl games. The Miners defeated the Golden Eagles, 37-14, in the Sun Bowl on Jan. 1, 1954. Southern Miss and Brett Favre topped UTEP, 38-18, in the Independence Bowl on Dec. 29, 1988. The Miners are 2-1 all-time in games played at Hattiesburg with wins in 2008 (40-37 in 2OT) and 2012 (34-33), and a 34-13 loss in 2015.

THE LAST MEETING
Southern Miss scored two touchdowns late in the second quarter to break open a close game as it opened defense of its Conference USA West Division title with a 34-7 win at UTEP on Sept. 24, 2016. The Golden Eagles scored 17 points off three turnovers by the Miners, who struggled in all facets offensively.

Zack Greenlee and Ryan Metz combined to complete 14-of-28 passes for 113 yards and the Miners finished with 145 yards rushing, 99 of which came in the first half. Aaron Jones was responsible for all 99 of the Miners’ first quarter yards. He finished with 127 yards on 16 carries.

UTEP took a 7-3 lead on a 68-yard run by Jones with 5:37 remaining in the first quarter. The Miners trailed 10-7 with under four minutes remaining in the half before the Golden Eagles struck twice to take a 17-point lead (24-7) to the locker room. First, Ito Smith caught a 28-yard touchdown pass from Nick Mullens, then Allenzae Staggers reeled in a three-yard reception for six points.

The Golden Eagles shut out the Miners in the second half as UTEP had three drives end on downs and two on turnovers. UTEP finished 1-for-11 on third down and 0-for-3 on fourth down. Mullens, the preseason C-USA Offensive Player of the Year, completed 16-of-27 passes for 176 yards with three touchdowns.

Smith rushed 16 times for 108 yards. Outside of the two late first-half scores by the Golden Eagles, another major turning point came midway through the third period when UTEP, trailing 24-7, had first and goal at the two-yard line. Jones was stuffed for no gain and, on second down, Greenlee was picked off by the Golden Eagles’ Curtis Mikell, who ran 100 yards for a TD and extended the visitors’ lead to 24 points.

ABOUT SOUTHERN MISS
The Golden Eagles improved to 3-2 overall and evened their Conference USA record (1-1) after a 31-29 victory at UTSA on Oct. 7. The Roadrunners (3-1, 0-1) jumped out to an early 13-7 advantage. But Southern Miss answered with 21 unanswered points, capped by an Ito Smith 89-yard scamper to the end zone early in the fourth quarter.

With the score 31-23, UTSA scored a touchdown – a Dalton Sturm to Marquez McNair 24-yard score with 48 seconds left in the ball game – but couldn’t convert the two-point conversion. Smith hammered out 178 yards on 17 carries (10.5 avg.), while Keon Howard, who made his second start of the season in a late-week decision, threw a trio of touchdowns with 212 yards on 15-of-20 passing. Quez Watkins led the receivers with 78 yards on five receptions with a score.

Jay’Shaw Washington (two rec., 54 yards) and Korey Robertson (two rec., 45 yards) each recorded touchdowns for the Golden Eagles. Defensively, Tarvarius Moore led the way with 11 tackles, while Curtis Mikell intercepted a pass (61 yards). Racheem Boothe, Paxton Schrimsher and LaDarius Harris each tallied a sack. On the season, Southern Miss ranks fifth in C-USA in scoring (29.8 p/g) and ranks fourth in scoring defense (22.6 p/g allowed).

Golden Eagles rank third in total offense (449.6 ypg) and total defense (346.6 ypg allowed). Smith ranks second in rushing yards per game (122.6) with five rushing scores. Howard ranks second in passing efficiency (158.1), throwing for 370 yards. Kwadra Griggs has thrown eight touchdowns with 951 yards and only one pick (66-of-123 passing).

Robertson ranks sixth in C-USA in receiving yards per game (67.2), as he’s hauled in 23 catches for 336 yards and five scores (ranks tied for first in C-USA). Moore ranks no. 21 in tackles per game (7.0), while Jacques Turner has tallied 2.5 sacks.

CONNECTIONS
UTEP senior DL Sky Logan is from Natches, Miss., while junior LB Jamar Smith played at Holmes Community College (Goodman, Miss.) prior to transferring to UTEP.

SEASON HIGHS & LOWS
UTEP churned out season-highs in total offense (287 yards) and rushing yards (163) against WKU on Oct. 7. The UTEP defense surrendered a season-low 282 yards. It was the fewest allowed against an FBS program since yielding 205 yards at North Texas in 2015, and the lowest tally in the Sun Bowl against any program since giving up only 227 to Houston Baptist last season.

RARE SCORE
The 15-14 final was the first ever in El Paso and second in program history. The Miners fell 15-14 against Arizona State on Nov. 11, 1932 in Tempe.

THE VERY BEST
The UTEP kickoff return defense has been solid as it ranks no. 1 in Conference USA and no. 2 in the nation at 12.8 yards per return.

SECURING THE ROCK
UTEP has only fumbled three times in 2017, ranking tied for third in Conference USA and tied for 34th in the FBS.

KAVIKA’S FIRST RECEIVING SCORE
Junior WR Kavika Johnson registered his first career receiving touchdown against WKU on Oct. 7. Johnson hauled in a 15-yard score from Zack Greenlee in the second quarter, in which Greenlee snuck the ball between a pair of defenders.

SCORING MULTIPLE WAYS
Kavika Johnson recorded a touchdown catch against WKU as he now joins a rare club of Miners who have scored a touchdown rushing, receiving and throwing. Johnson has thrown for four scores and has rushed for one (2015 at North Texas) during his career. Johnson joins Aaron Jones, Lorne Sam, Marcus Thomas and Omar Duarte as Miners who have accounted for a touchdown three ways since the 1998 season.

KAVIKA’S CAREER NIGHT VS. RICE
Junior WR Kavika Johnson produced career-highs in receptions (six), receiving yards (67) and long reception (40 yards) against Rice on Sept. 9. His previous highs were three receptions for 32 yards and a long of 27 yards at Rice on Nov. 11, 2016. Johnson ranks tied for third on the team with nine receptions (99 yards) and a touchdown.

BROWN DELIVERS
Junior transfer WR Erik Brown, who just recently joined the program, made his first start against WKU on Oct. 7. Brown delivered with a pair of receptions for 32 yards. The first was an eight-yard catch for a first down on a third-and-4 in the third quarter. Brown followed with a 24-yard reception during the fourth quarter.

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 is ranked second on the team in receptions (13) and leads the team in receiving yards (160), while scoring a touchdown against Arizona on Sept. 15 – his first since 2015.

FIRST CATCH FOR TOURIS
Junior TE Augie Touris recorded his first career catch, a five-yard snag during the first quarter against WKU on Oct. 7. Touris, who entered 2017 with limited playing time, has made four starts in six games this season. Touris made his first career start at no. 7 Oklahoma to open his junior campaign. He’s also made starts against Rice, at NM State and most recently against WKU.

LURCERO LOOKOUT
Junior TE David Lucero matched his season high with a trio of receptions (14 yards) against WKU on Oct. 7. Lucero caught three passes for a season-high 31 yards against Rice, while recording his first career touchdown with three receptions (15 yards) at Army on Sept. 30. Lucero currently leads the Miners in receptions (14), while ranking second in receiving yards (116).

GREENLEE’S SOLID START
Senior QB Zack Greenlee produced solid numbers, while taking care of the ball against WKU on Oct. 7. Greenlee threw for 124 yards on 12-of-22 passing with a 15-yard touchdown pass to Kavika Johnson. Greenlee also ran the ball well, gaining 46 yards on eight attempts with his first career rushing score – a five-yard dash late in the second quarter that gave UTEP a 14-8 lead. On that same scoring drive, Greenlee sprinted for a career-long 11-yard run on a third-and-one play.

GREENLEE UNDER CENTER
Zack Greenlee leads the UTEP quarterbacks in passing efficiency (120.1), passing yards (347), and throwing scores (three), while only tossing one interception in 60 pass attempts. Greenlee has completed 35 passes, fashioning a 58.3 passing percentage. Greenlee has also rushed for 25 yards and a score.

QB RUSHING SCORES
All three UTEP quarterbacks have rushed for at least one touchdown in 2017. Junior Ryan Metz has scored two – a one-yard score against Rice and a five-yard dash at NM State. Freshman Mark Torrez found the end zone on a six-yard rush against Arizona and senior Zack Greenlee, most recently, ran for a five-yard score against WKU. It’s the first time since at least 1990 that three UTEP quarterbacks have found the end zone with their legs during a single season.

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.

DOVE RUNNING HARD
Sophomore RB Kevin Dove uses his 6-foot, 245-pound frame to bulldoze over defenders as he rushed for a career-high 69 yards on a career-most 15 attempts against WKU on Oct. 7. Dove got stronger as the game went on as he rambled for a career-long 23-yard rush in the fourth quarter against the Hilltoppers. Dove’s previous high was a 59-yard effort on 10 carries against Houston Baptist in 2016. In 2017, Dove has rushed for 148 yards on 37 carries (4.0 avg.).

FIRST DOWN DOVE
Kevin Dove grinded out three more first downs against WKU on Oct. 7, for his team-leading 11. His first came during the second quarter on the Miners’ touchdown drive. Dove ran for 11 yards on a first-and-10. Dove gained his second for nine yards on a third-and-2 in the third quarter. His third was a big gain of 23 yards on a first-and-10 late in the fourth quarter. Dove tallied a first down on a 17-yard run off a second-and-4 play at Army on Sept. 30.

Dove gained three yards on a third-and-1 during the first quarter at NM State on Sept. 23. Against Arizona on Sept. 15, Dove tallied his sixth first down of the season, and gained five yards on a second-and-4 in the second quarter. Dove gained two first downs against Rice on Sept. 9.

The first came on a third-and-2 in which Dove gained three yards, while the second came on a long run of 14 yards on a second-and-13. Dove gained three first downs in week one at no. 7 Oklahoma. Dove has rushed for 148 yards this season, ranking second on the team.

JOSHUA TAKES THE FIELD
True freshman RB and El Paso native Joshua Fields registered a season-high seven-yard rush against WKU on Oct. 7. A few weeks back, Fields recorded a season-best two receptions for five yards against Arizona (Sept. 15). Fields tallied a season-long 18-yard reception against Rice on Sept. 9. Fields has 22 yards on four receptions and has rushed for 12 yards early in his collegiate career.

WADLEY’S BIG DAY
Sophomore tailback Quardraiz Wadley made his first career start and used patience to gain a career-high 156 yards on a career-most 28 attempts (5.6 avg.) at Army on Sept. 30. Wadley also scored his first career touchdown – a one-yard plunge during the first quarter. Wadley’s previous high was a 77-yard effort at NM State on Sept. 23, his first action of 2017. Wadley has rushed for 233 yards on 47 carries (5.0 avg.) to lead the Miners.

NEW 100-YARD RUSHER
Quardraiz Wadley entered the 100-yard game club after his 156-yard output at Army. Wadley is the first UTEP running back other than Aaron Jones or TK Powell to gain over 100 yards rushing in a single game since 2014. Jones hit over 100 yards numerous times in his college career, while Powell rushed for 124 yards against LA Tech in 2015.

LEADING TACKLER
Alvin Jones registered 12 more tackles against WKU on Oct. 7. Jones currently leads the team in tackles (51) and tackles per game (8.5). Jones ranks seventh in tackles per game (8.5) and third in total tackles (51) in Conference USA. Jones has led the Miners in tackles in each of the last two seasons, recording 93 stops during each campaign.

DOUBLE-DIGIT STOPS
Alvin Jones has reached double digits in tackles 11 times during his career after his 12-tackle output on Oct. 7 against WKU. Jones’s first double-digit performance came against UTSA on Oct. 3, 2015 with a 10-tackle outing. Jones racked up 11 tackles in four other contests in 2015 (at NM State; vs. Rice; at Old Dominion; vs. LA Tech). In 2016, Jones registered double-digit tackles, including his career high of 16 stops, in four contests (12 vs. NM State; 16 vs. FIU; 16 at Rice; 12 vs. North Texas). Jones registered a season-high 15 tackles against Arizona on Sept. 15, his first double-digit effort in 2017.

KEEPING UP WITH ALVIN’S CAREER
Senior Alvin Jones has 292 career tackles (third-most at UTEP since the 2000 season) after tallying 12 stops against WKU on Oct. 7. Jones also registered a sack and 2.5 tackles for loss against the Hilltoppers.

Jones has 12.5 career sacks, now ranking tied for ninth with Menson Holloway on the program’s top-10 list. Jones’s 34.0 career tackles for loss rank tied for fifth with Brian Young. Barron Wortham leads the all-time list with 45.0 tackles for loss. Jones’s 14.5 tackles for loss in 2015 rank tied for ninth on the single-season list, while his 5.0 tackles for loss at NM State on Sept. 19, 2015 were the most by a UTEP player since the 2000 season.

Jones has led the Miners in tackles the past two seasons, tallying 93 stops in each campaign, while in 2014 Jones ranked second with 55 takedowns.

IN THE NIK OF TIME
Junior DB Nik Needham was almost ejected for targeting against WKU on Oct. 7. But after a replay review it was determined that Needham was not targeting, was not ejected and ended up with a career-high five pass breakups against the Hilltoppers. Needham’s performance is tied for most all-time with Wesley Miller, who recorded five pass breakups at Rice on Oct. 26, 2013.

NEEDHAM’S NUMBERS
Nik Needham, after registering a career-high five pass breakups versus WKU, now has six in 2017, ranking second in Conference USA behind WKU’s DeAndre Farris (nine) and tied for 18th nationally. Needham also cracked the program’s top-10 list, now ranking ninth with 22 career pass breakups. Jahmal Fenner leads the all-time list with 25 in his career. Needham has tallied 26 tackles with 2.0 tackles for loss (five yards), a sack (three yards) and a fumble recovery.

LEWIS’ SOLID EFFORT
Sophomore Michael Lewis tied his career high with nine tackles against WKU on Oct. 7. Lewis also recorded his first career quarterback hurry against the Hilltoppers. Lewis established his career best with a nine-tackle outing at no. 7 Oklahoma to open the 2017 season. Lewis missed all of last season but has made an impact thus far, ranking fifth on the team with 29 tackles.

 

ACTION JACKSON
Graduate student LB Julian Jackson tallied a career-high eight tackles against WKU on Oct. 7. Jackson, a transfer from Wake Forest, recorded seven tackles in each of his first three games in a UTEP uniform. Jackson’s eight stops against the Hilltoppers is also tied for his college career high. Jackson’s 34 total tackles rank tied for second on the UTEP defense. Jackson also recorded his first pass breakup against the Wildcats and recorded half a tackle for loss at no. 7 OU.

LOVE FOR LOVILOTTE
Since transferring to UTEP, senior LB Dante Lovilotte has produced tackles for the Miners. Lovilotte ranked second on the team in tackles (89) last season and currently ranks second in 2017 with 37 stops after registering four against WKU on Oct. 7. Lovilotte recorded four tackles at Army on Sept. 30. Lovilotte also registered his first full sack at no. 7 Oklahoma to open the season. Lovilotte tied his career best with a season-high 11 tackles against Rice on Sept. 9. At NM State, Lovilotte registered a quarterback hurry and a pass breakup.

OPERATION LINEBACKER
Four of the top six leading tacklers for the Miners are linebackers. Alvin Jones leads the way with 51 stops, while Dante Lovilotte and Julian Jackson are tied for second (34) and Treyvon Hughes is sixth (28).

OTHER DEFENSIVE NOTABLES VS. WKU
A pair of true freshmen had big games against WKU on Oct. 7 as DL Dedrick Simpson registered his first career sack for an eight-yard loss on a third-and-five play during the third quarter and NT Trace Mascorro registered a career high five tackles.

TERRY’S SPECIAL EFFORT
Junior WR/KR Terry Juniel resumed returning kickoffs after an injury to Keynan Foster and responded with career highs in kickoff return yards (105), long return (35) and returns (six) at Army. Juniel’s previous highs were four returns for 76 yards at no. 11 Texas in 2016, and a 30-yard return at NM State on Sept. 23. Juniel is averaging 19.4 yards on eight returns (155 yards) in 2017. Juniel averaged just over 18 yards last season.

BRADY’S FIRST FIELD GOAL ATTEMPT
Sophomore K Brady Viles connected on his first collegiate field goal, a 53-yard boot as the first half expired against Arizona on Sept. 15. Viles was good on one of two PAT attempts against the Wildcats. Viles has 12 points (11-12 PAT, 1-4 FG). Viles’ field goal was the longest for the Miners since Dakota Warren connected on a 57-yard kick against NM State on Sept. 18, 2010. Viles played his first year of college football at Arizona Western College, where he connected on 3-of-3 PATs and was used primarily as a kickoff specialist last season.

VILES’ FIRST KICK WAS A LONG ONE
Brady Viles’ first field goal was a 53-yarder. It’s the longest first made field goal by a Miner since at least 1960. Viles is one of three Miners to hit a 50-plus yard field goal on their first try since 1960. Bronko Belichesky’s first career field attempt was a made 52-yarder against Pacific on Sept. 15, 1973. Jose Martinez connected on a 51-yarder on Sept. 1, 2007 against New Mexico.

DAS BOOT
El Paso native Alan Luna punted five times for 239 yards against WKU on Oct. 7. Luna opened 2017 with eight punts for 352 yards for an average of 44.0 yards at Oklahoma. The senior punter placed three inside the 20-yard line against the Sooners to tie his career high. Luna also placed three inside the 20 at LA Tech on Oct. 1, 2016. Luna’s 43.8-yard average ranks 32nd in the FBS and third in Conference USA. Luna is tied for the league-lead in total punts (40) while leading in punt yards (1,750). Luna ranks fourth in punt yards and total punts in the FBS.

LUNA CAREER NOTES
Senior Alan Luna ranks sixth on the program’s all-time list in career punt yards (7,177) and fifth in career punts (167). Steve Folkner ranks no. 5 in career punts (186), while the overall leader is Jerry Walker (298). Campbell ranks no. 5 in career yards (7,328), while the overall leader is Walker (12,193). Luna’s career high for yards is 376 at Texas (Sept. 10, 2016). His longest is a 69-yard boot, while his career-best average is 51.0 yards on six punts (306) against Southern Miss (Sept. 24, 2016). In week two against Rice, Luna registered a 63-yard boot, the second-longest of his career, while his third-longest went 61 yards at Old Dominion in 2015.

CATCHING UP WITH COACH PRICE
UTEP interim head coach Mike Price made his 2017 debut against WKU in the 86th Homecoming Game. Price has 48 wins with the Miners, the second most in program history behind Mack Saxon (66 wins). Price led UTEP to back-to-back eigtht-win seasons (2004 & 2005) and a trio of bowl appearances (2004 Ev1.net Houston Bowl, 2005 GMAC Bowl & 2010 New Mexico Bowl).

CHALKING UP WINS
Mike Price is the fifth-winningest active FBS coach with 177 wins. Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly (235 wins) leads the way, while Alabama’s Nick Saban (211), Kansas State’s Bill Snyder (205) and Georgia Tech’s Paul Johnson (180) round out the list.

 

UP NEXT
UTEP will have its bye week following the Southern Miss contest. The Miners will continue action on Oct. 28 against UTSA in the Sun Bowl at 6 p.m.

***

CLICK -> Price’s Homecoming Spoiled by Missed Field Goals in One-Point loss to Western Kentucky https://elpasoheraldpost.com/prices-homecoming-spoiled-missed-field-goals-one-point-loss-western-kentucky/ CLICK -> Monster’s Musings: Missed Field Goals cost Miners Upset Win https://elpasoheraldpost.com/monster-missed-fg-cost-miners/ CLICK -> Gallery+Story: Miners’ Spirited Effort Comes Up Short Against WKU 15-14 https://elpasoheraldpost.com/gallerystory-miners-spirited-effort-comes-short-wku-15-14/

Gallery+Story: Miners’ Spirited Effort Comes Up Short Against WKU 15-14

UTEP came oh-so-close to knocking off two-time defending Conference USA champion WKU. But the Miners missed three field goals, and the Hilltoppers escaped with a 15-14 victory on Saturday night in the Sun Bowl.

UTEP (0-6, 0-2 C-USA) turned in its best defensive effort of the season, holding high-powered WKU (3-2, 1-1 C-USA) to 282 yards of offense, including 208 passing. UTEP actually gained five more yards (287) than the Hilltoppers despite playing the last three quarters without running back Quardraiz Wadley, who suffered an apparent knee injury. Wadley finished with 39 yards on seven carries.

“I was real proud of the effort. We played four quarters hard,” said interim head coach Mike Price, who made his return to the sideline after coaching his last game at UTEP in 2012. “The punt return for a touchdown [by Terry Juniel in the second quarter] was a spectacular play called back. I’m disappointed that I couldn’t help the team more in the second half offensively to get touchdowns instead of field goals.”

WKU scored the game’s first touchdown early in the second quarter on a five-yard run by Mike White. The Hilltoppers went for the two-point conversion and got it, as Drew Eckels connected with Deon Yelder in the end zone. That ended up looming large in a one-point game.

UTEP cut it to 8-7 on a 15-yard TD pass from Zack Greenlee to Kavika Johnson, and the Miners took the lead when Greenlee scampered five yards into the end zone shortly before halftime.

UTEP couldn’t capitalize on getting the ball to start the third quarter and the Hilltoppers took advantage, moving 80 yards on 13 plays and surging ahead 15-14 on a one-yard run by White.

That turned out to be the final score of the game, although the Miners had their chances. They moved deep into Hilltopper territory twice in the second half, but Brady Viles missed a 47-yard field goal late in the third quarter, and a 41-yard field goal with 2:01 to go. Earlier in the game, he misfired on a 34-yard attempt.

“It’s not an easy job kicking that field goal, believe me,” Price said. “Being the father of a field goal kicker, I know.”

UTEP still had three timeouts, but on third and five at the WKU 28-yard line, White found Yelder for an 11-yard completion and a first down that ended the Miners’ comeback chances.

White completed 24-of-37 passes for 208 yards. Greenlee completed 12-of-22 passes for 124 yards for the Miners, but did more damage with his legs. He rushed eight times for 46 yards.

In Wadley’s absence, the Miners got rushing production from Greenlee and Kevin Dove, who gained 69 yards on 15 attempts.

Neither team committed a turnover.

Alvin Jones tallied 12 tackles, a sack and 2.5 tackles for losses for UTEP, while Michael Lewis chipped in with a pass break-up and quarterback hurry. The Miners were credited with eight tackles for losses in all.

UTEP controlled the clock for 33:02 and had over nine minutes of possession time in both the second and third quarters.

“Our line blocked well,” Price said. “I’m very pleased with Zack’s performance on offense. Obviously Alvin Jones played just great. Our whole defense played hard. The kids played hard. They gave great effort. No one quit. I was real proud of the guys and really upset that they didn’t [achieve] the goal of winning, because I felt like we deserved to win that game. We kind of blew it ourselves. We had two penalties before the ball was snapped, two penalties after the ball was snapped. We need to eliminate those.”

The Miners will reach the midway point of the season next Saturday when they play at Southern Miss. Kickoff is set for 5 p.m. MT in Hattiesburg and the game will be televised on STADIUM.

MORE CONTENT:

CLICK -> Price’s Homecoming Spoiled by Missed Field Goals in One-Point loss to Western Kentucky

CLICK -> Monster’s Musings: Missed Field Goals cost Miners Upset Win

Gallery by Andres Acosta, Chief Photographer El Paso Herald-Post

Video+Story: Price’s Homecoming Spoiled by Missed Field Goals in 1-Point Loss to WKU

Not one, not two, but three missed field goals for UTEP kicker, Brady Viles, in the Miners’ 15-14 loss to Western Kentucky University on Saturday night as they fell to 0-6 on the season.

Mike Price returned to the UTEP sidelines as interim head coach after Sean Kugler stepped down, in an attempt to salvage a winless season and the Miners held their own against the C-USA foe, but in the end it wasn’t enough.

“No. I thought he’d make it,” Price said. “I believed in him one hundred percent that he’d make it.”

UTEP had its old coach back, but in some ways it felt like a new team, playing with more energy and showing the type of effort not common for a winless team.

The team played its best game thus far this season in the losing effort, the Hilltoppers’ two point conversion after their first touchdown proved to be the difference in the final score.

Price returned to the Miners after coaching the team to 48 wins, 61 losses and three bowl appearances between 2004 and 2012.

“It was fun, it was exciting,” Price said. “I’m proud of the kids, it’s their team, it’s the seniors’ team. I want them to win for themselves and we will, we’ll win–we keep playing like this, we’ll win. It’s just a matter of time.”

The game began with a scoreless first quarter before the Hilltoppers marched down the field to a 8-0 lead after a Mike White quarterback keeper and the successful two-point conversion.

The Miners would go on to score 14 unanswered points with under five minutes left in the first half to take a 14-8 halftime lead. Quarterback, Zack Greenlee, would account for both scores–finding Kavika Johnson in the end zone for a 15-yard touchdown pass and running for the second score from 5-yards out.

The Hilltoppers would again take the lead, 15-14, in the third quarter after White scored his second rushing touchdown of the game.

Both teams would exchange scoreless possessions in the fourth quarter. UTEP would have an opportunity with 5:03 left in the game still trailing by one point.

The Miners drove down the field to give Viles an opportunity for the go ahead field goal attempt from 40-yards out. Viles missed his third attempt low and away from the goal posts with 2 minutes left in the game.

UTEP had three time outs left after turning the ball over to the Hilltoppers, but failed to stop them for one last opportunity.

“We wanted to get the ball back as bad as we could,” Greenlee said. “We were ready on the sideline. We knew we were down by one, all we needed was that field goal to win at the end…they ended up making one more play than we did tonight.”

Greenlee finished the night with 124-passing yards on 22 attempts with one touchdown and added 52 more yards an a score on the ground.

The Miners defense held the Hilltoppers to 282 total yards while forcing six punts and winning the time of possession battle.

“It’s not over. We still have a long season, lots of games left,” running back, Kevin Dove, said. “We’re going to come out and we’re going to fight every last game until the season is over. We’re not going to give up on the city of El Paso, just like they haven’t given up on us.

Defensive captain, Alvin Jones, said the team would not take any moral victories because of the team’s improved performance despite the loss.

“People in there mad, everybody’s mad,” Jones said. “Especially when you’re that close. That’s the worst way to lose. I rather get blown out than lose by one point.”

UTEP will travel to Southern Miss to begin their second half of the season with four of the six renaming games being played away from El Paso.

MORE CONTENT:

CLICK -> Monster’s Musings: Missed Field Goals cost Miners Upset Win

CLICK-> Gallery+Story: Miners’ Spirited Effort Comes Up Short Against WKU 15-14

UTEP loses 15-14 to Western Kentucky in Mike Price’s return as interim head coach. Miners fall to 0-6 on the season.

Posted by El Paso Herald-Post on Saturday, October 7, 2017

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