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Home | Tag Archives: utep football (page 8)

Tag Archives: utep football

UTEP Names Dana Dimel Head Football Coach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go to www.seniorbowl.com for more information.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Middle Tennessee Defeats UTEP 30-3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gallery+Story: Roadrunners Down UTEP 31-14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Complete UTEP Coverage:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

From Coach Mike Price’s Weekly News Conference

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***on Saturday’s Game

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BATSON RETURNS
Senior WR Tyler Batson registered a season-high 80 yards on a career-best five receptions at Army on Sept. 30. In fact, Batson’s 80 yards were the second-most in his career for a single game. Batson’s career high was a 143-yard output against Florida Atlantic in 2015. Batson is ranked second on the team in receptions (14) and leads the team in receiving yards (169), while scoring a touchdown against Arizona on Sept. 15 – his first since 2015.

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

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

Hernandez is not new to the spotlight, having earned 2017 AP Preseason All-America second team recognition. Last season, the Las Vegas native was the first Miner offensive lineman to receive AP All-American second team and FOX Sports All-American honors. The senior was also the first UTEP offensive lineman since 2009 to earn All-Conference USA first team recognition. Hernandez’s national recognition didn’t stop there, as he garnered Pro Football Focus Pass Protector of the Year. Hernandez is the only Conference USA student-athlete to earn recognition.

WILL’S PRESEASON ACCOLADES
Will Hernandez was selected to the 2017 AP All-America second team on Aug. 22 as the senior has racked up multiple preseason honors. Hernandez was announced to the 2017 Outland Trophy Watch List and earned a spot on the 2017 Preseason Conference USA team.

Multiple football publications, including Dave Campbell’s Texas Football, Phil Steele’s College Football Preview and Athlon Sports have Hernandez on their preseason teams.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jones’s 34.5 career tackles for loss rank third on the program’s all-time list as Barron Wortham leads the all-time list with 45.0 tackles for loss and Gonzalo Floyd ranks second (41.0 TFL). Jones’s 14.5 tackles for loss in 2015 rank tied for ninth on the single-season list, while his 5.0 tackles for loss at NM State on Sept. 19, 2015 were the most by a UTEP player since the 2000 season.

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

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

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

Southern Miss Defeats Miners 24-0

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BATSON RETURNS
Senior WR Tyler Batson registered a season-high 80 yards on a career-best five receptions at Army on Sept. 30. In fact, Batson’s 80 yards were the second-most in his career for a single game. Batson’s career high was a 143-yard output against Florida Atlantic in 2015. Batson is ranked second on the team in receptions (13) and leads the team in receiving yards (160), while scoring a touchdown against Arizona on Sept. 15 – his first since 2015.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Neither team committed a turnover.

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

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

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

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

MORE CONTENT:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MORE CONTENT:

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

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

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

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

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

In a crazy week that saw the UTEP Miners have their coach Sean Kugler resign after a 0-5 start, Athletic Director Bob Stull turned to a familiar face in Mike Price hoping that he could provide a spark in this Miners team.

And boy did he.

On Saturday night, the UTEP Miners got close to beating the defending two time Conference USA champion Western Kentucky Hilltoppers.

The Hilltoppers escaped the Sun Bowl with a 15-14 win. But make no mistake the Miners should have won this game.

After being down 8-0 in the first quarter the Miners roared back and scored 14 unanswered points giving them a 14-8 lead at halftime. The first touchdown came when QB Zack Greenlee connected with WR Kavika Johnson for a 15 yard pass.

The second came when Greenlee scored on a 5 yard bootleg scramble.

The Miners were hoping to keep the momentum going in the third quarter but Western Kentucky had a 13 play 80 yard drive that ended with a 1 yard touchdown run by QB Mike White.

On the ensuing possession, UTEP had an 11 play 46 yard drive that ate up 5:41 from the clock but came up short when Kicker Brady Viles missed a 47 field goal.

In the fourth quarter, both teams couldn’t get anything going until UTEP got the ball on their own 38 yard line with 5 minutes left to go in the game. The Miners got to the Hilltoppers 23 yard line and Brady Viles had an opportunity to make up for his two previous missed field goals when he attempted a 41-yard-field goal that would have given UTEP the lead, but sadly he missed wide left and that was basically the game as the Hilltoppers were able to run out the clock and win the game.

This is a heartbreaking loss for the Miners, but there is good that came from it.

First of all, the team came out inspired, full of energy and played like a single unit. All aspects of the team played good except for the kicking game. This is first time this season that UTEP looked this good. Even though they came up short, the team saw that they are capable of playing good football. Clearly they bought into what Mike Price was preaching this week at practice.

If Viles makes at least one of his field goals, the Miners would’ve been celebrating a victory over the defending C-USA champs, but the reality is that they didn’t. They still lost. Three missed field goals is unacceptable, so the Miners need to have tryouts to see if they can find a field goal kicker because they can’t continue to lose games because of missed field goals.

But for the first time this season UTEP gave their fans an ounce of hope that maybe they can turn this season around. Hopefully next week the Miners can get that elusive win against Southern Miss.

MORE MINER CONTENT:

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

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

 

 

 

 

To read previous Monster’s Musings, click HERE.

Author: Mando ‘the Monster’ Medina – El Paso Herald-Post Sports Columnist 

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.

 

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