UTEP's coach reflected on the Homecoming triumph over Colorado State and previewed Saturday's matchup with no. 25 Southern Miss.
UTEP's head coach recapped the Miners' 44-7 win at Tulane while looking ahead to Saturday's Homecoming game versus Colorado State.
UTEP has averaged 29.5 points, 397.5 yards and 136.8 yards rushing since Bob Connelly joined the staff for the 2008 season. Connelly, who doubles as the Miners' offensive line coach and co-offensive coordinator while calling the running plays, is in his second stint working under head coach Mike Price. The two also joined forces at Washington State from 2001-02, when Connelly served as offensive line coach.
The 2010 Miners survived a rash of injuries to key offensive personnel in posting six wins and earning a berth in the New Mexico Bowl. At one point, the Miners were down to their fourth string center (Anthony McNac) after Eloy Atkinson, Tanner Cullumber and Nathan McCage all went down with injuries. McNac and Alex Solot were the only offensive linemen to start all 12 games for the Miners. UTEP's first-string quarterback (Trevor Vittatoe) and running back (Donald Buckram) were also hampered with injuries over the course of the year, and wide receiver Donavon Kemp missed half of the season with a torn ACL.
Benefitting from Connelly's tutelage was right guard Rod Huntley, who garnered second team All-Conference USA honors. Two other Miner offensive linemen, McNac and Solot, were 2010 honorable mention All-Conference selections. Huntley and Solot both earned invites to NFL training camps (Minnesota Vikings and Tampa Bay Buccaneers respectively).
In 2009, Buckram shattered a UTEP single-season rushing record that had stood for over 60 years. Buckram ran for 1,594 yards on 259 carries, ranking third nationally in scoring (10.5 ppg), fourth in rushing (132.8 ypg) and 11th in all-purpose yards (170.6 avg.). Buckram set a UTEP record for 100-yard games with eight, while tying the school standard with three 200-yard performances. He was one of 10 semifinalists for the Doak Walker Award, presented to the nation's top running back.
For the second year in a row, Connelly coached a first team All-Conference offensive lineman, as Mike Aguayo earned the honors while starting all 12 games at left tackle. Aguayo played a crucial role in UTEP setting a school record by piling up 5,144 yards of offense. The line allowed just 25 sacks in 422 pass attempts. Aguayo, meanwhile, parlayed his exceptional season into an NFL free agent tryout with the Green Bay Packers.
UTEP's 2009 season was filled with offensive highlights, as the Miners pinned 50 points on a pair of bowl teams (Houston and Marshall) and received a school-record 517 yards passing from quarterback Trevor Vittatoe against the Thundering Herd. The Miners were particularly potent offensively in Conference USA play, averaging 36.1 points, 521.6 yards and 188.1 rushing yards in league action.
The 2008 Miners piled up 4,878 yards of offense and averaged 32.9 points per game. Anchoring the line was Robby Felix, who concluded a brilliant college career as a four-year starter at center and a first team All-Conference choice. He is currently with the New York Jets in the NFL.
Injuries took their toll on the line late in the 2008 season, but Connelly adjusted accordingly. His patchwork unit still produced 37 points and 464 yards at Houston, as the Miners came within a touchdown of upsetting the Armed Forces Bowl champions. UTEP averaged 36.9 points and 427.5 yards versus Conference USA teams. The Miners had a season-high 277 yards rushing versus New Mexico State when Vittatoe went down with an ankle injury early and they were forced to implement an option attack around shifty signal-caller James Thomas.
Connelly has coached in the Rose Bowl, Sugar Bowl and Cotton Bowl. Besides Felix, he has also coached current pros Antoine Caldwell (Houston), Evan Mathis (Philadelphia) and Andre Smith (Cincinnati). Smith was the sixth player selected in the 2009 NFL Draft.
Connelly joined the Miners after spending the 2007 season as offensive line coach at UCLA. He helped the Bruins to a Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl appearance in 2007. Among UCLA's victims on the way to a six-win season were nationally ranked BYU, California, Oregon and Oregon State.
He was offensive line coach at Alabama from 2003-06. The Crimson Tide appeared in three bowl games during this span, including the 2007 Independence Bowl, 2006 Cotton Bowl and 2004 Music City Bowl. In 2006, running back Kenneth Darby rushed for 835 yards, Smith earned first team Freshman All-America honors and Caldwell was named second team All-SEC.
Connelly was selected one of the nation's Top 25 recruiters by Rivals.com in 2005. Darby was second in the SEC in rushing and became only the fourth back in Alabama history to rush for over 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons. Additionally, Caldwell and guard B.J. Stabler were both appointed to the SEC All-Freshman Team.
A pair of Crimson Tide offensive linemen, Wesley Britt and Mathis, garnered All-SEC honors in 2004. Alabama finished the '04 campaign ranked 26th nationally in rushing (185.1 ypg) and second in the SEC in fewest sacks allowed.
In 2003, Connelly's line led a rushing attack that produced 2,067 yards and two All-SEC linemen.
Connelly was on staff at Washington State when the team put together back-to-back 10-win seasons. The Cougars played in the 2001 Sun Bowl and the 2003 Rose Bowl. The 2002 Cougars allowed just 24 sacks in 424 pass attempts while winning a share of the Pac-10 title. The 2001 squad surrendered 27 sacks in 434 attempts. Derrick Roche - a former UTEP graduate assistant -- was a first team All-Pac-10 choice in 2001 and 2002, and Calvin Armstrong was a first team honoree in 2002.
A graduate of Newman-Smith High School in Carrollton, Texas, Connelly attended Texas A&M-Commerce, where he was a four-year letterwinner and three-year starter in the offensive line. He was a three-time All-Academic selection, a two-time Academic All-America and garnered All-Conference honors as a junior and senior.
He earned his bachelor of science degree in kinesiology and sports studies from Texas A&M-Commerce in 1994, and added a master's degree in health, physical education and recreation from the school in 1995. He started his coaching career as the offensive line and tight ends coach at Texas A&M-Commerce, while finishing his graduate degree. He spent the 1996 and 1997 seasons at Cisco Junior College, again coaching the offensive line and tight ends. He was a graduate assistant at Texas A&M in 1998, helping the Aggies to a Sugar Bowl berth. He coached the offensive line and tight ends at Cal State Northridge in 1999, and the offensive line at San Jose State in 2000. The Spartans rushed for 29 touchdowns in 2000, and the offensive line yielded just 11 sacks in 12 games.
Connelly and his wife, Racquel, have two daughters, Paige and Taylor.