Monday , September 25 2017
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H-P Sports In Depth: UTEP Football Looks to Get Back on Track vs NMSU

UTEP will travel up the road to take on rival NM State in the FirstLight Federal Credit Union Battle of I-10 on September 23. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. at Aggie Memorial Stadium

UTEP Head Coach Sean Kugler appointed Brian Natkin as offensive coordinator on Monday. Natkin previously coached the tight ends and served as the team’s special teams coordinator.

Natkin, an All-American tight end at UTEP in 2000, returned to his alma mater in December 2011 when he was named a full-time assistant.

Kugler: “And I will say this, there is not a more trusted member on my staff, a more trusted member that is loyal to this university and loyal to turning this thing around for the players’ sake.”

Natkin spent the 2012 season as the Miners’ offensive line coach before moving to tight ends coach and special teams coordinator.

Natkin was co-offensive coordinator at Midwestern State during the 2011 campaign. The Mustangs went 10-1 in 2011, while leading the nation in total offense (531.9 ypg) and scoring (48.6 ppg).

Natkin’s coaching career began as a graduate assistant at UTEP in 2004 and 2005. In 2006, Natkin coached the offensive line at Northern Colorado before spending five seasons (2007-11) at Midwestern State.

Other moves by Kugler include Chuck Veliz taking over as quarterbacks coach, and safeties coach Don Yanowsky assuming duties as special teams coordinator.

***

UTEP Football Media Luncheon with Coach Sean Kugler  (On Last Week’s Game Versus Arizona)

“Starting with special teams, [Alan] Luna has been punting well for us all year.  He had a 43.7-yard average in this game, he had a 53-yarder.  We did have a punt return for a touchdown, we had some missed tackles on that punt return to put our defense in a tough bind.  But on the punt team [Jesse] Montgomery, a backup corner for us, had two solo tackles.  He had an outstanding solo tackle.  He earned the Top Gun Award for outstanding special teams player for this game.

Punt return, we had zero returns on three punts.  It was solid decisions again by Terry Juniel.  He hasn’t had an opportunity yet to return some this year, but he has been making solid decisions.  We did a little more pressure in that game, getting after the punter and forced two bad kicks.  So that was good to see.

Kickoff cover, Brady Viles was 100 percent on all touchbacks.  They did not get any returns against us.  He kicked outstanding, I think you’re starting to see his leg strength show up.  And even on PAT/field goal, we had one miss and that was more due to the snap and protection than the kicker.  And then you did see his leg strength on the 53-yard field goal, which probably would’ve been good from 63.  So he does have an outstanding leg.

Kickoff return, there were some positives there with Keynan Foster, he had four returns for a 28-yard average.  I do think this young man has the ability to pop one and start hitting the seams and we’ve got to sustain our blocks a little bit better up front.  Special teams, the eyesore again was the punt return for a touchdown, and any time a team can score on special teams it lessens your chances to win the game.

“I thought the defense came out and started playing extremely well.  We held them to zero first quarter points and then they were put into three really tough positions.  There was a fumble on the short side of the field that resulted in points.  There was an interception that could’ve easily been avoided that turned into a huge play for Arizona where they got the ball at the two-yard line which turned into points.  The offense went three and out and that’s when the punt return happened.  So you’re looking at a 7-0 game that quickly avalanched into a 28-0 game.

From that point, I felt like the defense was on the field too long.  That was evident by the time of possession, 36 minutes to 23.  But not more evident than in the fourth quarter, 12 minutes and 33 seconds where Arizona held the ball.  So I think our defense, a little outmanned numbers wise, really wore down at that point.  And again, we cannot leave our defense on the field for that long of time, 36 minutes per game.

“The quarterback was very effective for them.  I think he’s an outstanding player.  He had three touchdowns and accumulated 143 yards.  But they ran the ball too efficiently on us, later in the game even moreso.  We only gained one turnover, that was a fumble recovery by [Joseph] Pickney who is a young man I have high hopes for defensively.

I know the coaches do.  He plays with a lot of energy, he had some outstanding hits at the end of the game.  He’ll get more playing time as we go.  We had two sacks in the game, both by Alvin Jones.  Even though the score did not favor us, Alvin Jones had an outstanding game.  It was really his first full game, if you remember he missed half of the Oklahoma game and half the Rice game.

He had 16 tackles, two sacks and a tackle for loss.  That’s the type of production that we expect from Alvin week in and week out and he came through on that.

“Offensively, there are a lot of things that need correcting.  The inability to run the football, and we only had nine carries by our running backs.  That will never happen again.  We only had 14 attempts all around with 1.2 per carry.  So we’re not running the ball efficiently.  For the third consecutive week, we lost the turnover battle.

We lost a fumble that resulted in points and we had an interception on a screen that could’ve easily been thrown into the ground that resulted in points.  Both those occurred when the game was still in the balance.  It was 28-7, we had the ball inside the 50 and it snowballed with the score.  We were only 46 percent completion percentage at the quarterback position as a whole.  We had only 218 total yards, it’s the third straight week we’re under 250 yards.

We can’t keep going in that direction.  Only 4.1 yards per play, and when you look at an offense’s explosiveness, anything over six is good.  Anything over seven is explosive.  Under five is unacceptable.  We have been less than four for the year.  Only 2-of-12 third down conversions.  And again multiple drops on third downs, we had three.  So for the third consecutive week we lost time of possession in a big way.

“This team is built on controlling the ball, time of possession, taking care of the football, being efficient on third downs and running the football with efficiency to set up play action passes.  None of this is how we want to play offense here at UTEP.  So I had to make the difficult decision to move on.  I have changed coordinators.

I have relieved Brent Pease of his duties as offensive coordinator.  That will fall in the hands of Brian Natkin.  And I will say this, there is not a more trusted member on my staff, a more trusted member that is loyal to this university and loyal to turning this thing around for the players’ sake.  We could not continue to head in that direction.

I will say this, all of that falls on me.  But I felt it was necessary to make a change to move forward.  There is a lot of season left.  As a head coach, it’s my responsibility to make sure that these kids have a chance to be successful and that’s why I made the difficult decision to move on.  Brian Natkin will be the offensive coordinator. He’ll call the plays.

Chuck Veliz will work with the quarterbacks.  And to take special teams off of Brian Natkin’s plate, Don Yanowsky who is the assistant special teams coordinator will be the full-time special teams coordinator.  He has been a coordinator in Canada, he has been a coordinator in several different places.  He’ll do an outstanding job with the special teams.

Brian will continue to work with the tight ends and wide receivers and get assisted help throughout the staff on that.  But I really felt, there’s too much talent at all positions to be as effective as we have been on offense, and there needed to be a change and I had to make that difficult decision.”

(On NM State)

“I think this is an outstanding football team.  I think they are well coached.  I think coach Martin does an outstanding job.  This is a very experienced and talented offensive group.  The quarterback, it seems like he has been playing against us for four years straight because he has.  He is having a great year, 67 completion percentage, over 1,110 yards, 10 touchdowns and three interceptions.  This guy has played outstanding football for them.

You know what I think about Larry Rose.  I think he will be the best running back that we face all year.  I think this guy’s shifty, I think he’s got long speed.  He runs hard between the tackles.  This is an outstanding running back, I’ve got a lot of respect for him.  He leads their team in rushing and he is also their second-leading receiver.  They have an explosive receiving corps.  These guys are experienced.

Jaleel Scott, he has been their go-to guy this year.  I can see why.  He has great size and length, 6-6 and 215 pounds.  He is making plays all over the field, he is their leading receiver and he also has four touchdowns on the year.  He has accounted for 100 yards a game himself.  This Izaiah Lottie is a very competitive, explosive receiver.  He leads them in big plays, he leads their team in touchdowns with four with a long of 81.

And he is also bringing in 65 yards receiving per game.  They have a very solid offensive line, their left tackle is probably going to be a future pro guy.  He is extremely huge, 6-7, 343, but he has got balance and pro-type ability.  The things that stand out to me on offense, they are averaging 477 yards per game, 6.1 per play, but they have been great on third downs, close to 50 percent on third downs, and they have been great in the red zone, 86 percent red zone touchdowns.  So they are very efficient, they are averaging 28.3 points per game.

“Where I think they have made the biggest jump is defensively.  This is a very athletic, fast defense.  Again, they are experienced.  A lot of these linebackers have been starting for them for four years and are now seniors.

They use a lot of multiple fronts.  They are never sitting in one spot, they are always on the move.  A lot of stunts, a lot of fire zones, a lot of twists.  These guys are really playing hard on defense and flying around to the football.  It all starts with Dalton Herrington, the captain.  He leads their team in tackles, tackles for losses and sacks.  He has also got some good quarterback hits.  You can see that he is a leader on film, he is getting guys lined up, he is a relentless football player.  I really like the way he plays.

Terrill Hanks, I have always had a lot of respect for him.  This guy can really fly, he is an outside linebacker and one of the fastest guys on their defense.  He is their second leading tackler.  The defensive end has been their splash player as far as up front, #11 Malik Demby.  He rotates in there with some other guys but he is second on the team in tackles for losses and sacks.  He has got a fumble recovery and he is also very active, he is their third leading tackler.  They have a safety #23 who leads their team in interceptions.  He is fourth on their team in tackles.

But also, I think they’re going to gain back Jaden Wright.  He has been out the initial part of the year.  This is a guy that has started against us every year, he is a big physical safety, he is a team captain for them.  He was an All-Conference player for them and I would anticipate he is returning as well.  Some things that stand out defensively, they are stopping the run extremely well.  They are only giving up 3.8 per carry.  They have nine sacks, they have been getting after the quarterback.

They had seven sacks versus Arizona State.  They made Arizona State’s offensive line look silly.  They are very active in the backfield and have several tackles for losses.  And much like their offense, they have been good on third downs.  They are only giving up 34 percent success rate on third downs.  So this is an outstanding defense.  I also have a lot of respect for the nose guard #51. He plays extremely hard.   I think they have really improved on that side of the ball drastically.

“Special teams, their punter averages 38.9.  They are only giving up six yards a return by the opponent.  Punt return, they haven’t had many chances but the returner scares me.  That’s Rose.  They’ve got him back there and he has the ability to take it to the house at any time.

Kickoff cover, opponents have been having 28 yards a return on them.  Their kicker is solid, he is 10-of-16 touchbacks.  Kickoff return, they have been averaging 14.5 yards per return but they have two explosive returners, Lottie the receiver and their backup running back Huntley who is also a very good running back.

They are 2-for-2 on field goals, they have had some snap issues on their field goals and I’m sure they’re trying to rectify that right now.  This is a rivalry game.  I think this team right now, and I’m going to be very honest about it, the team that we’re playing right now is probably a better team than we are right now, the way that we have been performing.  We need to work our tails off to be a better team on Saturday night.”

(On making a change at offensive coordinator)

“We were just ineffective, and you can’t sit there and do the same things with the same ineffectiveness and think that you’re going to be OK.  Really what we needed was a spark to get ourselves going in the right direction.

And again, as the head coach, it’s not a fun decision for me.  I’m the one that brought Brent Pease into the fold.  I hired him to be the offensive coordinator.  He is also somebody that I have known for a long, long time.

So this is not a fun decision for me to make, but I feel it was a necessary decision for us to have a chance to move forward.”

(On how the offense will be different under Brian Natkin)

“It needs to be different from the standpoint of being effective and running the ball with efficiency. It needs to be different from the standpoint of being in manageable third downs.  The two things that stand out to me, time of possession we have been tops or near the top in time of possession in our conference for the last four years, which allows us to play quality defense because we are rested.  We can’t be sitting there at 23 minutes.  We are giving up five to six possessions a game.  And there are a lot of things that go into that.  There have been mistakes, dropped balls, those types of things.

But again, the style of play that we want, I think Brian has a very sound understanding of that.  He also understands these players and he works not only with the offensive players, he works with the defensive players.  If anybody has the best understanding of our personnel, it’s Brian Natkin because he works with all these guys on special teams.  They have a lot of respect for him.  They know what he has been through here as a player and as a coach.  They respond to him and I think the move for him being the coordinator, he has called games before when he was at the Division II level.

He’s an outstanding football coach and competitor.  He knows what this series means, this game, and he’s already hard at work getting ready.”

(On the quarterback situation for this week)

“As far as injuries, I can’t really tell you where Metz is right now.  We are probably going to have to go through the week on that.  There are several players on our team that are still dinged up.  Their availability for this week, I really won’t know until we get out on the practice field and see some guys moving around.  So I really can’t expound upon that because I don’t know the availability of our starting quarterback at this point.”

(On the ineffectiveness with the running game)

“Running the football is all 11 guys, it’s the quarterback getting guys in the right run checks, it’s the offensive line executing their blocks and sustaining their blocks, it’s the running backs hitting the right holes, it’s the perimeter players getting on the right safety.

To look at one position or the other and say that’s the reason why we’re not running the ball well, and again, to run the ball well you’ve got to run the ball.  We had nine carries by our running backs last week.  That’s not going to happen again.  To energize that, everybody has got to do their job better. But as coaches we have to put guys in better positions to be successful.  That’s our jobs.”

(On the importance of the NM State game)

“No matter who we play this week, and this is a big game – we all understand that — we need to win period, to fix a lot of things.  Winning solves everything.  Winning makes everything better.  It gets your energy up, it gets your confidence up.  But what we desperately need right now is a win.  It just so happens that we’re playing our rival this week and a team that is playing outstanding.

We’re going to have to play our ultimate best to beat this team because I think they’re an outstanding team.  Right now, you watch them on film, they should be 3-0.  They were a better team against Arizona State.  They were the better team against Troy, which is probably the best team in their conference.

And then they beat New Mexico for the second straight year.  They are playing outstanding football right now.  We’re not, we acknowledge that.  We’ve got to be the best team on Saturday night.  We’ve got a week to get prepared for that and our kids know what’s at stake.”

(On Mark Torrez)

“I’ve been saying it all along, I think Mark Torrez has a lot of talent.  He can make plays with his legs.  You saw him create things when things weren’t there.  That’s what he brings to the table.  If we go with Mark Torrez, we’ll have to put that flavor into the game and try to play to his talents.

Again, I have mentioned it, I like all three of our quarterbacks.  Ryan Metz is our starting quarterback.  If Ryan Metz is healthy, he’ll be our quarterback not only for this game but for future games but again, I don’t know his availability right now.  And I don’t think we’ll know that until maybe late in the week.”

(On NM State’s offensive evolution)

“It’s based on a lot of things.  Experience number one, you’ve got a fifth year quarterback who has been through the ringer.  He has gotten better and better each year.  He has grown physically each year.  You have one of the best running backs in the country.  I have a lot of respect for Larry Rose.

I think he is an outstanding player.  You have seen him grow up, he was a 160-yard back and now he’s a 200-pound back.  This guy is going to play in the NFL.  They have an NFL receiver in Jaleel Scott, a 6-6 guy.  And they have built their offensive line.  They are explosive and they can beat you many ways.  You see that he has been throwing for 300-some yards a game, but also they can line up and rush for 300 yards with Larry Rose.  There are so many different things that they can do.  They’re balanced and he gives them the ability to do that.

And the other thing about Larry Rose, you sleep on him in the run game, they can throw passes to him out of the backfield.  He’s got capable hands and he’s explosive.”

(On the running back depth chart for this game)

“They are all going to get opportunities in this game.  You will see more of Josh Fields and Ronald Awatt.  I thought we would’ve seen more of them last week and it didn’t turn out that way in the game.  But again, I’m not looking backward, I’m looking forward.  You’ll see all of the running backs in this game and they’re going to have to be effective, and the guys up front are going to have to do their jobs.

The guys in the perimeter, when we do call plays based on the looks, we’ve got to make the right decisions as a coaching staff.  All 11 people doing their jobs collectively, and the coaches, is what makes a running game go.  Do we know how to do that?  Yes, we have been one of the best rushing teams over the years.  Are we in a rut right now?  Absolutely.  And that’s why a change was made.”

***Looking ahead

MINERS AND AGGIES TO CLASH IN FIRSTLIGHT FCU BATTLE OF I-10 

UTEP and NM State will play in the 95th meeting between the two programs in the FirstLight Federal Credit Union Battle of I-10 on Sept. 23 in Las Cruces. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. at Aggie Memorial Stadium. The Miners (0-3) are coming off a setback against Arizona on Friday, Sept. 15, while the Aggies (1-2) were edged by Troy, 27-24, on Saturday, Sept. 16. UTEP is looking to extend an eight-game winning streak against NM State that started with a 38-12 triumph in Las Cruces on Sept. 19, 2009. The Aggies last defeated the Miners in 2008 by the score of 34-33 in the Sun Bowl. Last season, head coach Sean Kugler extended his undefeated record (4-0) against the rivals up the road as the Miners won handily, 38-22, to kick off the campaign in El Paso.

 

SERIES HISTORY

UTEP leads the series 57-35-2. This is the longest-running series in school history (95th meeting). UTEP has reeled off eight consecutive victories over NM State, its longest winning streak in the series. The series is all knotted up in Las Cruces, 19-19-1, on the heels of four straight Miner wins at Aggie Memorial Stadium (2009, 2011, 2013, 2015).  UTEP, which also won four consecutive in Las Cruces from 1986-91, has never posted five consecutive victories over its archrivals in the City of the Crosses. UTEP and NM State combined for 97 points in 2015, the second-most in a single game during the long-running rivalry. The 1948 contest saw 99 total points as the Miners dominated the Aggies 92-7.

 

THE LAST MEETING

Aaron Jones rushed for 249 yards as the Miners opened the season by dusting NM State, 38-22, on Sept. 3, 2016 in the Sun Bowl. The Miners led throughout after Jones put them ahead 7-0 on a 37-yard touchdown run five minutes into the game. Jones added a 75-yard scoring burst early in the fourth period. He appeared to get stronger as the game wore on. He rushed for 55 yards in the first quarter, 33 in the second, 21 in the third and a whopping 140 (on only nine attempts) in the final frame. The Miners finished with 518 yards of offense and 289 rushing.  Quarterback Zack Greenlee had a successful debut. The Fresno State transfer completed 15-of-27 passes for 229 yards and three scores. The UTEP defense yielded 345 yards to the Aggies, as Alvin Jones registered 12 tackles. Another El Paso native, receiver Cole Freytag, put together a great start to his senior year by recording four catches for a career-high 95 yards, including a 46-yard TD midway through the second quarter. Quarterback Tyler Rogers completed 17-of-41 passes for 206 yards for the Aggies, and was also the team’s leading rusher (63 yards and a score). UTEP led 31-10 late in the third quarter before NM State put together a couple of late scoring drives to keep the score respectable. 

 

CONNECTIONS 

UTEP has three players from the state of New Mexico on its roster – junior WR Kavika Johnson (Las Cruces), freshman FB Forest McKee (Las Cruces) and senor TE Sterling Napier (Rio Rancho). Johnson attended Mayfield High School, where he led the Trojans to consecutive state championship games. NM State has six El Paso natives on its roster: freshman WR Jameer Ancheta (Andress), sophomore DL Jacob Arellano (Socorro), freshman OL David Ash (Eastwood), freshman DB Brandon Bell (Eastwood), freshman K Isaac Garcia (Franklin) and freshman WR Antonio Gomez (Andress), although junior RB Dallas Hart attended Hanks High School in the Sun City after growing up in Honolulu, Hawai’i. Players from both schools who attended the same high school are: UTEP FB Forest McKee & NM State freshman DL Matthew Young (Onate HS [Las Cruces, N.M.]); UTEP WR Kavika Johnson & NM State OL Jalen Guerrero and DL Brett Kowalski (Mayfield HS [Las Cruces, N.M.]); UTEP QB Mark Torrez, WR Richie Rodriguez and OL Greg Long, and NM State OL David Ash and DB Brandon Bell (Eastwood HS [El Paso, Texas]); UTEP OL Rey Mendez and NM State DL Jacob Arellano (Socorro HS [El Paso, Texas]); UTEP WR Eddie Sinegal and QB Ryan Metz, and NM State WR Jameer Ancheta and WR Antonio Gomez (Andress HS [El Paso, Texas]); and UTEP OL Derek Elmendorff and NM State K Isaac Garcia (Franklin HS [El Paso, Texas]). UTEP Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Line Coach Spencer Leftwich was part of the Aggies’ staff from 1992- 93, directing the offensive line. 

 

ABOUT NM STATE

The Aggies (1-2) are coming off a loss to Troy, 27-24, in Las Cruces on Sept. 16. NM State fell behind 20-3, but QB Tyler Rogers rallied his team within four points (20-16) by throwing a pair of scores in the third quarter.  The first was a 46-yard launch to WR Izaiah Lottie (missed extra point) with 9:53 left and the second passing score came at the 3:44 mark when Rogers connected with 6-foot-6, 210-pound WR Jaleel Scott for an eight-yard score. Troy would answer with a score late in the third to make the score 27-16. Rogers threw his third touchdown, a nine-yard toss to Lottie, while the two-point was converted to make it a three-point deficit (27-2). The Aggies got the ball back late in the fourth after forcing Troy to punt, but they were only able to gain six yards on three plays and were forced to punt. Troy then took the ball with 6:15 left in the contest and was able to use an 11-play, 56-yard drive to end the contest. The Aggies opened the season with a loss at Pac-12’s Arizona State, while their lone victory in 2017 came at New Mexico 30-28 on Sept.  9. The Aggies are scoring 28.3 points per game, while allowing 30.7 points. NM State is averaging 477.0 yards of total offense, while yielding 433.0 yards per game. RB Larry Rose III has gained 228 yards on 46 attempts (5.0 avg.), while RB Jason Huntley (88 rush yards) and Rogers (13 rush yards) have each rushed for scores. Rogers has thrown for 10 touchdowns (tied for fifth in FBS) with only a trio of interceptions on 106-of-159 passing (66.7 percent) for 1,130 yards. Rogers is averaging 376.7 yards passing per game (fifth in FBS). Scott ranks no. 22 in the FBS with 295 yards on 22 receptions (7.3 receptions per game ranks tied for 16th in FBS). Scott and Lottie have each hauled in four scoring receptions, ranking tied for fifth in the FBS. Defensively, LB Dalton Harrington is leading the Aggies in tackles (33), tackles for loss (6.0) and sacks (2.5). LB Terrill Hanks ranks second in tackles (32), while notching a sack. DB Malik Demby is third in tackles (22) and second in sacks (2.0). DB Ron LaForce has registered both Aggies interceptions. The Aggies defense as a whole has sacked opposing quarterbacks nine times. 

 

KUGLER’S SUCCESS AGAINST THE AGGIES

UTEP Head Coach Sean Kulger is 4-0 against NM State since his first season in 2013. Kugler became the third coach in program history to start 4-0 against the Aggies. Mack Saxon won his first five contests against NM State (1929-33). Bobby Dobbs won his first four against the I-10 rival (1965-68). Mike Brumbelow fashioned a 6-0-1 mark versus NMSU (1950-56), winning his first two and tying the third contest. Bob Stull chalked up a 3-0 mark in his three seasons at the helm (1986-88), while David Lee (1989-91) and Mike Price (2004-06) won their first three games against NM State before losing on the fourth attempt. 

 

UTEP’S NUMBERS VS. NM STATE DURING THE KUGLER ERA

UTEP has overwhelmed NM State on offense in the last four contests during the Sean Kugler era, winning by double digits in three of the four games played. The Miners have won by an average of 14.5 points, while averaging 43.0 points per game and giving up 28.5 points per contest. One of those contests was the epic 2015 overtime victory in Las Cruces (50-47), in which UTEP overcame a pair of 14-point deficits. The 97 total points were the second-most scored in the history of the rivalry. During the last four games, UTEP has averaged 519 yards of total offense, while averaging 298.8 rushing yards in the process. UTEP amassed over 500 yards in three of the games (546 [2013], 542 [2015] & 518 [2016]). The Miners have also averaged 27.5 first downs per game. The Miners have rushed for a total of 15 touchdowns during the last four contests, including five-touchdown efforts in back-to-back seasons (2013 & 2014). 

 

UTEP’S NUMBERS VS. NM STATE DURING THE 8-GAME WIN STREAK

The Miners have outscored the Aggies 309 (38.6 ppg) to 174 (21.8 ppg) during the eight-game winning streak. UTEP has won by double digits in six of the eight contests, as the biggest win margin was a 42-10 victory in 2010 in the Sun Bowl. The Miners won by three points (50-47) in an overtime victory in 2015, while the two programs battled in a 16-10 contest in 2011 in Las Cruces. The Miners are averaging 463.1 yards of offense during the eight-game win streak. The most total yards prior to the Kugler era was a 495-yard effort in 2010.  

 

OTHER NOTABLE WINNING STEAKS IN FBS RIVALRIES 

UTEP has won eight consecutive contests against rival NM State, matching Kansas State’s eight-game streak against its respective rival Kansas. Wisconsin owns a 13-game winning streak against its Big 10 rival Minnesota, while Boise State has a current winning streak of 12 games against Idaho State (the two programs last met on Nov. 12, 2010). Cincinnati has been on the winning side of the ledger in 11 straight contests against Miami (Ohio), and Alabama has won 10 consecutive games against Tennessee. LA Tech has beaten Louisiana-Lafayette in eight straight (the two programs last played on Oct. 3, 2015). Last season, Army ended a 14-game losing streak against Navy (longest by an FBS program at the time), while Tennessee beat Florida for the first time in 11 contests. 

 

LAST WEEK

Brandon Dawkins beat UTEP with his arm and legs, amassing 288 yards of total offense as Arizona sent the Miners to a third straight loss, 63-16 in the Sun Bowl on Sept. 15. Dawkins threw for 155 yards and rushed for 133 for The Wildcats, who scored the game’s first 28 points. UTEP got on the board late in the second quarter on a nine-yard touchdown pass from Zack Greenlee to Tyler Batson. Later, the Miners added a 53-yard field goal by Brady Viles at the end of the half. Following a scoreless first period, Arizona scored five times in the second quarter and led 35-9 at the break. The Miners had a couple of big turnovers in the second quarter that led to short scoring drives for the visitors. Greenlee made the fifth start of his UTEP career and completed 11-of-17 passes for 104 yards with a touchdown. Redshirt freshman Mark Torrez also saw action at quarterback and gave the Miners a spark early in the third quarter. The Eastwood High School graduate engineered a four-play, 76-yard drive, finishing it off with a six-yard rushing touchdown to cut Arizona’s lead to 42-16. The Wildcats scored the game’s final 21 points. Arizona gained 501 yards, including 326 rushing. The Miners once again had difficulty moving the ball, finishing with 218 yards on 53 plays including 17 yards rushing. Terry Juniel posted four catches for a career-high 82 yards for UTEP.  He was one of 10 players to catch a pass as the Miners spread it around on offense.  Kenyan Foster was a special teams standout for the Miners with four kickoff returns for 94 yards. Defensively, Alvin Jones amassed 15 tackles (second most in career) while adding a sack and 1.5 tackles for losses. 

 

SEASON NO. 100 FOR UTEP FOOTBALL

The 2017 campaign marks the 100th for UTEP football. In honor of their centennial campaign, the Miners are wearing a commemorative decal on their helmets. There will also be centennial tributes in the game program, on the video board and social media over the course of the season. Though the centennial for The University of Texas at El Paso was in 2014, the football program suspended play for four seasons due to the World Wars. No games were played in 1918 (WWI) and 1943-45 (WWII). The 1914 season marked the first for the Miners. The Miners played their first ever game on Oct. 24, 1914 – a 7-6 victory against the YMCA.    

 

FEWER YELLOW FLAGS

UTEP was penalized four times for 35 yards against Arizona on Sept. 15. In week two, the Miners were only penalized two times against Rice. It marked the eighth time during the Sean Kugler era in which the Miners were penalized two times or less. In 2016, UTEP was penalized twice against Old Dominion and once against Houston Baptist. In 2015, the Miners had two penalties each at no. 18 Arkansas, against UTSA and at North Texas. In 2014, UTEP opened the season with a pair of penalties at New Mexico and in 2013, the Miners were penalized once against Tulsa. 

 

PENALTY RANKINGS

UTEP ranks tied for second in Conference USA and tied for 16th nationally with 11 yellow flags in 2017. UTEP’s 3.7 penalties per game rank tied for 10th in FBS, while it ranks 18th in penalty yards (100) and 12th in penalty yards per game (33.3). The Miners also rank third in penalty yards (100) and second in penalty yards per game (3.7) in C-USA. 

 

RED ZONE OFFENSE

UTEP is 4-for-4 in the red zone in 2017, which is tied for no. 1 nationally. The Miners are one of 20 programs at 100 percent.  

 

PROTECTING THE BALL

UTEP has turned the ball over only four times in 2017. The Miners rank tied for 49th in the FBS and tied for second in Conference USA in that department.

 

TERRY’S CAREER NIGHT

Junior WR Terry Juniel registered career-highs in receptions (four) and yards (82), including a season-long 40-yard grab against Arizona on Sept. 15. Juniel’s previous high was a 44-yard effort on a pair of receptions at LA Tech on Oct 1, 2016. Juniel’s seven receptions in 2017 are tied for second on the team with WR Kavika Johnson. Juniel’s 105 receiving yards (15.0 avg.) and yards per game (35.0) lead the offense. 

 

TORREZ GETS EXTENDED ACTION

Freshman QB Mark Torrez was inserted under center in the second quarter and engineered a six-play, 34-yard drive (3:10) that resulted in K Brady Viles’ 53-yard field goal before the half against Arizona on Sept. 15. Torrez hit WR Terry Juniel on a pair of passes, the first for 13 yards on a first-and-10 and a 21-yard strike on a first-and-10 that set up the made field goal attempt. Torrez also made a few plays with his feet, escaping Wildcat defenders to avoid sacks. 

 

TORREZ’S FIRST TOUCHDOWN

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

 

GREENLEE GETS THE NOD

Senior QB Zack Greenlee made his fifth start in a UTEP uniform against Arizona on Sept. 15. Greenlee found WR Tyler Batson for a nine-yard TD strike in the left side of the end zone late in the first half. He engineered a five-play, 66-yard scoring drive (2:37). It was Greenlee’s first touchdown since he connected on a 12-yard touchdown pass to Cole Freytag against FIU on Oct. 8, 2016. Greenlee finished 11-of-17 for 104 yards with a long pass of 40 yards. 

 

21 CAREER TOUCHDOWNS FOR METZ

Junior QB Ryan Metz threw his first touchdown pass of 2017, a 44-yard toss against Rice on Sept. 9. It was also Metz’s 21st career touchdown pass. He is now three passing scores from cracking the program’s top-10 list. John Furman and Nick Lamaison each threw 24 scores during their respective careers to rank tied for ninth on the list. Trevor Vittatoe leads all with 97 passing touchdowns.

 

METZ & TORREZ HAVE SOMETHING IN COMMON

Besides both being from El Paso, Ryan Metz and Mark Torrez share a common bond as both played against top-25 opponents on the road in their collegiate debuts. Metz saw his first college action at no. 18 Arkansas on Sept. 5, 2015, while Torrez played on Sept. 2 at no. 7 Oklahoma. Both quarterbacks were perfect in their debuts as Metz went 3-for-3 (19 yards) and Torrez was 1-for-1 (seven yards). 

 

BATSON’S LONG OVERDUE TRIP TO PAYDIRT

Senior WR Tyler Batson grabbed his fourth career touchdown against Arizona on Sept. 15. Batson caught a pass after making a leap to his left to snag the ball. The score was his first since Nov. 14, 2015 at Old Dominion – a seven-yard pass from Mack Leftwich. Batson has five catches for 42 yards this season. 

 

KAVIKA HITS DAWN JR. AGAIN

Junior WR Kavika Johnson, who has made starts under center during his career, hooked up with sophomore RB Walter Dawn Jr. on a 38-yard reception after a lateral pass by Mark Torrez against Arizona on Sept. 15. It was the key play on a first-and-10 to the Arizona six-yard line that ended with a Torrez TD. It’s not the first time these two have hooked up, as Johnson hit Dawn Jr. for a 74-yard touchdown pass on a lateral at UTSA last 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 second on the team with seven receptions (76 yards).

 

FIRST DOWN DOVE

Sophomore RB Kevin Dove, a 245-pound tailback, grinded out his sixth first down of the season on a rushing play against Arizona on Sept. 15. The play was a five-yard rush 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. 

JOSHUA TAKES THE FIELD

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

 

CAREER-HIGH FOR DAWN JR.

Sophomore RB Walter Dawn Jr. registered a career-high four receptions against Arizona on Sept. 15. Dawn also hauled in a season-long 38-yard reception, while totaling 50 yards receiving on the night. Dawn Jr.’s previous high was three catches twice (at Texas [2016], vs. Rice [2017]). Dawn Jr. leads the Miners with eight receptions thus far.

 

ALL-AMERICAN STATUS

OL Will Hernandez has started every game in his three years with the Miners. Last season, Hernandez was the first Miner offensive lineman to receive AP All-American second team and FOX Sports’ All-American honors. The senior was also the first UTEP offensive lineman since 2009 to earn All-Conference USA first team recognition. Hernandez’s national recognition didn’t stop there, as he garnered Pro Football Focus Pass Protector of the Year. The Miners capped the season with two showings of over 500 yards of total offense, including a season-best 384 yards rushing in a victory over North Texas. 

 

WILL’S PRESEASON ACCOLADES

Will Hernandez was selected to the 2017 AP All-America second team on Aug. 22 as the senior has racked up multiple preseason honors. Hernandez was announced to the 2017 Outland Trophy Watch List and earned a spot on the 2017 Preseason Conference USA team. Multiple football publications, including Dave Campbell’s Texas Football, Phil Steele’s College Football Preview and Athlon Sports have Hernandez on their preseason teams. 

 

ALVIN THE BALL HAWK

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

 

LEADING TACKLER

Alvin Jones has led the Miners in each of the last two seasons, recording 93 stops during each campaign. Jones is leading the UTEP defense in tackles (25) and tackles per game (8.3) after his 15-tackle effort against Arizona. Jones ranks tied for 10th with two other players in tackles per game (8.3) in Conference USA. 

 

KEEPING UP WITH ALVIN’S CAREER

Senior Alvin Jones has 266 career tackles (seventh-most at UTEP since the 2000 season) after racking up 15 more tackles against Arizona on Sept. 15. Jones also registered a sack and 1.5 tackles for loss against the Wildcats. Jones now has 11.5 career sacks (needs half a sack to crack the program’s all-time top 10 list) and 31.5 career tackles for loss, which now ranks sixth on the program’s top 10 list. Brian Young ranks fifth with 32.0 tackles for loss. Barron Wortham leads the all-time list with 45.0 tackles for loss. Jones’s 14.5 tackles for loss in 2015 rank tied for ninth on the single-season list, while his 5.0 tackles for loss at NM State on Sept. 19, 2015 were the most by a UTEP player since the 2000 season. Jones has led the Miners in tackles the past two seasons, tallying 93 stops in each campaign, while in 2014 Jones ranked second with 55 takedowns. 

 

DOUBLE-DIGIT STOPS

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

 

ACTION JACKSON

Graduate student LB Julian Jackson tallied seven more tackles against Arizona on Sept. 15. Jackson, a transfer from Wake Forest, has hit seven tackles in each of his first three games in a UTEP uniform. Jackson’s seven stops are also tied for his college career high. Jackson ranks tied for 19th in Conference USA in tackles per game (7.0), while his 21 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. 

 

TREYVON’ S BREAKOUT GAME

In only his second game at the LB position, sophomore Treyvon Hughes tied for the team lead with 11 tackles against Rice on Sept. 9. Hughes registered three stops in his defensive debut at no. 7 Oklahoma in week one. Hughes came to UTEP as a running back and missed last season due to injury. He was switched to linebacker prior to the Annual Spring Game this past year. Hughes is ranked third on the team with 18 tackles three games into the season. 

 

Recovering Fumbles 

UTEP has recovered a pair of fumbles, one by junior DB Nik Needham (vs. Rice) and the other by freshman DB Joseph Pickney (vs. Arizona), the first of their respective careers. UTEP ranks tied fir fourth in Conference USA in fumble recoveries. 

 

IN THE NIK OF TIME

Junior DB Nik Needham recorded the first full sack of his UTEP career on Sept. 9. Needham took down Rice QB Sam Glaesmann on a third-and-13 play. Needham’s first sack was an assist at NM State on Sept. 19, 2015. Needham also recovered his first fumble during his career and tallied six tackles versus the Owls. Needham has recorded 15 tackles on the season. 

 

OTHER DEFENSIVE NOTABLES VS. ARIZONA

Defensively, these Miners recorded career highs in tackles: sophomore DB Jerrell Brown (six), sophomore DB Justin Rogers (five), junior DB Kahani Smith (five), freshman DL Dedrick Simpson ( five), sophomore LB Kalaii Griffin ( five), sophomore DL Denzel Chukwukelu (four) and freshman NT Trace Mascorro (three). Sophomore DL Sani Buckingham (four tackles) and freshmen DL Keith Sullivan (two tackles) and DB Joseph Pickney (one tackle) recorded the first tackles in their UTEP careers.

 

KEYNAN’S SPECIAL EFFORT

Sophomore WR/KR Keynan Foster returned a season-high 28-yard kickoff against Arizona on Sept. 15. The speedster returned four kickoffs for 94 yards, both season highs. Foster also hauled in a career-long 13-yard pass against the Wildcats and tallied 107 all-purpose yards. On the season, Foster ranks third in Conference USA in kickoff return average (23.2) on six kickoff returns (139 yards). 

 

BRADY’S FIRST FIELD GOAL ATTEMPT

Sophomore K Brady Viles connected on his first collegiate field goal, a 53-yard punch as the first half expired against Arizona on Sept. 15. Vile was good on one of two PAT attempts against the Wildcats. Viles has a team-leading seven points (4-5 PAT, 1-1 FG). 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 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-yard on Sept. 1, 2007 against New Mexico. 

 

DAS BOOT

El Paso native Alan Luna punted seven times for 306 yards (43.7 avg.) with one inside the 20-yard line against Arizona on Sept. 15. Luna opened 2017 with eight punts for 352 yards (third-most in his career) for an average of 44.0 yards at Oklahoma. The senior punter placed three inside the 20-yard line against the Sooners to tie his career high. Luna also placed three inside the 20 at LA Tech on Oct. 1, 2016. Luna’s 44.0-yard average ranks 35th in the FBS and fourth in Conference USA. Luna leads the league in total punts (22) and punt yards (969). Luna ranks fifth in the FBS in punt yards.

 

LUNA CAREER NOTES

Senior Alan Luna ranks sixth on the program’s all-time list in career punt yards (6,396) and seventh in career punts (149) after Saturday’s performance against Arizona. Rick Padia ranks no. 6 in career punts (156), while the overall leader is Jerry Walker (298). Ian 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.

 

LOCAL FLAVOR

The 2017 roster features 30 players from the El Pas0/Las Cruces area — DB Deaumonjae Banks (Chapin), LB Chris Barnwell (Eastlake), WR Brannon Bullitt (Chapin), OL Bobby DeHaro (Montwood), OL Derek Elmendorff (Franklin), RB Joshua Fields (Americas), K/P Jason Filley (Coronado), LB Sergio Gonzalez (El Dorado), FB David Jackson (Parkland), DL Christian Johnson (Parkland), WR Kavika Johnson (Mayfield [Las Cruces]), LB Alvin Jones (Burges), OL Greg Long (Eastwood), LB Erick Lopez (Canutillo), OL Markos Lujan (Americas), P/K Alan Luna (Franklin), OL Rey Mendez (Socorro), QB Ryan Metz (Andress), FB Forest McKee (Onate [Las Cruces]), RB Jonathon Millan (Coronado), WR Brandon Moss (Chapin), DL Josh Ortega (Montwood), DB Elijah Perales (Chapin), OL Jaime Perales (Cathedral), WR Warren Redix (Montwood), TE Jorge Rodriguez (Montwood), WR Richie Rodriguez (Eastwood), WR Eddie Sinegal (Andress), QB Keith Tarango-Lopez (Eastlake) and QB Mark Torrez (Eastwood).

 

SUN CITY SENSATIONS

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

 

GRADUATE STUDENT-ATHLETES

The UTEP football program has eight student-athletes with degrees for the 2017 season. QB Zack Greenlee, LB Julian Jackson, DL Sky Logan, DB Jesse Montgomery, WR Brandon Moss, TE Sterling Napier, WR Nesley Ovincy and OL Logan Tuley-Tillman are pursuing their Masters of Arts in Leadership Studies. Northwestern has 18 student-athletes with degrees, while Cincinnati, Coastal Carolina and East Carolina each have 14. Toledo has 13; TCU, Alabama, Oregon and Virginia each have 12; Georgia State, Kansas State, Maryland, UCF and USF each have 11; Kent State, Nevada, New Mexico, South Alabama, Texas Tech and West Virginia each have 10; Houston, Iowa State, Pittsburgh, Purdue, Rutgers and Temple each have nine; and joining UTEP with eight student-athletes are Auburn, Clemson, Iowa, Kentucky, NC State, Northern Illinois, Ole Miss, Penn State, SMU Syracuse, UAB and WKU. 

 

HARD WORK PAYS OFF

After day one at Camp Ruidoso, head coach Sean Kugler announced on Aug. 8 that walk-ons RB TK Powell, WR Keynan Foster, LB Johnny Jones, FB David Jackson and FB Robert Pufhal each earned scholarships for their performances on the field and in the classroom. 

 

FBS COACHES WITH FBS SONS

UTEP Head Coach Sean Kugler is one of eight FBS coaches who have a son playing for another FBS program. Patrick Kugler plays center at Michigan. Others include UAB’s head coach Bill Clark with son Jacob playing for the Blazers. Colorado’s head coach Mike MacIntyre has his son Jay playing for the Buffaloes. Tulsa head coach Phillip Montgomery son plays for the Golden Hurricanes. Navy’s Ken Niumatalolo has two sons, Va’a at BYU and Ali’i at Utah. Gary Patterson’s son Blake plays for his pops at TCU. Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez, has his son Rhett playing for the Wildcats. And Bobby Wilder of Old Dominion has his son Derek playing for the Monarchs. Other coaches that have their son’s playing for them is Rick Stockstill at Middle Tennessee (Brent) and Dabo Swinney of Clemson (Will). 

 

COACHING YOUR ALMA MATER

UTEP Head Coach Sean Kugler is one of 21 FBS coaches in 2017 who are at the helm of their alma mater’s program. John Bonamego (Central Michigan), Troy Calhoun (Air Force), Paul Chryst (Wisconsin), Pat Fitzgerald (Northwestern), Mike Gundy (Oklahoma State), Jim Harbaugh (Michigan), Bryan Harsin (Boise State), Paul Haynes (Kent State), Kliff Kingsbury (Texas Tech), Tim Lester (Western Michigan), Mike Neu (Ball State), Barry Odom (Missouri), Mark Richt (Miami), Nick Rolovich (Hawai’i), Scott Satterfield (Appalachian State), David Shaw (Stanford), Kalani Sitake (BYU), Kirby Smart (Georgia), Jeff Tedford (Fresno State) and Matt Wells (Utah State) are the other 20.   

 

CLOSING IN ON WIN NO. 400

The Miners are six wins away from 400 in their program history. Texas Western College chalked up win no. 100 during the 1941 season after it prevailed at Arizona State 28-0 on Nov. 8. The Miners recorded win no. 200 on Sept. 21, 1963, defeating North Texas State 34-7 during the inaugural game in the Sun Bowl. Toraino Singleton rushed for 199 yards and a score, and Jason Blair hauled in six passes for 95 yards and a touchdown in leading UTEP to a 17-12 triumph over New Mexico for win no. 300 in the Sun Bowl on Nov. 18, 1995.

 

BOWL MANIA

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

 

NEXT WEEK

UTEP will travel east to play at Army on Sept. 30 in West Point, N.Y. Kickoff is set for 1:30 p.m. MT (3:30 p.m. ET). The two programs met for the first time on Sept. 17, 2016 as the Golden Knights came out on the winning side in the Sun Bowl. 

 

H-P Sports in Depth: UTEP Prepares to Take on Arizona Friday

UTEP (0-2) will take on Pac-12 opponent Arizona (1-1) on Sept. 15. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. and the game will be televised on ESPN. “Military Night” festivities will feature a pre-game flyover and parachute team drop-in.

Tickets are available by calling (915) 747-5234. The Wildcats will make their way back to the Sun City after a 40-year absence when both programs were members of the Western Athletic Conference. Both the Miners and Wildcats are coming off losses to Houston schools.

Arizona was edged 19-16 by Houston in Tucson, while Rice ran past UTEP 31-14 in El Paso on September 9th.

Opening Statement

“It’s a very disappointing loss to Rice.  It directly falls on me as the head coach.  We did not play well in any phase.  They were the more physical opponent.  That was evident when you look at rushing yards, they had over 300 yards rushing.  It was a tough game for us from an injury standpoint.  Greg Long will be out for the season.  He had surgery yesterday.  He broke his leg, it was a pretty severe injury.  We also lost [Alan] Busey, wide receiver, for the year to shoulder surgery, Jayson VanHook for the year to shoulder surgery, and Khalil Brown to an achilles with a season ending injury.  There are several other guys who I will not know their availability until we get through the week.  That’s Ryan Metz, Derron Gatewood the center, Christian Buckingham nose guard and Michael Lewis.

“As a team, we felt we needed to control time of possession against Rice. We didn’t do that.  They controlled it for 34 minutes.  That usually equates to four extra possessions, which they did get in this game.  We lost third downs and in the red zone.  We turned the ball over offensively for the second straight week.  We have to eliminate that trend moving forward if we expect to turn this thing around.  We did not run the ball efficiently.  We gave up four sacks, there were too many hits on the quarterback, there were six overall quarterback hits.  As a result, Ryan Metz, I do not know the availability of him for this game.  We were 29 percent on third downs, our goal is 50.  I really thought Ryan Metz played a very efficient game.  He was 18-of-33 for 203 yards and a touchdown with zero interceptions but understand this, he had six drops.  Four of those six drops came on third downs that were completions and very accurately delivered balls.  They ended every single one of those drives.  That’s a trend that we need to end if we’re going to turn this thing around.  Positive things, we did have three fourth down conversions in that game.  We were very minimally penalized in that game. 

“Defensively, we gained a turnover.  We had a sack by [Devin] Cockrell and Nik Needham had two sacks in that game.  Nik Needham also had a fumble recovery and had five tackles.  He will lead our team out on Friday night against Arizona as the pick axe carrier.  Nik has really had a solid year for us.  He played well in the first game and this game, and he had an outstanding camp as well.  Where I was very disappointed defensively, they rushed for 6.2 [yards] per carry, 306 yards and three touchdowns.  Arizona is a team that runs the ball extremely efficiently.  We know what they’re going to try to do Friday night again.  That’s a problem we need to solve and solve quickly.

“They were 40 percent on third downs.  We had two sacks and three quarterback hits on the night, we need to get to the quarterback more efficiently.  We talked about the time of possession.  Another area we need to improve on, they were 4-for-5 on red zone scores.  That’s 11-of-12 on the year.  Our goal is to keep that below 70 percent.  The disappointing thing is we had probably five times where guys were wrapped up in the backfield that ended up being significant gains.  We have to cash in when the players are in position to make those tackles.  We did have one fourth down conversion stop, which was a positive that ended up being a fumble recovered by Nik Needham.

“Special teams, I thought we had good protection.  [Alan] Luna had four punts with over a 40-yard net, he had a 44.4 average.  The disappointing thing, we had a pooch punt there right at midfield and we banged that out of the end zone.  We need to be a little better there.  And we did not have the best coverage, we had a 13 and 18 yard return against us on punt.  Punt return, I thought Terry Juniel made good decisions.  He had a nice bluff there down near the goal line that resulted in a touchback.  He has made good decisions all year, he hasn’t had many opportunities for returns. 

Kickoff cover, two of the kicks were touchbacks.  [Brady] Viles did a nice job kicking it out and then we had an onside that we did not cash in on at the end of the game when it was 24-14.  And then kickoff return, we had zero returns, we had a guy #44 that really kind of handled us last year on kickoff returns.  One of the goals was to handle him and I thought the guys did a good job on that.  But again, a disappointing loss, it falls on me as the head coach to fix it.  That’s what we’re in the process of doing right now.  I like the fact that we have a quick turnaround.  Sometimes when you have a disappointing loss, the best thing is to get right back to work, get right back on the field.  We have already had a practice for Arizona this morning.  We are already in the initial stages of game planning for Arizona.”

(On Arizona)

“Arizona is a very fast, athletic team.  They have made a lot of strides, particularly on defense.  This year they are doing a good job in the turnover department.  They are +3 in turnovers, they have gained five turnovers on defense, they have only turned it over twice on offense.  They have been a little highly penalized.  They beat Northern Arizona 62-34.  They just lost a very close game to an outstanding Houston team that is usually very explosive on offense.  They lost 19-16.  This is their first road game, this is a former rivalry a long time ago and I think the old-time WAC fans will be excited about Arizona coming here. 

“Offensively they are explosive, they are close to 40 points per game.  They average 329 yards rushing per game, 7.7 yards per carry.  That’s outstanding, that probably leads the nation or comes close right now.  Overall 483 yards a game, but the thing that stands out, 7.1 yards per play, that’s explosive.  They have only given up two sacks.  They are very good on third downs, 41 percent.  They are very good in the red zone, they are close to 70 percent on red zone touchdowns.  I mentioned they have only given up two turnovers.

“The quarterback is very athletic, although I see on the depth chart they list two quarterbacks as potentially playing for them.  The quarterback [Brandon] Dawkins, he’s 6-3, 210, he runs a 4.5 and you can see it on film.  He hits 4.5 by his second or third step.  This guy can really run.  Last year he had 944 yards rushing and seven touchdowns. 

This year he is already their second-leading rusher with 5.9 yards per carry and two touchdowns.  He is also a 57 percent completion guy with 267 yards and a touchdown with zero interceptions.  As I mentioned, they are taking care of the ball well.  They have two smaller backs, in particular [J.J.] Taylor 5-6, freshman, he is probably the same size as Walter Dawn.  He is very explosive.  He’s got 135 yards rushing and a 5.0 average.  And then [Nick] Wilson, 5-10 tailback more powerfully built has a 10.9 yard average per carry and one touchdown and he did not play versus Houston.  I do not know his availability for this game.

“They have two slot receivers, more on the smaller size, [Tony] Ellison 5-11 and [Shun] Brown 5-9, they are first and second on the team in receptions.  Ellison has a long of 43 yards and 104 yards.  And then #6 Brown has a 16.8 average per catch and a long of 35.  They are really quick and fast receivers.  They have an experienced offensive line, they are led by their left tackle who is a three-year starter.  Their right guard who is a huge man 6-7, 325, he’s a four-year starter as a graduate for them.

“I think where they have made the most strides as a team is defensively.  Marcel Yates is their defensive coordinator.  He is an outstanding coach, I had the opportunity to work with him at Boise State.  He has done an excellent job.  They are running pretty much Boise State’s scheme there.  They held an explosive Houston offense to 380 yards and only 19 points.  They are only giving up 21 points per game.  They have gotten much better at defending the run, they are only giving up 4.3 yards per carry.  Overall they have two sacks, they have four interceptions and one fumble. 

They have been good on third downs, but where they have really been good is they have been stingy in the red zone.  Teams have been in the red zone 11 times and only scored touchdowns three times.  So they have been outstanding there.  They have four freshmen that are playing for them on defense.  They went with youth and these guys are all playing extremely well.  #2 [Lorenzo] Burns the cornerback, he leads their team in tackles.  He also has an interception.  #14 [Kylan] Wilborn an outside linebacker, he leads their team in tackles for losses and sacks.  He also has a forced fumble. 

Another freshman linebacker, [Tony] Fields, he is second on the team in tackles with 13.  And then their safety/nickel type guy is a good looking guy, about 6-2, 205, #6 [Demetrius] Flannigan, he leads their team in interceptions and he’s third on their team in tackles.  This is a very young, fast, athletic defense.  As I mentioned, the four freshmen that are playing for these guys are outstanding.

“Special teams, they have a good punter.  They are only averaging 2.3 yards per return against them so they have a good coverage unit.  Punt return, this is where they’re outstanding.  #6 Brown the slot receiver I mentioned earlier, he’s got a long touchdown of 66 yards as a punt returner, he’s averaging 24.3 yards per return. 

That would lead the nation if he did that consistently throughout the year.  Also their kickoff returner #2 [Tyrell Johnson] is outstanding, he is a smaller guy, 5-7, 164 pounds.  He has a long of 58 and he’s averaging 26 yards per return.  So they have two outstanding returners who are extremely fast.  Their coverage units are solid on punt.  They have had some busted against them on kickoff cover, we’re hoping that we can get that going as far as our kickoff return team with Keynan Foster and Warren Redix. 

Their PAT/field goal kicker is solid, he’s 3-of-4 on the year and he’s got a long of 45 and he’s 8-of-9 on PATs.  So this is a very fast, athletic team, Pac-12 opponent.  We’ll be on the national stage on ESPN on Friday night.  I would ask the Miner fans to come out and support us in full force.  I thought the fans the other night were outstanding.  We didn’t hold up our end of the bargain on the field.  But they were energized and they were trying to help our team out as much as they could in all the critical situations.  I would ask that they could do it again this Friday night.”

(On the primary focus for making improvement)

“Fundamentals.  If you’re having issues with tackling, you focus in on tackling.  If you’re having issues with ball security, you focus in on ball security.  Those are two things that we hit exclusively today.  If you have issues in the red zone, you need to spend more time instead of doing maybe scout work or team work or individual work, spend more time in the red zone.  When we have something that’s glaring, we need to attack it and you do it through hard work.”

(On making offensive adjustments)

“We do need to run the ball more efficiently.  I think there were times that there were holes that weren’t hit.  And then there were times that the holes weren’t there.  Rice ran a lot of stunts and clogged up some holes.  We’ve got to be better on both ends.  We’ve got to be better up front blocking, again Rice out-physicaled us there, and we’ve got to be better at hitting the holes but more importantly we’ve got to be better with ball security and can’t turn the ball over.  It’s the second week in a row that we’ve fumbled and ended drives.  Another thing you look at is personnel.  I like what I’ve seen from a practice standpoint with the two freshmen, Josh Fields and Ronald Awatt.  Those guys are going to get opportunities in this game.  Guys get opportunities, they get a couple of carries, they make the most of it and they get a few more.  Josh did some nice things in this past game, and he’ll get more opportunities in this game.  And then Ronald Awatt will get some opportunities as well.  I feel like in a week or two we’ll get Quardraiz Wadley back in the mix, and from a talent standpoint we’ll be back to full speed with our running back crew.”

(On evaluating Saturday’s game)

“You can always sit there and harp on the negative, but you’ve got to look at some positives too and guys that had good individual performances.  Again, I point to Ryan Metz.  He was outstanding in the game, and he wasn’t helped again for the second week in a row with drops.  That’s something that needs to be eliminated, but you can’t fault him for that when you put an accurate ball out there.  And there were some other individual performances.  I mentioned Nik Needham, he has been outstanding.  Julian Jackson, it’s the second week in a row that he had over eight tackles.  We didn’t have Alvin Jones for the first half and we challenged one of the linebackers to step up.  [Treyvon] Hughes came in and had 11 tackles in the game.  Those are great individual performances and you try to build upon those.  You try to correct the mistakes as quickly as you can, move on and you try to attack your weaknesses.  But you do have to acknowledge the positive things and remain positive with the guys.  We’re two weeks into the season.  We are 0-2, but we’re two weeks into the season.  There’s a lot of season left.”

(On the quarterback depth chart after Ryan Metz)

“We’re going to roll with Zack [Greenlee] and then Mark [Torrez] will be ready to go.  Zach probably had the best camp of all three quarterbacks from an efficiency standpoint and everything, he has the best handle on the run game and those type things, but Mark Torrez is right there.  In fact, we put Mark in the game the other night before Zack for the reason being Mark is very athletic, he is the guy that can get out of things when nothing presents [itself], he can make plays with his legs.  The rush that Rice was presenting at the end of the game when they put a hit on Ryan, I was very concerned about that, so I wanted somebody in there who was a little more mobile.  I wouldn’t rule out that we we’ll see both quarterbacks in this game and a mixture of other things.  We have to generate yardage, whoever gives us the best chance to do that will be the guy that’s in there.”

(On dealing with injuries to the offensive line)

“Offensive line, we lose our right tackle for the year, but Jerrod Brooks steps in.  He has started games in the past for us.  When we went with our extra tight end stuff, he went in at tackle and Greg went to tight end.  So we do have an experienced guy there.  Tanner Stallings will take over at center for Gatewood.  Tanner has started games for us.  So fortunately for us, we do have guys that have played before.  But you could be stuck in a position like that where you’re starting a true freshman.  That’s how the game is.  But we do have two experienced guys there.  What it does put you in is a very tight pickle when it comes to depth.  We can’t afford a whole lot more injuries at that position.  All of a sudden you’re very thin.”

(On preparing for a mobile quarterback)

“When you’ve got a running quarterback that’s very athletic like they do, you try to keep that guy in the pocket and keep him contained where he can’t break plays and make plays with his legs.  He’s a 57 percent passer, so you try to keep him in there and make him a 50 percent passer by trying to get pressure on him, maybe force some errant throws, and try to get some interceptions.  Guys like that do scare you, especially when you’re looking at 329 yards rushing per game and he is the second-leading rusher.  This is a talented guy that you’ve got to keep contained.  The fact that they list possibly two quarterbacks, they’ve got two guys in that same category that we need to really keep our eyes on.”

(On game plan adjustments should Zack Greenlee or Mark Torrez have to play)

“Zack does a great job of handling the run checks, just like Ryan did.  Zack has got an extremely strong arm, he can make all the throws.  You’re probably not looking at as much movement stuff.  Zack is not quite as nimble as Ryan is when it comes to escapability and those type things.  But as far as the offense, he has a great understanding of everything.  And same with Torrez.  Torrez probably can do a little bit more movement stuff, a little bit more zone read stuff with him and allow him to make plays with his legs.  So he brings a little more dynamic things when it comes to his legs.  Again, I’m confident in both of those quarterbacks moving forward.”

ADDITIONAL MINER CONTENT: Rice vs UTEP

Monster’s Musings: Miners’ Woes Continue – Mando ‘the Monster’ Medina

Story in Many Pics: Miners Drop Home Opener to Rice – Andres ‘Ace’ Acosta

Rice Spoils UTEP’s CUSA Opener – Staff Report

Miners Drop Second Straight After Rice Runs Them Over 31 – 14 – Daniel L. Ornelas

*** UTEP TO HOST ARIZONA UNDER THE FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS

SERIES HISTORY

Arizona leads the series 38-11-2. This is the first matchup between the teams in El Paso since 1977. The Miners are 5-17-1 all-time versus the Wildcats in the Sun City. UTEP has lost 12 straight to Arizona overall and four in a row in the Sun Bowl. The Miners last defeated the Wildcats on Nov. 14, 1970 – a 33-17 victory in El Paso.  The programs first met on Nov. 4, 1916 as Arizona blanked the Miners 41-0. The Miners notched two victories in a row in 1938 and 1939, followed by three wins in row from 1948-50 and reeled off five consecutive victories from 1953-57. The two programs have a bit of a history together as both were members of the Border Conference and Western Athletic Conference. Arizona joined the Border Conference in 1931, while UTEP joined in 1935. The two teams then joined the WAC – the Wildcats in 1962 and the Miners in 1967. Arizona exited the WAC after the 1978 season to join the Pac-10, while UTEP entered Conference USA in 2005.

 

THE LAST MEETING

Arizona scored the game’s first 42 points and went on to a 42-7, season-opening victory over UTEP on Aug. 30, 2003 in Tucson. Quarterbacks Nic Costa and Ryan O’Hara teamed to throw for 229 yards for the Wildcats. Arizona also had 217 yards rushing and piled up 446 yards of offense on a sweltering day in Tucson. The temperature at kickoff was 96 degrees. UTEP go on the board with 14:49 remaining on a 39-yard interception return by freshman Joe Fleskoski. The Miners missed their first chance to get some points with 47 seconds remaining in the third period, as Keith Robinson’s 42-yard field goal attempt was wide left. Three quarterbacks (Orlando Cruz, Omar Duarte, Jordan Palmer) saw action for UTEP, combining to throw for 204 yards.  The Miners were held to 71 yards rushing as Arizona registered four sacks for 32 yards. Marshall Sanford led the Miners with a career-best 11 tackles. The Wildcats staked a 35-0 lead at halftime, before the two teams played to a draw (7-7) over the final 30 minutes.

 

CONNECTIONS

UTEP WR Terry Juniel played at Glendale Community College in 2014 and Arizona WR Shawn Poindexter played at GCC in 2015. UTEP LB Treyvon Hughes and Arizona DL Larry Tharpe Jr. played at Hebron High School in Carrollton, Texas. UTEP WR Dylan Kittrell and LB Johnny Jones are from Carrollton, Texas. Two El Paso area players are listed on Arizona’s roster: S Tristan Cooper (Andress High School) and LB Elijah Ruiz (Franklin High School). Cooper was teammates with UTEP WR Eddie Sinegal. Arizona Assistant/Wide Receivers Coach Theron Aych coached UTEP’s receivers in 2016. UTEP Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Line Coach Spencer Leftwich coached the tight ends at Arizona in 2012 during Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez’s first season at the helm. Leftwich was joined by Arizona associate head coach Calvin McGee, co-offensive coordinator Rod Smith, safeties coach Jahmile Aaddae and defensive line coach Vince Amey during that 2012 campaign. UTEP Head Coach Sean Kugler, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Brent Pease, defensive line coach Andrew Browning and Arizona defensive coordinator Marcel Yates were all at Boise State in some capacity during the undefeated 2006 season. Kugler was the assistant head coach/offensive line coach, Pease was the wide receivers coach, Browning played on the defensive line and Yates coached the safeties. Pease and Yates were on the Broncos’ staff through the 2011 season, while Browning was in charge of defensive quality control in 2010 and was a defensive graduate assistant in 2011.

 

ABOUT ARIZONA

The Wildcats have split their first two games of 2017, opening with a 62-24 dismantling of Northern Arizona on Sept. 2 followed by a three-point loss (19-16) to Houston. Arizona has rushed for 658 yards (329 per game) and passed for 308 yards (29-for-51). Against Northern Arizona, the Wildcats totaled 516 rushing yards and seven touchdowns as QB Brandon Dawkins led with 92 yards on a pair of touchdowns and RB Nick Wilson tallied 87 yards with a score. Against the Cougars, JJ Taylor led the rushing effort with 87 yards. Offensively, Taylor leads the team with 131 yards on 26 attempts (5.0 avg.), while Dawkins and Zach Green have each scored a pair of rushing touchdowns. Dawkins leads with 267 yards on 24-of-42 passing and a touchdown. WR Tony Ellison leads in receptions (eight) and yards (104) while scoring the lone receiving touchdown. CB Lorenzo Burns leads the team with 14 tackles, while DE/LB Kylan Wilborn and DE Justin Belknap have each registered a sack. S Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles is tied for the national lead with three interceptions. Flannigan-Fowles has totaled 10 tackles on the season. Burns has also intercepted a pass this season.

 

LAST WEEK

Samuel Stewart rushed for 89 yards, and Rice piled up 306 on the ground to top UTEP, 31-14, in the Conference USA opener for both teams on Sept. 9 in the Sun Bowl. The Owls scored the game’s first 17 points and, after the Miners drew within 10 late in the third quarter, put it away with a 10-play, 87-yard drive, capped by Jordan Myers’ three-yard scoring run. Myers was one of three Owl backs to find the end zone, along with Sam Glaesmann and Nahshon Ellerbe who had scoring runs of five and three yards respectively. Rice quarterback Glaesmann accounted for two touchdowns in all. His 52-yard pass to Aaron Cephus early in the third quarter gave the Owls the 17-0 lead. The Owls led by 17 three times at 17-0, 24-7 and 31-14. UTEP pulled within 10 for the second time (24-14) on a one-yard run by Ryan Metz with 4:56 remaining but couldn’t recover the onside kick. The Miners were flustered offensively for the most part with 229 yards on 57 plays (4.0 average). Rice gained 437 yards on 67 plays (6.5 average). Rice had 192 yards at the half but UTEP was able to stay within striking distance at 10-0. The Owls opted to go for it on fourth and one at the UTEP six-yard line late in the second quarter, but Glaesmann fumbled at the five and the Miners’ Nik Needham recovered to help keep it close. Glaesmann finished 10-of-18 passing for 131 yards. Metz completed 18-of-33 passes for 203 yards for the Miners. He threw a 44-yard touchdown pass to Warren Redix with 3:47 left in the third quarter. Walter Dawn Jr. led UTEP with 24 yards rushing on nine carries, and Kavika Johnson was the top receiver with six catches for 67 yards. Metz was sacked four times, and the Owls tallied eight tackles for losses with six quarterback hurries. Treyvon Hughes and Dante Lovilotte led the Miner defense with 11 tackles apiece. Alvin Jones had two quarterback hurries despite playing only the second half.

 

FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS 

UTEP is 4-5 in its last nine Friday night contests since the 2005 season. The Miners halted a previous five-game Friday night losing streak after defeating Rice 24-21 on Nov. 6, 2015 in the Sun Bowl. The other three Friday night victories include a 36-17 stomping at UAB on Nov. 10, 2006 and a 44-41 (2OT) win against Houston on Sept. 16, 2005 in El Paso. The Miners chalked up another Friday night win in 2005, prevailing at Tulane, 45-21, on Oct. 14. UTEP is hosting only its third Friday night game since 2005 and is 2-0 in its two Friday contests in the Sun Bowl. Other Friday night opponents include: at Tulsa (Oct. 27, 2006), at East Carolina (Nov. 28, 2008), at Houston (Sept. 10, 2010), at UCF (Nov. 25, 2011) and at Rice (Nov. 21, 2014).

 

SEASON NO. 100 FOR UTEP FOOTBALL

The 2017 campaign marks the 100th for UTEP football. In honor of their centennial campaign, the Miners are wearing a commemorative decal on their helmets. There will also be centennial tributes in the game program, on the video board and social media over the course of the season. Though the centennial for The University of Texas at El Paso was in 2014, the football program suspended play for four seasons due to the World Wars. No games were played in 1918 (WWI) and 1943-45 (WWII). The 1914 season marked the first for the Miners. The Miners played their first ever game on Oct. 24, 1914 – a 7-6 victory against the YMCA.

 

FOURTH-DOWN CONVERSIONS 

UTEP converted three fourth down attempts against Rice on Sept. 9. The Miners are one of 26 programs with a 100 percent fourth down conversion rate. Iowa State and Cal have each converted four, while SMU, UCF, Alabama and Central Michigan have each converted three.

 

FEWER YELLOW FLAGS

UTEP was penalized two times against Rice on Sept. 9. It’s the eighth time during the Sean Kugler era in which the Miners were penalized two times or less. In 2016, UTEP was penalized twice against Old Dominion and once against Houston Baptist. In 2015, the Miners had two penalties each at no. 18 Arkansas, against UTSA and at North Texas. In 2014, UTEP opened the season with a pair of penalties at New Mexico and in 2013, the Miners were penalized once against Tulsa.

 

PENALTY RANKINGS

UTEP ranks first in Conference USA and tied for 13th nationally with seven yellow flags in 2017. The Miners also rank second in yards (65) and penalty yards per game (32.5) in C-USA.

 

RED ZONE OFFENSE

UTEP is 2-for-2 in the red zone in 2017 thus far which is tied for no. 1 nationally. The Miners are one of 36 programs to be at 100 percent.

 

PASSES NOT-INTERCEPTED

UTEP quarterbacks didn’t throw any interceptions in week two, as the Miners are one of 54 FBS program to not throw a pick during the season thus far.

 

23 CAREER TOUCHDOWNS FOR METZ

Junior QB Ryan Metz threw his first touchdown pass of 2017, a 44-yard toss against Rice on Sept. 9. It was also Metz’s 23rd career touchdown pass. He is now three passing scores from cracking the program’s top-10 list. John Furman and Nick Lamaison each threw 24 scores during their respective careers to rank tied for ninth on the list. Trevor Vittatoe leads all with 97 passing touchdowns.

 

RYAN’S RUSHING SCORE

Ryan Metz accounted for both of UTEP’s touchdowns against Rice on Sept. 9. Metz rushed for a one-yard score during the fourth quarter. It was Metz’s second career trip into the end zone as his first came at NM State on Sept. 19, 2015.

 

METZ & TORREZ HAVE SOMETHING IN COMMON

Besides both being from El Paso, Ryan Metz and Mark Torrez share a common bond as both played against top-25 opponents on the road in their collegiate debuts. Metz saw his first college action at no. 18 Arkansas on Sept. 5, 2015, while Torrez played on Sept. 2 at no. 7 Oklahoma. Both quarterbacks were perfect in their debuts as Metz went 3-for-3 (19 yards) and Torrez was 1-for-1 (seven yards).  Torrez saw the field again against Rice on Sept. 9.

 

KAVIKA’S CAREER NIGHT

Junior WR Kavika Johnson produced career-highs in receptions (six), receiving yards (67) and long reception (40 yards) against Rice on Sept. 9. His previous highs were three receptions for 32 yards and a long of 27 yards at Rice on Nov. 11, 2016. After two games, Johnson leads the Miners in catches and receiving yards.

 

REDIX’S CAREER-LONG CATCH

Junior WR Warren Redix hauled in a career-long 44-yard reception into the end zone during the third quarter against Rice on Sept. 9. Redix’s previous high was a 32-yard catch that went for his first career touchdown at North Texas on Nov. 28, 2015. Redix now has four career touchdowns as he scored three times in 2016. Redix has a pair of receptions for 59 yards (29.5 avg.) during the young season.

 

LUCERO’S NIGHT

Transfer junior TE David Lucero registered season highs in receptions (three) and yards (31) against Rice on Sept. 9. Lucero played his first game in a UTEP uniform on Sept. 2 at no. 7 Oklahoma, tallying two receptions for 13 yards.

 

KEYNAN’S FIRST RUSH ATTEMPT

Transfer sophomore WR Keynan Foster, who impressed last week with two kickoff returns for 45 yards (22.5 avg.), used his speed for a 15-yard dash against Rice on Sept. 9. Foster has tallied 67 all-purpose yards (33.5 avg.) thus far in 2017.

 

FIRST DOWN DOVE

Sophomore RB Kevin Dove grinded out two more first downs against Rice on Sept. 9. The first came on a third-and-2 in which Dove gained three yards, while the second came on a long run of 14 yards on a second-and-13. Dove gained three first downs in week one at no. 7 Oklahoma.

 

JOSHUA TAKES THE FIELD

True freshman RB and El Paso native Joshua Fields registered an 18-yard reception against Rice on Sept. 9. It’s his second career catch, but the first for positive yardage. Fields caught a pass at no. 7 OU for a minus-one-yard loss.

 

RISING DAWN

Starting tailback Walter Dawn Jr. impressed in his first college start at no. 7 Oklahoma on Sept. 2. The sophomore hit his career best with 56 yards on seven carries (8.0 avg.) with a touchdown. Dawn Jr. actually set his career high with 49 yards on four carries on UTEP’s eight-play, 78-yard touchdown drive that was capped by Dawn Jr.’s 17-yard dash to paydirt. On that drive, Dawn Jr. set his career long with a 29-yard run. Dawn Jr. also caught a pass for two yards. Dawn Jr.’s previous rushing high was 38 yards at UTSA on Oct. 22, 2016. Dawn Jr. now has three career rushing touchdowns after scoring two at UTSA last season, and four total touchdowns in his career as he caught a 74-yard score against the Roadrunners that day. The 5-foot-6, versatile speedster was listed as a wide receiver last year, but after a solid showing at Camp Ruidoso, he was moved to the starting running back position. Dawn Jr. leads the team with 80 yards on 16 attempts (5.0 avg.).

 

OTHER OFFENSIVE NOTABLES VS. RICE

Senior WR Tyler Batson registered a catch for 16 yards; he now has two on the year for 22 yards. Junior WR Terry Juniel caught a pair of passes for 15 yards and transfer sophomore TE Josh Weeks recorded a season-long 11-yard reception.

 

PROTECTING THE FIELD GENERAL

The offensive line for the Miners brings experience to the depth chart this season. The unit lost two starters from a year ago but returns senior Will Hernandez, and senior Tanner Stallings to the lineup. Leading the way for the squad will be Hernandez, who became the first UTEP offensive lineman to garner All-American honors. The senior has started every game (39) at the left guard position during his career with the Miners. Senior Derek Elmendorff, after playing in all 12 games last year, has plenty of game experience with 21 career starts at the right guard position. Junior Jerrod Brooks adds experience at the right tackle position after starting the first half of the 2016 season, along with transfer senior Logan Tuley-Tillman, who has seen multiple reps with the first team offense. Bobby DeHaro, Reuben Guerra, Bijan Hosseini and Markos Lujan will also add to the depth chart. Last season the offensive line surrendered 22.0 sacks, which tied for third in C-USA (1.83 p/g). During the last five seasons, including 2017, the Miners have allowed 78 sacks in 51 contests (1.5 p/g). In the previous four seasons (2009-12), UTEP quarterbacks went down 109 times in 49 games (2.2 p/g).

 

BREAKING DOWN THE O-LINE

The starting five offensive linemen, according to the most recent depth chart, are LT Logan Tuley-Tillman (6’7”, 320 pounds), LG Will Hernandez (6’3”, 330 pounds), C Tanner Stallings (6’2”, 295 pounds), RG Derek Elmendorff (6’3”, 310 pounds) and RT Jerrod Brooks (6’6”, 300 pounds). The average weight of the starting five is 311 pounds, while the average height is just over 6-foot-4.

 

ALL-AMERICAN STATUS

OL Will Hernandez has started every game in his three years with the Miners. Last season, Hernandez was the first Miner offensive lineman to receive AP All-American second team and FOX Sports’ All-American honors. The senior was also the first UTEP offensive lineman since 2009 to earn All-Conference USA first team recognition. Hernandez’s national recognition didn’t stop there, as he garnered Pro Football Focus Pass Protector of the Year. The Miners capped the season with two showings of over 500 yards of total offense, including a season-best 384 yards rushing in a victory over North Texas.

 

WILL’S PRESEASON ACCOLADES

Will Hernandez was selected to the 2017 AP All-America second team on Aug. 22 as the senior has racked up multiple preseason honors. Hernandez was announced to the 2017 Outland Trophy Watch List and earned a spot on the 2017 Preseason Conference USA team. Multiple football publications, including Dave Campbell’s Texas Football, Phil Steele’s College Football Preview and Athlon Sports have Hernandez on their preseason teams.

 

HURRY, ALVIN

After not recording a quarterback hurry in 2016, senior LB Alvin Jones registered a pair against Rice on Sept. 9. Jones, who missed the first half of the contest due to NCAA rules of targeting, tallied five tackles and half a tackle for loss.

 

KEEPING UP WITH ALVIN’S CAREER

Senior Alvin Jones has 251 career tackles (seventh-most at UTEP since the 2000 season) after recording five more tackles against Rice on Sept. 9. Jones also has 10.5 career sacks (needs 1.5 to crack the program’s all-time top 10 list) and 29.5 career tackles for loss (needs 1.0 to etch name on all-time top 10 list). Jones’s 14.5 tackles for loss in 2015 ranks tied for ninth on the single-season list, while his 5.0 tackles for loss at NM State on Sept. 19, 2015 was the most by a UTEP player since the 2000 season. Jones has led the Miners in tackles the past two seasons, tallying 93 stops in each campaign, while in 2014 Jones ranked second with 55 takedowns.

 

DOUBLE-DIGIT STOPS

Alvin Jones has reached double digits in tackles nine times during his career. Jones’s first double-digit performance came against UTSA on Oct. 3, 2015 with a 10-tackle outing. Jones racked up 11 tackles in four different contests in 2015 (at NM State; vs. Rice; at Old Dominion; vs. LA Tech). In 2016, Jones registered double-digit tackles in four contests (12 vs. NM State; 16 vs. FIU; 16 at Rice; 12 vs. North Texas).

 

TREYVON’S BREAKOUT GAME

In only his second game at the LB position, sophomore Treyvon Hughes tied for the team lead with 11 tackles against Rice on Sept. Hughes registered three stops in his defensive debut at no. 7 Oklahoma in week one. Hughes came to UTEP as a running back and missed last season due to injury. He was switched to linebacker prior to the Annual Spring Game this past year. Hughes is ranked fourth on the team in tackles two games into the season.

 

LOVILOTTE TIES CAREER HIGH

Senior LB Dante Lovilotte tied his career best with 11 tackles, while it tied for the team lead against Rice on Sept. 9. Lovilotte set his career high last season against Army. Lovilotte has totaled 14 stops to rank third on the team early into the campaign.

 

ACTION JACKSON

Transfer senior LB Julian Jackson tallied seven tackles against Rice on Sept. 9, tying his total from week one in his UTEP debut at no. 7 Oklahoma. Jackson is tied for second on the team with three other Miners with 14 tackles.

 

JAMAR & DEDRICK GET THEIR FIRST START

Transfer junior LB Jamar Smith and freshman DL Dedrick Simpson made their first start in a UTEP uniform on Sept. 9 against Rice. Smith registered four tackles in his starting debut, while in his UTEP debut, he tallied five stops at no. 7 OU on Sept. 2. Simpson came up with a tackle against Rice, while last week he tallied three stops and half a tackle for loss at no. 7 OU.

 

DC’S IMPACT

Senior DB Devin Cockrell leads the Miners with 16 tackles on the young season. Cockrell registered seven against Rice on Sept. 9. With the seven stops, Cockrell hit the 200-tackle club with 202 in his career. Against the Owls, Cockrell also registered his third career and first sack since 2014 (two) on a second-and-10 play for a loss of three yards in the first quarter. Cockrell came up with a quarterback hurry against the Owls.

 

IN THE NIK OF TIME

Junior DB Nik Needham recorded the first full sack of his UTEP career. Needham took down Rice QB Sam Glaesmann on a third-and-13 play. Needham’s first sack was an assist at NM State on Sept. 19, 2015. Needham also recovered his first fumble during his career and tallied six tackles on Saturday night versus the Owls. Needham has recorded 10 tackles on the season.

 

LEWIS’S RETURN TO THE GRIDIRON

After missing all of 2016, sophomore DB Michael Lewis has been active in his comeback year. Lewis ranks tied for second on the team with 14 tackles after recording five against Rice on Sept. 9. Lewis registered a career high nine stops on Sept. 2 at no. 7 OU.

 

OTHER DEFENSIVE NOTABLES VS. RICE

Junior DB Kalon Beverly tallied seven tackles, two short of tying his career high. Sophomore LB Dylan Parsee tied his career best with four tackles. Parsee tallied four at no. 7 OU in week one as well. Freshman LB Chris Barnwell registered a career-high three tackles and sophomore DE Denzel Chukwukelu registered a career-best three tackles.

 

MAKING THEIR DEBUTS

Twenty-six Miners made their UTEP debuts at no. 7 Oklahoma. The players include: RB Ronald Awatt, LB Chris Barnwell, DL Christian Buckingham, WR Alan Busey, RB Joshua Fields, WR Keynan Foster, LB Kalaii Griffin, OL Bijan Hosseini, LB Julian Jackson, DL Christian Johnson, TE David Lucero, DL Trace Mascorro, FB Forest McKee, DB Jesse Montgomery, WR Nesly Ovincy, DB Khalil Rashaad-Brown, LS Jake Sammut, DL Dedrick Simpson, LB Jamar Smith, DB Kahani Smith, DL Keith Sullivan, QB Mark Torrez, OL Logan Tuley-Tillman, K Brady Viles, TE Josh Weeks and LB Barron Wortham Jr..

 

MAKING THE START

UTEP featured nine new starters at no. 7 Oklahoma – four on offense and five on defense. They included LT Logan Tuley-Tillman, WR Terry Juniel, TB Walter Dawn Jr. and TE Augie Touris on offense; and DE Denzel Chukwukelu, NT Trace Mascorro, DE Luke Elsner, LB Julian Jackson and LB Dylan Parsee on defense.

 

BIG CROWDS

UTEP played in front of 86,076 in attendance at Oklahoma Memorial Field on Sept. 2. It’s the fourth-largest crowd for a game involving the Miners since the 2000 season. UTEP played in front of a six-digit crowd (101,144) at Texas on Sept. 9, 2009; 92,863 at Texas Sept. 10, 2016; and 87,126 at Texas A&M on Nov. 9, 2013.

 

DAS BOOT

El Paso native Alan Luna punted seven times for 311 yards (44.4 avg.) with one inside the 20-yard line against Rice. Luna registered a 63-yard boot, the second-longest of his career. Luna’s career long is a 69-yard kick against Southern Miss in 2016, while his third-longest went 61 yards at Old Dominion in 2015. Luna opened 2017 with eight punts for 352 yards (third-most in his career) for an average of 44.0 yards at Oklahoma. The senior punter placed three inside the 20-yard line to tie his career high. Luna also placed three inside the 20 at LA Tech on Oct. 1, 2016.

 

LUNA CAREER NOTES

Senior Alan Luna ranks seventh on the program’s all-time list in career punt yards (6,090) and in career punts (142) after Saturday’s performance. Rick Padia ranks no. 6 in career punts (156), while the overall leader is Jerry Walker (298). Padia ranks no. 6 in career yards (6,380), while the overall leader is Walker (12,193). Luna’s career high for yards are 376 at Texas (Sept. 10, 2016). His longest is a 69-yard boot, while his career-best average is 51.0 yards on six punts (306) against Southern Miss (Sept. 24, 2016).

 

LOCAL FLAVOR

The 2017 roster features 28 players from El Pas0 — DB Deaumonjae Banks (Chapin), LB Chris Barnwell (Eastlake), WR Brannon Bullitt (Chapin), OL Bobby DeHaro (Montwood), OL Derek Elmendorff (Franklin), RB Joshua Fields (Americas), K/P Jason Filley (Coronado), LB Sergio Gonzalez (El Dorado), FB David Jackson (Parkland), DL Christian Johnson (Parkland), LB Alvin Jones (Burges), OL Greg Long (Eastwood), LB Erick Lopez (Canutillo), OL Markos Lujan (Americas), P/K Alan Luna (Franklin), OL Rey Mendez (Socorro), QB Ryan Metz (Andress), RB Jonathon Millan (Coronado), WR Brandon Moss (Chapin), DL Josh Ortega (Montwood), DB Elijah Perales (Chapin), OL Jaime Perales (Cathedral), WR Warren Redix (Montwood), TE Jorge Rodriguez (Montwood), WR Richie Rodriguez (Eastwood), WR Eddie Sinegal (Andress), QB Keith Tarango-Lopez (Eastlake) and QB Mark Torrez (Eastwood).

 

SUN CITY SENSATIONS

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

 

GRADUATE STUDENT-ATHLETES

The UTEP football program has eight student-athletes with degrees for the 2017 season. QB Zack Greenlee, LB Julian Jackson, DL Sky Logan, DB Jesse Montgomery, WR Brandon Moss, TE Sterling Napier, WR Nesley Ovincy and OL Logan Tuley-Tillman are pursuing their Masters of Arts in Leadership Studies. Northwestern has 18 student-athletes with degrees, while Cincinnati, Coastal Carolina and East Carolina each have 14. Toledo has 13; TCU, Alabama, Oregon and Virginia each have 12; Georgia State, Kansas State, Maryland, UCF and USF each have 11; Kent State, Nevada, New Mexico, South Alabama, Texas Tech and West Virginia each have 10; Houston, Iowa State, Pittsburgh, Purdue, Rutgers and Temple each have nine; and joining UTEP with eight student-athletes are Auburn, Clemson, Iowa, Kentucky, NC State, Northern Illinois, Ole Miss, Penn State, SMU Syracuse, UAB and WKU.

 

HARD WORK PAYS OFF

After day one at Camp Ruidoso, head coach Sean Kugler announced on Aug. 8 that walk-ons RB TK Powell, WR Keynan Foster, LB Johnny Jones, FB David Jackson and FB Robert Pufhal each earned scholarships for their performances on the field and in the classroom.

 

FBS COACHES WITH FBS SONS

UTEP Head Coach Sean Kugler is one of eight FBS coaches who have a son playing for another FBS program. Patrick Kugler plays center at Michigan. Others include UAB’s head coach Bill Clark with son Jacob playing for the Blazers. Colorado’s head coach Mike MacIntyre has his son Jay playing for the Buffaloes. Navy’s Ken Niumatalolo has two sons, Va’a at BYU and Ali’i at Utah. Gary Patterson’s son Blake plays for his pops at TCU. UTEP’s opposing coach on Friday, Rich Rodriguez, has his son Rhett playing for the Wildcats. And Bobby Wilder of Old Dominion has his son Derek playing for the Monarchs.

 

COACHING YOUR ALMA MATER

UTEP Head Coach Sean Kugler is one of 21 FBS coaches in 2017 who are at the helm of their alma mater’s program. John Bonamego (Central Michigan), Troy Calhoun (Air Force), Paul Chryst (Wisconsin), Pat Fitzgerald (Northwestern), Mike Gundy (Oklahoma State), Jim Harbaugh (Michigan), Bryan Harsin (Boise State), Paul Haynes (Kent State), Kliff Kingsbury (Texas Tech), Tim Lester (Western Michigan), Mike Neu (Ball State), Barry Odom (Missouri), Mark Richt (Miami), Nick Rolovich (Hawai’i), Scott Satterfield (Appalachian State), David Shaw (Stanford), Kalani Sitake (BYU), Kirby Smart (Georgia), Jeff Tedford (Fresno State) and Matt Wells (Utah State) are the other 20.

 

CLOSING IN ON WIN NO. 400

The Miners are six wins away from 400 in their program history. Texas Western College chalked up win no. 100 during the 1941 season after it prevailed at Arizona State 28-0 on Nov. 8. The Miners recorded win no. 200 on Sept. 21, 1963, defeating North Texas State 34-7 during the inaugural game in the Sun Bowl. Toraino Singleton rushed for 199 yards and a score, and Jason Blair hauled in six passes for 95 yards and a touchdown in leading UTEP to a 17-12 triumph over New Mexico for win no. 300 in the Sun Bowl on Nov. 18, 1995.

 

BOWL MANIA

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

 

UP NEXT

UTEP will drive up the road to take on rival NM State in the FirstLight Federal Credit Union Battle of I-10 on Sept. 23 at Aggie Memorial Stadium. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. in Las Cruces. The Miners have defeated the Aggies in eight consecutive games, starting with a 38-12 victory on Sept. 19, 2009. The Miners whacked the Aggies, 38-22, to open the 2016 season.

 

Miners Drop Second Straight After Rice Runs Them Over 31 – 14

Coming off a 49-point beatdown to nationally ranked Oklahoma, the UTEP Miners had little to show in their home opener, falling to Conference USA foe Rice 31-14.

The Miners were in a 17-0 deficit before finding the end zone late in the third quarter after quarterback, Ryan Metz, hit a wide open Warren Redix on a 44-yard play action pass for the touchdown.

That would be the lone highlight of the night for the Miners as Rice went on to add a pair of touchdowns in the fourth quarter halting UTEP’s comeback attempt.

“We couldn’t generate first downs, we were missing tackles,” UTEP head coach, Sean Kugler said. “It was still a 10 point game in the third quarter and they go on a 90-yard drive that was probably the back breaker right there.”

UTEP was held to 26 rushing yards on 24 attempts while Rice had their way gaining 306 yards on 49 rushes.

Rice went on to add injury to insult, forcing a couple of UTEP offensive linemen – center Derron Gatgewood and tackle Greg Long – to leave the game. Metz was also hurt in what is an apparent shoulder injury on his non-throwing arm.

Kugler did not have a total count on injured players following the game saying they were “very significant and some season ending.”

Junior wide receiver Kavika Johnson attributed the loss to the team’s lack of energy, saying that it “boils down to the individual” players.

“I just know that it’s up to us, the leaders, the captains to take charge of that…we have to come together as a team,” Johnson said. “It’s not the coaches, it’s not anybody else, it’s us–it’s our team and we have to demand that from each other.”

The Miners have a quick turnaround as they await Arizona on Friday, September 15 – a game that will compete with both high school football and the El Paso Chihuahuas playoff series.

“You go back to work, you find out about character of young men, find out about character of coaches,” Kugler said. “It’s two games into the season so you go right back to work and we don’t have much time to think about it because we have a PAC-12 team coming in here Friday night.”

ADDITIONAL MINER CONTENT: Herald Post Sports In-Depth

Monster’s Musings: Miners’ Woes Continue – Mando ‘the Monster’ Medina

Story in Many Pics: Miners Drop Home Opener to Rice 31-14 – Andres ‘Ace’ Acosta

Rice Spoils UTEP’s CUSA Opener – Staff Report

Story in Many Pics: Miners Drop Home Opener to Rice 31-14

Saturday night was UTEP’s Conference USA Opener, a home opener and a chance to show off their new helmet and uniform combination, but the Rice Owls crashed the party with a 31-14 victory.

“I don’t have a lot to say,” UTEP coach Sean Kugler said.  “We got beat soundly in all phases.  Hats off to Rice, they were the better team today, they were the more physical team today.  They ran the ball extremely well and we didn’t.  We dropped balls, we fumbled the ball, we didn’t tackle, we missed a lot of tackles in the backfield.  It was a poor effort on our part, and it starts with me.  Hats off to David Bailiff and his squad.”

Our very own Andres Acosta was there and brings your his view of the game in this ‘Story in Many Pics’

Rice Owls vs UTEP Miners, Sun Bowl Stadium, September 9th, 2017

Monster’s Musings: Miners’ Woes Continue

After a devastating loss to Oklahoma last week, The UTEP Miners were hoping to bounce back with a win over the Rice Owls.

Unfortunately for the 19,136 fans in attendance at the Sun Bowl on Saturday evening, they saw the Miners get dominated by the Owls with by a final score of 31-14.

UTEP wore an all-white uniform, that featured the debut of a very sweet looking white helmet with a navy and white pickaxe; sadly the new uniform didn’t make the Miners play better.

The stats don’t lie, after the 2nd quarter, the Miner offense – led by Ryan Metz only gained a total of 51 yards. That was not a misprint51 yards of total offense in the 1st half. Rice on the other hand gained 192 yards of total offense and had a 10-0 lead.

Things didn’t get better for the Miners in the 3rd quarter, as they couldn’t get anything going on offense and the defense gave up a 52 yard touchdown pass from QB Sam Glaesmann to WR Aaron Cephus, which was part of a 4 play 77 yard drive making the score 17-0.

To say that the Miner offense was struggling during this game is an understatement. Other than on the first drive of the game UTEP didn’t get past the 50 yard line until 5 minutes left to go in the 3rd quarter. And on the very next play on 4th and 1, Ryan Metz connected with Warren Redix for a 44 yard touchdown pass on a play action play which made the score 17-7.

But it was a little too late as Rice continued to dominate on the ground as they added another touchdown when WR Jordan Myers scored on a 3 yard run making the score 24-7

Bottom line is that UTEP needed to come in to this game and be competitive against Rice especially after they got trounced by Oklahoma and that’s not what we got.

The offense was nonexistent for most of the game the defense allowed Rice to average over 6 yards per carry and when the offense did decide to show up, it was a little too late.

Sure, the Miners added another touchdown towards the end of the game, but Rice added another one of their own.

The most shocking thing to me about the game was the crowd. Sure it was announced that there were 19,136 fans there but if you were at the game you know that’s not how many people were really there. I say realistically there was about 17,500 people at the Sun Bowl.

What concerns me is that the crowd looked liked what we’ve come to expect during the latter part of the year, but this was the Miners first home game!

UTEP needed a good showing tonight so fans could be jacked up about the Arizona Wildcats coming in to the Sun Bowl this Friday night. After what I saw I don’t know that many fans that think that the Miners will have a shot against the Wildcats and might decide to go see high school football or the El Paso Chihuahuas who are in the middle of a great playoff run.

The Miners can still fix the problems that they’re having, remember this was barley the 2nd game of the season, but they need to have a BETTER outing against Arizona or the season could be lost as far as the fans are concerned.

Author: Mando ‘the Monster’ Medina – El Paso Herald-Post Sports Columnist  | Previous stories HERE.

ADDITIONAL MINER CONTENT via Herald Post Sports In-Depth

Story in Many Pics: Miners Drop Home Opener to Rice 31-14 – Andres ‘Ace’ Acosta

Rice Spoils UTEP’s CUSA Opener – Staff Report

Miners Drop Second Straight After Rice Runs Them Over 31–14 – Daniel Ornelas

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

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

(On Last Week’s Loss at Oklahoma)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(On Rice)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(On paring down the defensive rotation)

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

(On evaluating the pass rush at Oklahoma)

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

(On preparing for Rice’s defense)

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

(On opening conference play early)

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

(On evaluating Ryan Metz’s performance at Oklahoma)

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

(On the offensive line’s play at Oklahoma)

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

(On the first scoring drive at Oklahoma)

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

(On the injury situation)

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

(On Jayson Van Hook’s status for Saturday)

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

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

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

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

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

(On his relationship with David Bailiff)

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

***

MINERS TO OPEN HOME SLATE AGAINST C-USA FOE RICE

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

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

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

HURRICANE HARVEY RELIEF EFFORTS

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

SERIES HISTORY

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

UTEP IN C-USA OPENERS

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

UTEP IN C-USA HOME GAMES

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

OPENING WITH RICE

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

TAKING ON TEXAS

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

RESULTS AFTER PLAYING A TOP 25 OPPONENT

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

THE LAST MEETING

UTEP scored the game’s first three points on a Jay Mattox 37-yard field goal. But Rice followed with 34 unanswered in the first half on its way to a 44-24 victory at Rice Stadium on Nov. 19, 2016. The Owls outgained the Miners, 482 yards to 232, as UTEP amassed only 42 yards in the first half. Mattox’s field goal followed a Gene Hopkins sack-and-strip of quarterback Jackson Tyner on Rice’s first offensive series.

The fumble was recovered by Sky Logan and returned 26 yards to the Rice 25-yard line. But the Owls answered with five scoring drives in the first half. Alvin Jones racked up 16 tackles with a sack for the Miners. Aaron Jones ran for 75 yards and hauled in a touchdown on a 42-yard reception. Rice starting quarterback Tyler Stehling left the contest with an injury during the first series, but Tyner completed 18-of-25 passes for 196 yards with a pair of scores.

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

SCOUTING RICE

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

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

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

CONNECTIONS

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

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

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

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

LAST WEEK

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

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

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

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

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

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

BIG CROWDS

UTEP played in front of 86,076 in attendance at Oklahoma Memorial Field on Sept. 2. It’s the fourth-largest crowd for a game involving the Miners since the 2000 season. UTEP played in front of a six-digit crowd (101,144) at Texas on Sept. 9, 2009; 92,863 at Texas Sept. 10, 2016; and 87,126 at Texas A&M on Nov. 9, 2013.

MAKING THEIR DEBUTS

Twenty-six Miners made their UTEP debuts at no. 7 Oklahoma. The players include: RB Ronald Awatt, LB Chris Barnwell, DL Christian Buckingham, WR Alan Busey, RB Joshua Fields, WR Keynan Foster, LB Kalaii Griffin, OL Bijan Hosseini, LB Julian Jackson, DL Christian Johnson, TE David Lucero, DL Trace Mascorro, FB Forest McKee, DB Jesse Montgomery, WR Nesly Ovincy, DB Khalil Rashaad-Brown, LS Jake Sammut, DL Dedrick Simpson, LB Jamar Smith, DB Kahani Smith, DL Keith Sullivan, QB Mark Torrez, OL Logan Tuley-Tillman, K Brady Viles, TE Josh Weeks and LB Barron Wortham Jr..

MAKING THE START

UTEP featured nine new starters at no. 7 Oklahoma – four on offense and five on defense. They included LT Logan Tuley-Tillman, WR Terry Juniel, TB Walter Dawn Jr. and TE Augie Touris on offense; and DE Denzel Chukwukelu, NT Trace Mascorro, DE Luke Elsner, LB Julian Jackson and LB Dylan Parsee on defense.

SEASON NO. 100 FOR UTEP FOOTBALL

The 2017 campaign marks the 100th for UTEP football. In honor of their centennial campaign, the Miners are wearing a commemorative decal on their helmets. There will also be centennial tributes in the game program, on the video board and social media over the course of the season.

Though the centennial for The University of Texas at El Paso was in 2014, the football program suspended play for four seasons due to the World Wars. No games were played in 1918 (WWI) and 1943-45 (WWII). The 1914 season marked the first for the Miners. The Miners played their first ever game on Oct. 24, 1914 – a 7-6 victory against the YMCA.

RISING DAWN

Starting tailback Walter Dawn Jr. impressed in his first college start at no. 7 Oklahoma. The sophomore hit his career best with 56 yards on seven carries (8.0 avg.) with a touchdown. Dawn Jr. actually set his career high with 49 yards on four carries on UTEP’s eight-play, 78-yard touchdown drive that was capped by Dawn Jr.’s 17-yard dash to paydirt.

On that drive, Dawn Jr. set his career long with a 29-yard run. Dawn Jr. also caught a pass for two yards. Dawn Jr.’s previous rushing high was 38 yards at UTSA on Oct. 22, 2016. Dawn Jr. now has three career rushing touchdowns after scoring two at UTSA last season, and four total touchdowns in his career as he caught a 74-yard score against the Roadrunners that day. The 5-foot-6, versatile speedster was listed as a wide receiver last year, but after a solid showing at Camp Ruidoso, he was moved to the starting running back position.

BIG BLOCK FROM A LITTLE GUY

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

DOVE RUNNING HARD

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

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

JOSHUA TAKING THE FIELD

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

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

BLOCK, FOREST, BLOCK

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

UTEP SIGNAL CALLERS

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

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

METZ & TORREZ HAVE SOMETHING IN COMMON

Besides both being from El Paso, Ryan Metz and Mark Torrez share a common bond as both played against top-25 opponents on the road in their collegiate debuts. Metz saw his first college action at no. 18 Arkansas on Sept. 5, 2015, while Torrez played on Sept. 2 at no. 7 Oklahoma. Both quarterbacks were perfect in their debuts as Metz went 3-for-3 (19 yards) and Torrez was 1-fo-1 (seven yards).

NO INT’S TOSSED

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

PASS CATCHING DEBUT

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

RETURNING KO’S

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

OFFENSIVE LINE HOLDING ITS OWN

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

PROTECTING THE FIELD GENERAL

The offensive line for the Miners brings experience to the depth chart this season. The unit lost two starters from a year ago but returns senior Will Hernandez, senior Tanner Stallings and junior Derron Gatewood to the lineup. Leading the way for the squad will be Hernandez, who became the first UTEP offensive lineman to garner All-American honors.

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

Junior Jerrod Brooks will add experience at the right tackle position after starting the first half of the 2016 season, along with transfer senior Logan Tuley-Tillman, who has seen multiple reps with the first team offense. Last season the offensive line surrendered 22.0 sacks, which tied for third in C-USA (1.83 p/g). During the last five seasons, including Saturday at OU (2013-17) the Miners have allowed 75 sacks in 50 contests (1.5 p/g). In the previous four seasons (2009-12), UTEP quarterbacks went down 109 times in 49 games (2.2 p/g).

BREAKING DOWN THE O-LINE

The starting five offensive linemen, according to the most recent depth chart, are LT Logan Tuley-Tillman (6’7”, 320 pounds), LG Will Hernandez (6’3”, 330 pounds), C Derron Gatewood (6’2”, 305 pounds), RG Derek Elmendorff (6’3”, 310 pounds) and RT Greg Long (6’4”, 270 pounds). The average weight of the starting five is 307 pounds, while the average height is just under 6-foot-4.

ALL-AMERICAN STATUS

OL Will Hernandez has started every game in his three years with the Miners. Last season, Hernandez was the first Miner offensive lineman to receive AP All-American second team and FOX Sports’ All-American honors. The senior was also the first UTEP offensive lineman since 2009 to earn All-Conference USA first team recognition.

Hernandez’s national recognition didn’t stop there, as he garnered Pro Football Focus Pass Protector of the Year. The Miners capped the season with two showings of over 500 yards of total offense, including a season-best 384 yards rushing in a victory over North Texas.

WILL’S PRESEASON ACCOLADES

Will Hernandez was selected to the 2017 AP All-America second team on Aug. 22 as the senior has racked up multiple preseason honors. Hernandez was announced to the 2017 Outland Trophy Watch List and earned a spot on the 2017 Preseason Conference USA team. Multiple football publications, including Dave Campbell’s Texas Football, Phil Steele’s College Football Preview and Athlon Sports have Hernandez on their preseason teams.

DEVIN’S SOLO ACT

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

LEWIS’ COMEBACK GAME

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

KEEPING UP WITH ALVIN’S CAREER

Senior Alvin Jones has 246 career tackles (seventh-most at UTEP since the 2000 season) after recording five tackles at no. 7 Oklahoma. Jones also has 10.5 career sacks (needs 1.5 to crack the program’s all-time top 10 list) and 29.5 career tackles for loss (needs 1.0 to etch name on all-time top 10 list).

Jones’s 14.5 tackles for loss in 2015 ranks tied for ninth on the single-season list, while his 5.0 tackles for loss at NM State on Sept. 19, 2015 was the most by a UTEP player since the 2000 season. Jones has led the Miners in tackles the past two seasons, tallying 93 stops in each campaign, while in 2014 Jones ranked second with 55 takedowns.

DOUBLE-DIGIT STOPS

Alvin Jones has reached double digits in tackles nine times during his career. Jones’s first double-digit performance came against UTSA on Oct. 3, 2015 with a 10-tackle outing. Jones racked up 11 tackles in four different contests in 2015 (at NM State; vs. Rice; at Old Dominion; vs. LA Tech). In 2016, Jones registered double-digit tackles in four contests (12 vs. NM State; 16 vs. FIU; 16 at Rice; 12 vs. North Texas).

ACTION JACKSON

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

LOVE FOR LOVILOTTE

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

TREYVON’S DEFENSIVE DEBUT

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

FIRST START FOR PARSEE

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

JAMAR’S DEBUT

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

OTHER DEFENSIVE NOTABLES

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

4TH-DOWN DEFENSE

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

DAS BOOT

El Paso native Alan Luna opened 2017 with eight punts for 352 yards (third-most in his career) for an average of 44.0 yards at Oklahoma. The senior punter placed three inside the 20-yard line to tie his career high. Luna also placed three inside the 20 at LA Tech on Oct. 1, 2016.

LUNA CAREER NOTES

Senior Alan Luna moved to seventh from ninth on the program’s all-time list in career punt yards (5,779) and ranks ninth in career punts (135) after Saturday’s performance. Tom Galloway ranks no. 8 in career punts (137), while the overall leader is Jerry Walker (298). Rick Padia ranks no. 6 in career yards (6,380), while the overall leader is Walker (12,193).

Luna’s career high for yards are 376 at Texas (Sept. 10, 2016). His longest is a 69-yard boot, while his career-best average is 51.0 yards on six punts (306) against Southern Miss (Sept. 24, 2016).

LOCAL FLAVOR

The 2017 roster features 28 players from El Pas0 — DB Deaumonjae Banks (Chapin), LB Chris Barnwell (Eastlake), WR Brannon Bullitt (Chapin), OL Bobby DeHaro (Montwood), OL Derek Elmendorff (Franklin), RB Joshua Fields (Americas), K/P Jason Filley (Coronado), LB Sergio Gonzalez (El Dorado), FB David Jackson (Parkland), DL Christian Johnson (Parkland), LB Alvin Jones (Burges), OL Greg Long (Eastwood), LB Erick Lopez (Canutillo), OL Markos Lujan (Americas), P/K Alan Luna (Franklin), OL Rey Mendez (Socorro), QB Ryan Metz (Andress), RB Jonathon Millan (Coronado), WR Brandon Moss (Chapin), DL Josh Ortega (Montwood), DB Elijah Perales (Chapin), OL Jaime Perales (Cathedral), WR Warren Redix (Montwood), TE Jorge Rodriguez (Montwood), WR Richie Rodriguez (Eastwood), WR Eddie Sinegal (Andress), QB Keith Tarango-Lopez (Eastlake) and QB Mark Torrez (Eastwood).

SUN CITY SENSATIONS

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

GRADUATE STUDENT-ATHLETES

The UTEP football program has eight student-athletes with degrees for the 2017 season. QB Zack Greenlee, LB Julian Jackson, DL Sky Logan, DB Jesse Montgomery, WR Brandon Moss, TE Sterling Napier, WR Nesley Ovincy and OL Logan Tuley-Tillman are pursuing their Masters of Arts in Leadership Studies. Northwestern has 18 student-athletes with degrees, while Cincinnati, Coastal Carolina and East Carolina each have 14.

Toledo has 13; TCU, Alabama, Oregon and Virginia each have 12; Georgia State, Kansas State, Maryland, UCF and USF each have 11; Kent State, Nevada, New Mexico, South Alabama, Texas Tech and West Virginia each have 10; Houston, Iowa State, Pittsburgh, Purdue, Rutgers and Temple each have nine; and joining UTEP with eight student-athletes are Auburn, Clemson, Iowa, Kentucky, NC State, Northern Illinois, Ole Miss, Penn State, SMU Syracuse, UAB and WKU.

HARD WORK PAYS OFF

After day one at Camp Ruidoso, head coach Sean Kugler announced on Aug. 8 that walk-ons RB TK Powell, WR Keynan Foster, LB Johnny Jones, FB David Jackson and FB Robert Pufhal each earned scholarships for their performances on the field and in the classroom.

COACHING YOUR ALMA MATER

UTEP Head Coach Sean Kugler is one of 21 FBS coaches in 2017 who are at the helm of their alma mater’s program. John Bonamego (Central Michigan), Troy Calhoun (Air Force), Paul Chryst (Wisconsin), Pat Fitzgerald (Northwestern), Mike Gundy (Oklahoma State), Jim Harbaugh (Michigan), Bryan Harsin (Boise State), Paul Haynes (Kent State), Kliff Kingsbury (Texas Tech), Tim Lester (Western Michigan), Mike Neu (Ball State), Barry Odom (Missouri), Mark Richt (Miami), Nick Rolovich (Hawai’i), Scott Satterfield (Appalachian State), David Shaw (Stanford), Kalani Sitake (BYU), Kirby Smart (Georgia), Jeff Tedford (Fresno State) and Matt Wells (Utah State) are the other 20.

CLOSING IN ON WIN NO. 400

The Miners are six wins away from 400 in their program history. Texas Western College chalked up win no. 100 during the 1941 season after it prevailed at Arizona State 28-0 on Nov. 8. The Miners recorded win no. 200 on Sept. 21, 1963, defeating North Texas State 34-7 during the inaugural game in the Sun Bowl.

Toraino Singleton rushed for 199 yards and a score, and Jason Blair hauled in six passes for 95 yards and a touchdown in leading UTEP to a 17-12 triumph over New Mexico for win no. 300 in the Sun Bowl on Nov. 18, 1995.

BOWL MANIA

UTEP will face eight opponents in 2017 who advanced to a bowl game in 2016. The Miners opened with Oklahoma (Sugar Bowl) on Sept. 2 in Norman. After UTEP’s contest at NM State on Sept. 23, the next seven opponents are Army (Heart of Dallas Bowl), WKU (Boca Raton Bowl), Southern Miss (New Orleans Bowl), UTSA (New Mexico Bowl), Middle Tennessee (Hawai’i Bowl), North Texas (Heart of Dallas Bowl) and LA Tech (Armed Forces Bowl). Syracuse and Notre Dame lead the list with 11 bowl opponents each, while Duke, Ole Miss and South Carolina will see 10.

Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, UCF, Clemson, Colorado State, Florida, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Illinois, Kentucky, LSU, UMass, Miami, Mississippi State, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Tulsa, Utah State, Vanderbilt, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest will face nine bowl opponents in 2017.

UP NEXT

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

Gallery+Story: Efficient Oklahoma Offense Overwhelms UTEP

NORMAN, OKLA. – Three Oklahoma quarterbacks combined to complete 32-of-36 passes for 496 yards, as the no. 7 Sooners opened the season with a 56-7 victory over UTEP.

Heisman candidate Baker Mayfield completed his first 16 passes, and finished 19-for-20 for 329 yards in the first half as Oklahoma surged to a 35-7 lead.  He was relieved by Kyler Murray to start the second half, and Tanner Schafer came on late in the fourth quarter.

“We were outmatched,” UTEP coach Sean Kugler said.  “I really felt going into the game, that’s a potential national championship quality offense.  It’s one of the better offensive lines that I’ve seen.  Put together, they’ve got an outstanding quarterback who keeps plays alive with his feet, he’s got a great understanding of the game, he made some really accurate throws and made some accurate deep ball throws, which he hadn’t shown on film.”

The Sooners scored touchdowns on five of their six first-half possessions.  Mark Andrews was the other offensive star for OU in the first 30 minutes, reeling in seven catches for 134 yards.

After Oklahoma (1-0) opened the scoring by moving 76 yards on six plays, capped by a two-yard touchdown run by Rodney Anderson, the Miners (0-1) mounted an impressive season-opening drive.  Walter Dawn Jr. rushed four times for 49 yards on the eight-play, 78-yard sequence, and finished it off with a 17-yard dash into the end zone as UTEP knotted the contest at 7.

After that, the Sooners continued to roll offensively while the Miners were forced to punt eight times.

Dimitri Flowers scored on a three-yard run for OU, then the Sooners went back to the passing game as Mayfield found Grant Calcaterra (16 yards), Andrews (five yards) and CeeDee Lamb (four yards) for TDs.

Oklahoma had 419 yards of offense in the first half to UTEP’s 95.

The Sooners tacked on a few more touchdowns in the second half behind Murray, who threw a 43-yard pass to Lee Morris and handed off to Jaxon Uhles and Marcelias Sutton for short scoring runs.

Murray was equally as razor-sharp as Mayfield, finishing 10-of-11 passing for 149 yards.  Schafer was 3-of-5 for 18 yards while coming on for the Sooners’ final offensive series.

“They’ve got an outstanding team,” Kugler said.  “we weren’t physically matching up with them and they wore us down, especially defensively.  We had one nice drive offensively, and couldn’t get it going after that.”

The Miner defense had to play a large chunk of the second half without senior linebacker Alvin Jones, who was ejected for targeting and will miss the first half of next week’s game against Rice.  Jones picked up five tackles with several family members in attendance including his brother Aaron, the Miners’ all-time leading rusher who made the Green Bay Packers’ final roster on Saturday.

Ryan Metz completed 10-of-18 passes for 56 yards in his first season-opening start before giving way to Zack Greenlee late in the third period.

“We had some penalties, had some drops,” Kugler said.  “I really didn’t think the quarterbacks played inefficiently.  I think we didn’t really help them a whole lot in different situations.”

Dawn Jr. rushed for a career-high 56 yards on seven attempts and was the Miners’ top offensive performer.

Oklahoma finished with 676 yards of offense, including 180 on the ground as three backs ran for 50+ yards – Abdul Adams (53), Sutton (52) and Trey Sermon (51).

Jeff Badet added 91 yards on four receptions for the Sooners.

UTEP tallied 167 yards of offense – 94 passing and 73 rushing.  Alan Luna punted eight times for 352 yards, a 44.0-yard average.

The Miners will host Rice in the Conference USA opener next Saturday (Sept. 9).  Kickoff is at 6:05 p.m. MT in the Sun Bowl.  UTEP season tickets are on sale now by calling (915) 747-6150.

“I didn’t think the kids quit competing, I think we were outmatched,” Kugler said.  “Sometimes you’ve got to acknowledge that and move on.  We have a conference game coming up this week, and that’s what our sole focus is going to be.  We can’t spend one second dwelling on this game.  The first one is in the books and not in our favor, but there’s a long season ahead of us.”

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

UTEP to Honor “Hometown Heroes” at Rice Football Game

UTEP will pay tribute to public safety officers and agencies in El Paso County at the Miners’ 2017 football home opener versus Rice on Saturday, September 9. 

The Sun City’s “Hometown Heroes” will be recognized on the video board at the game and are eligible for ticket discounts and special pre-game activities.

Discounted tickets are available to all officers, agents and staff of local public safety agencies via an offer code that can be applied to purchases on Ticketmaster online.  To verify your eligibility and obtain the code, please call 747-6065.

The first annual Badges & Flags Public Safety Flag Football Tournament will take place the morning of Sept. 9 in the Sun Bowl.  To register your team of 10, please contact Michael Flores (747-7450, mflores139@miners.utep.edu).  Only public safety employees are eligible and registration is open to the first 16 teams.  Participation is free.  

Check-in begins at 7 a.m. on Sept. 9 with the first game starting at 7:30 a.m., and the championship game slated for 12:45 p.m. 

Public safety agencies can purchase tailgate tents through Drew Thomas at the Miner Athletic Club (747-6912, athomas@utep.edu).  Tents for 50 persons are $425 (includes five tables and 50 chairs), and tents for 100 persons are $750 (includes 10 tables and 100 chairs).

Group tickets are available to parties of 15 or more for just $15 plus a $10 service charge.  To purchase, please contact Michael Flores (747-7450, mflores139@miners.utep.edu).

UTEP to Celebrate 100th Football Season in 2017

UTEP will kick off its 100th football season on Saturday at Oklahoma, and the 2017 campaign will celebrate the centennial anniversary of the program.

The Miners’ inaugural season was in 1914, but there were no games played in 1943, 1944 and 1945 due to World War II.  UTEP has appeared in 14 bowl games, most recently in 2014 under head coach Sean Kugler.

UTEP announced its Centennial Football Team in 2014 as part of the university’s Centennial Celebration.  One of the members of the team, linebacker Seth Joyner, will be inducted into the UTEP Athletics Hall of Fame on Oct. 27.

UTEP players will wear a commemorative “100 Seasons” patch on their helmets this fall.  The 100-year celebration will also include:

  • A video board segment at all five home games
  • A historical feature in every game program
  • Social media content all season long celebrating the history of the program, including vintage photos and opportunities for fans to vote on their favorite UTEP Football players and moments
  • The return of members of the 1967 Sun Bowl championship team on the 50th Anniversary of the 14-7 victory over Mississippi at the WKU game on Oct. 7

 

UTEP’s Hernandez Named to Piesman Watch List

SB Nation announced All-American Will Hernandez as one of 44 linemen on The Piesman Watch List on Friday.

Hernandez has racked up the preseason honors leading up to UTEP’s season opener. The left guard was announced to the 2017 Outland Trophy Watch List, 2017 Preseason AP All-American and was recognized by Athlon Sports as a Preseason All-Conference USA first team and Preseason All-America third team.

Dave Campbell’s Texas Football picked Hernandez to the Preseason All-Texas team, while Phil Steel’s College Football Preview appointed him to the Preseason All-C-USA first team and as a Preseason All-American. Hernandez also earned a spot on the 2017 Preseason C-USA Football team.

Last season, Hernandez played on a dominant offensive line that only allowed 1.3 sacks per game. UTEP running back Aaron Jones also set the single-season school record with 1,773 yards. Hernandez started all 12 contests on his way to the 2016 AP and FOX Sports’ All-America teams.

Hernandez is the only C-USA lineman on the Piesman Watch List.

This year, three finalists will be invited to an awards ceremony scheduled to take place on Friday, Dec. 8, in New York City. Piesman voters include media members from outlets like ESPN, Bleacher Report, USA Today, CBS, the AP, Sports Illustrated and The Ringer. And of course, college football fans have a voice too, via an online ballot made available later in the season.

The Piesman Trophy was first awarded in 2015, to Ashton Henderson from Southeastern Louisiana, before Pitt’s O’Neill took home his own “Slice of Heaven” in December, 2016.

UTEP’s Hernandez Named to AP Preseason All-America Second Team

The Associated Press announced UTEP senior offensive lineman Will Hernandez to the 2017 AP Preseason All-America second team as chosen by the votes of 51 members of the AP Top 25 media panel on Tuesday.

Hernandez has racked up the preseason honors leading up to UTEP’s season opener. The left guard was announced to the 2017 Outland Trophy Watch List, and was recognized by Athlon Sports as a Preseason All-Conference USA first team and Preseason All-America third team.

Dave Campbell’s Texas Football picked Hernandez to the Preseason All-Texas team, while Phil Steel’s College Football Preview appointed him to the Preseason All-C-USA first team and as a Preseason All-American. Hernandez also earned a spot on the 2017 Preseason C-USA Football team.

Last season, Hernandez played on a dominant offensive line that only allowed 1.3 sacks per game. UTEP running back Aaron Jones also set the single-season school record with 1,773 yards. Hernandez started all 12 contests on his way to the 2016 AP and FOX Sports’ All-America teams.

The UTEP coaching staff rolled the dice on Las Vegas, Nev., native and itself one of the hardest working players in the nation. Hernandez has started all 37 games at the left guard position and during his three seasons donning the Orange and Blue. UTEP signal callers have been sacked 47 times during Hernandez’s 37 starts (1.3 per game).

Prior to Hernandez’s redshirt freshman season, the Miners allowed 27 sacks in 2013. That number was cut to 13 allowed in 13 games in 2014.

Hernandez and the o-line will get their first challenge – in a big way – as the Miners will play at no. 7 Oklahoma on Sept. 2. Kickoff is set for 1:30 p.m. MT and the contest will be televised on FOX.

UTEP Football Fan Day to be Held on Saturday

UTEP football will hold its annual “Fan Appreciation Day” on Saturday, August 26 at the Sun Bowl Stadium’s North Concourse.

Fan Day, scheduled from noon to 2 pm, will feature an autograph session, a mini-pep rally with the UTEP Band, Cheer and Golddiggers, activities for families, giveaways, raffle items, and free popcorn and water.

Admission for the event is free and fans will receive a commemorative 2017 football season football poster and will be limited to one additional item to be signed.

After the autograph session, fans will have the opportunity to show off their athletic abilities in a Kick, Punt and Pass event down on the field. UTEP Marketing will record scores from all fans who have entered and post them on the UTEP Athletics Facebook page at the end of the day. The top three participants will win an on-field experience for the home opener Sept. 9 versus Rice.

The UTEP Band, Cheer and the Golddiggers mini-pep rally is scheduled for 12:45 p.m. in the North Concourse.

The UTEP Marketing table will have season ticket, Kids Club, Miner Maniac and Miner Athletic Club (MAC) tailgate information. Individual tickets for the home opener/Conference USA opener for the Rice game on Sept. 9 will be sold at the ticket center at the North Concourse.

UTEP will open the 2017 campaign at no. 7 Oklahoma in Memorial Stadium with kickoff set for 1:30 p.m. MT. The game will also be televised on FOX (El Paso local channel KFOX).

Gallery+Story: UTEP Offense Scores Six Touchdowns in Sunday’s Scrimmage

RUIDOSO, N.M. – The UTEP quarterbacks looked solid during the second and final scrimmage at Camp Ruidoso as Zack Greenlee threw a trio of touchdowns and Ryan Metz connected on a pair of throwing scores on Sunday.

The Miners will head back to the Sun City on Sunday following the scrimmage and will start practice at Glory Field on Tuesday morning in preparations for Oklahoma on Sept. 2 in Norman.

“It was a good scrimmage and we wrapped up a really productive camp,” fifth-year head coach Sean Kugler said. “As a staff, we talked about our goals that we set going into camp. We talked about becoming unified as a team and comradery. We discussed developing on both sides of the ball, finding out about some youngsters and newcomers, and how they can help our program. We accomplished all our goals.”

And most importantly, the Miners stayed healthy for the most part.

“We’re fairly healthy,” Kugler added. “All the guys who were injured are expected to be back for the first game [at Oklahoma].”   

Walter Dawn Jr. started the scoring spree on the first drive with Metz under center at the 35-yard line to being the morning scrimmage. Dawn Jr. opened the drive with a 17-yard run and ended it with a two-yard plunge into the end zone. A key play was a Metz pass to Terry Juniel for a 29-yard gain to the 20-yard line. Dawn Jr. used runs of 13 and five yards following the Juniel catch to set up the touchdown.  Dawn Jr., a sophomore who was switched to running back, carried five times for 42 yards (8.4 avg.)

On the second drive (35-yard line), Greenlee opened with a 47-yard pass completion to transfer Alan Busey, who’s been a bright spot during the two-week camp. Greenlee completed two more passes, an eight-yard pass to Keynan Foster and a five-yard toss to Sterling Napier. But the defense responded with a sack by Dedrick Simpson.

Simpson’s sack was the first of five as second-year defensive coordinator Tom Mason kept encouraging his squad from the sideline. Dylan Parsee added the second that stopped a drive, while newly converted linebacker Treyvon Hughes, freshman Keith Sullivan and Mike Sota each took down the quarterbacks.

With the defense making plays, the offense stepped up again as Greenlee found Kevin Dove for a 12-yard scoring pass. The drive started at the 25-yard line during the red zone drills. Greenlee opened the red zone drive with an 11-yard pass to Tyler Batson.

Of the five red zone drives, the offense found the end zone twice as Metz hooked with Busey for a 12-yard score. Parsee notched a sack to end one of those red zone drives.

Greenlee finished with 209 yards on 9-of-12 passing. Greenlee found Warren Redix for a 34-yard touchdown and then ended the scrimmage with an exclamation point. On the final drive of the day, the offense was penalized for five yards to put the ball back at the 35-yard line. But Greenlee rolled out to his right and launched a 65-yard scoring pass to freshman and El Paso native Richie Rodriguez.

Metz finished 11-of-13 with 141 yards and a pair of scores. The UTEP signal callers didn’t commit any turnovers on the day.

“I thought the quarterbacks, really during the past week, have stepped up their game from an efficiency standpoint,” Kugler said. “They’re more accurate and doing a good job at handling the audibles versus the blitzes. We has the defense blitz the quarterbacks a lot this past week.”

Juniel led the receivers with 82 yards on five catches, while Dylan Kittrell impressed with 55 yards on four receptions. All of Kittrell’s receptions came from true freshman quarterback Alex Fernandes. Transfer tight end Josh Weeks caught three passes for 39 yards and Busey tallied 59 yards on a pair of receptions.

Defensively, Alvin Jones led with five tackles, while transfer defensive back Khalil Rashaad-Brown registered four stops. Justin Rogers tallied three tackles and a pass breakup, while Sullivan and Sota each added pass breakups. Sullivan, at 6-foot-7, 260 pounds, drew a few holding penalties. ​

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

First UTEP Football Scrimmage Features Balance on Both Sides of Ball

A day after the UTEP football team went full pads, the Miners played their first scrimmage on Sunday in which big plays were made on both sides of the ball.

Sophomore running back Kevin Dove opened the scrimmage with a 75-yard touchdown rush. Dove broke multiple tackles on his way to pay dirt to get the offense fired up. Twelve plays later senior signal caller Zack Greenlee found junior wide receiver Warren Redix for an 80-yard score.

But the UTEP defense, under second-year defensive coordinator Tom Mason, made adjustments and made plays of its own. Junior transfer defensive back Khalil Rashaad-Brown picked off a pass for the first forced turnover and junior corner Nik Needham also intercepted a pass in the red zone for the second forced turnover.

Clip courtesy UTEP Athletics

Back to the offensive side of the ball, UTEP’s new pass catchers made impacts as junior transfer wide receiver Alan Busey made a 33-yard grab from junior quarterback Ryan Metz and sophomore transfer tight end Josh Weeks tallied a pair of grabs for 29 yards, including a long of 25 yards from Metz.

UTEP’s other transfer tight end junior David Lucero tallied a seven-yard reception and junior transfer wide receiver Keynan Foster recorded a six-yard reception.

During the ‘gotta-have-it’ segment, where the offense takes the ball at midfield on a 4th-and-four scenario, Terry Juniel took a Metz pass to the end zone for a 50-yard score. The Miners didn’t convert the first fourth-down attempt.

The UTEP defense registered four sacks; one each by sophomore Denzel Chukwukelu, senior Alvin Jones, senior Lawrence Montegut and junior transfer Jamar Smith.

As far as leading tacklers, freshman Dedrick Simpson, senior Devin Cockrell and Jamar Smith each recorded a trio of stops.

Redix led the way with 88 yards on two receptions to lead the receivers, Dove led the running backs with 76 yards on five carries and Metz led the quarterbacks with 108 yards on 7-of-12 passing and an interception.

Greenlee threw for 86 yards on 2-of-3 passing and a score, and redshirt freshman Mark Torrez threw the other interception.

The Miners will continue with camp on Tuesday and will play the second and final scrimmage of camp on Sunday, Aug. 20 at approximately at 8:45 a.m. MT. The team will head back to the Sun City following the scrimmage

 

UTEP Football Adds Depth to Roster

Miners add eight to roster after first practice at camp Ruidoso on Tuesday.

UTEP football looks to add depth with the addition of three defensive, three offensive and two special teams student-athletes.

Head coach Sean Kugler also announced that walk-ons TK Powell, Keynan Foster, Johnny Jones, David Jackson and Robert Pufahl have earned scholarships for their performance on the field and classroom.

The Miners will continue practice tomorrow in Ruidoso, N.M. and will scrimmage for the first time on Sunday starting at 8: 45 a.m. MT

FULL BIOS

Alan Busey | WR | 6-1 | 180 | JR-TR | Hayward, Calif. (Chabot CC)

PRIOR TO UTEP: Played two years at Chabot Junior College … hauled in 73 passes for 1,521 yards (20.8 avg.) and 18 touchdowns in 19 contests played during career at Chabot … recorded 441 yards on 23 receptions and six scores in eight games during the 2016 campaign … caught a pair of touchdowns during a win against Fresno … registered season bests in yards (86) and receptions (five) with a score during a triumph against Sequoias … named 2015 Region I All-California first team offense after recording 1,080 yards on 50 receptions (21.6 avg.) and 12 touchdowns in 11 games during freshman season … broke out with career highs in yards (236) and touchdown receptions (three) on seven catches during a win against Fresno … hauled in a career-best 11 passes for 204 yards and three scores … notched 130 yards on seven catches and a touchdown during a win against Modesto.

PERSONAL: Full name is Alan Trey Busey … son of Alan Busey, Sr. and Marilyn Lee … has three brothers and two sisters … born in Minneapolis, Minn. … undeclared major.

Josh Dunn | LB | 6-0 | 195 | FR-HS | Sarasota, Fla. (Lake Wales)

PRIOR TO UTEP: Played two years on the varsity squad at Lake Wales High School … posted 66 tackles (59 solo) with 12.5 tackles for loss, 4.0 sacks, an interception (10-yard return), two fumble recoveries and six forced fumbles during senior season (2015) … opened senior campaign with 10 tackles (nine solo), 4.0 tackles for loss, a sack, two forced fumbles and an interception during a victory against Ridge Community … posted another 10 stops (nine solo) with a forced fumble against Auburndale … played nine games at defensive back during junior season (2014) … registered 41 tackles (eight solo) with 6.0 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, two interceptions (73-return yards), two pass breakups and two forced fumbles.

PERSONAL: Full name is Joshua Thomas Dunn … son of Charles Dunn and Carla Johnson … has two sisters … born in Winter Haven, Fla. … business major.

Bijan Hosseini | OL | 6-3 | 300 | JR-TR | Upland, Calif. (Chaffey CC)

PRIOR TO UTEP: Played sophomore year (2016) at Chaffey College on the offensive line, seeing action in four contests … posted a tackle against El Camino … played in two games during freshman year (2015) at Fullerton College.

PERSONAL: Bijan Hosseini is the son of Perry Hosseini … has one sister … born in Upland, Calif. … undeclared major.

Jesse Montgomery | DB | 6-1 | 180 | SR-TR | Dallas, Texas (SMU)

PRIOR TO UTEP: Played two seasons at SMU, seeing action in 19 contests during the 2014 and 2015 seasons … posted 10 tackles, an interception and two pass breakups in eight games (three starts) during 2015 … opened season with four tackles against Baylor … posted four tackles at Houston … played in 11 games, making two starts during redshirt freshman season … tallied 20 stops (13 solo) with a trio of pass breakups in 2014 … recorded season-best five tackles versus Houston

PERSONAL: Full name is Jesse Romello Montgomery … son of Alton and Kimberly Montgomery … father was a cornerback and kick returner in the NFL for the Denver Broncos (1990-92) and Atlanta Falcons (1993-95) … has one brother and two sisters … born in Griffin, Ga. … undeclared major.

Khalil Rashaad-Brown | DB | 5-10 | 185 | JR-TR | Carson, Calif. (Long Beach City College)

PRIOR TO UTEP: Played 2016 season at Long Beach City College … posted 33 tackles (29 solo) with 2.0 tackles for loss and six pass breakups in all 11 games … registered season-high eight tackles (six solo) in a win against Riverside … recorded four tackles and two pass breakups to help Vikings win the 2016 Western State Bowl … played freshman season (2015) at Mt. San Antonio College, posting 32 tackles, two interceptions, 10 passes defended and a forced fumble in 11 games played … tallied six tackles as efforts surged Mounties to a Patriotic Bowl victory.

PERSONAL: Full name is Khalil Ahmad Rashaad-Brown … son of Donald Brown and Michelle Rodriguez … father, Don, played cornerback at Oregon (1982-83, 1985-86) … has one brother and one sister … born in Corona, Calif. … kinesiology major.

Jake Sammut | LS | 5-8 | 170 | JR-TR | Mohave Valley, Ariz. (College of Canyons)

PRIOR TO UTEP: Played at College of the Canyons in 2014 and 2016 … saw action in five contests as the team’s long snapper … tallied a solo tackle against Grossmont … named to 2016 Southern California Football Association (SCFA) Scholar-Athlete team … played in three games in 2014, registering a pair of tackles … played varsity baseball at River Valley High School for two years.

PERSONAL: Full name is Jacob Joseph Belpedio Sammut … son of Mike Belpedio Summut and Terri Wright … has two brothers … born in Bullhead City, Ariz. … business management studies major.  

Logan Tuley-Tillman | OL | 6-7 | 320 | SR-TR | Peoria, Ill. (Akron)

PRIOR TO UTEP: Played first three years of collegiate football at Michigan … redshirted for the Wolverines during first year in 2013, played in one contest in 2014 and did not see action in 2015 … played junior season (2016) at Akron, starting in all 12 contests for the Zips … one of only seven Zips to start every game … Akron rushers combined for 1,586 yards and 13 scores, while Akron quarterbacks combined for 25 touchdowns, 3,063 yards on 217-of-396 passing and 14 interceptions … Zips’ quarterbacks were sacked 25 times in games.

PERSONAL: Full name is Latonya Logan Tuley-Tillman … son of Tony Tillman, Angela Tuley and Chris Collins (foster father) … has four younger brothers and six younger sisters … born in Peoria, Ill. … pursuing a master’s degree in leadership studies

Brady Viles | K | 6-0 | 210 | SO-TR | Tucson, Ariz. (Arizona Western College)

PRIOR TO UTEP: Played at Arizona Western in 2016 … was 3-for-3 on point after touchdown attempts … missed lone field goal attempt … played in all 13 games … made all three PAT attempts against Everett Red Raiders … was a kickoff specialist with over 80 percent touchbacks … played in the NJCAA Football Championship game and tallied four kickoffs with all of them being touchbacks (50.8 avg.) … helped the team rate first nationally and first in conference in PATs … posted two tackles (one solo) against Glendale … in 2015, played at Arizona Post Graduate Academy … played in 14 games under center at River Valley High School during senior season in 2014 … passed for 1,770 yards on 83-of-144 attempts with 18 scores and only two interceptions … ran for 662 yards on 85 carries (7.8 avg.) and two touchdowns.

PERSONAL: Full name is Brady Lee Viles … son of Jeff and Lori Viles … has two sisters … born in Lake Havasu City, Ariz. … undeclared major.

 

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