UTEP Hosts I-10 Rival NM State on Saturday
Sept. 13, 2010
Miners, Aggies Meet For 88th Time
UTEP (1-1, 0-1 C-USA) hosts NM State (0-1, 0-0 WAC) in the newly rechristened SONIC Battle of I-10 Rivalry Series. SONIC is the title sponsor for every Miner-Aggie football, men's and women's basketball game the next two years as part of a partnership between America's Drive-In® and the neighboring universities. Fans can vote for their favorite team via each school's athletic website after receiving a special code on their SONIC receipt.
The UTEP-NM State series is the longest-running in Miner football history. Saturday's game marks the 88th meeting between the adversaries. The winner of the game annually receives a pair of traveling trophies, the Silver Spade and the Brass Spittoon.
Scouting NM State
While the Miners have two games under their belts, NM State kicked off the 2010 campaign at home against San Diego State on Saturday. The Aggies fell 41-21 to the Aztecs, despite closing the gap to 27-21 early in the fourth quarter. NM State yielded 563 yards of offense, as Ronnie Hillman rushed for 150 yards and four touchdowns for SDSU. The Aggies were paced offensively by junior QB Matt Christian (17-34, 234 yards, 2 TDs) and senior WR Marcus Allen (four catches, 114 yards). Junior LB Boyblue Aoelua (16 stops) was one of three Aggie defenders with double-digit tackles.
This is the first road game of the season for the Aggies, who are 1-9 in their last 10 games away from home dating back to the 2008 season.
The Miners hold a 50-35-2 advantage in the series ledger, including a 34-16-1 edge in games played in El Paso. UTEP has won 17 of the 26 matchups between the schools in the Sun Bowl.
Last year UTEP secured its first win over NM State since 2006 with a 38-12 verdict in Las Cruces. While the home team has won 10 of the last 13 games in the series, NM State prevailed in El Paso in 2008 and UTEP returned the favor a year ago on the Aggies' home field.
The Last Meeting
Donald Buckram ran for 113 yards as UTEP scored all five of its touchdowns on the ground in a 38-12 triumph at NM State on Sept. 19, 2009 in Las Cruces.
In a game suspended nearly three hours by rain and lightning, Buckram and Vernon Frazier both scored two rushing touchdowns for the Miners. UTEP forced a turnover on NM State's opening possession, converted it into a TD, then withstood the long delay to score the game's next 24 points.
UTEP forced three turnovers in the game, and held the Aggies to 284 yards of total offense.
UTEP-NM State Player Ties
The Miners have one native of Las Cruces (junior LS Matt Camilli), while the Aggies' roster features five El Pasoans (junior OL Ruben Escarsega-Del Valle HS, freshman RB Nick Kilgore-El Dorado HS, freshman DE Gino Martinez-Jefferson HS, redshirt freshman OL Jake Swenson-Montwood HS and freshman OL Davonte Wallace-Irvin HS).
Miner QB Carson Meger and Aggie K Jordan Davenport are both graduates of Plano West HS (Plano, Texas). UTEP sophomore WR Corey Trisby and NM State freshman C Ryan Arbelaez, junior QB Matt Christian, senior tight end Kyle Hipp, sophomore RB Victor Johnson, freshman LB Anthony Joyner and senior OL Matt Passwaters are all natives of San Diego, Calif.
Miner senior OL Rod Huntley and Aggie redshirt freshman QB Rush Atkinson each hail from Arlington, Texas. UTEP senior WR Evan Davis and NM State freshman DB Jonah Barnes-Moore, junior WR Robin Harris, junior DT David Mahoney and freshman DB Thomas Street call Los Angeles, Calif. home. Miner sophomore OL James Nelson and Aggie freshman LB Dylan Davis are from Ventura, Calif. UTEP senior OL Alex Solot and NM State freshman RB Robert Grant list Tucson, Ariz. as their hometown. Miner freshman DL Corin Brooks and Aggie junior WR Marcus Williams are from Riverside, Calif.
UTEP-NM State Coaching Ties
NM State Head Coach DeWayne Walker and UTEP associate head coach/co-offensive coordinator Bob Connelly worked together at UCLA in 2007. They helped guide the Bruins to an appearance in the Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl. Aggies DB coach Mike Rutenberg was a staff assistant with UCLA that year. Walker and UTEP defensive coordinator Andre Patterson worked together with the New England Patriots in 1997.
Price vs. Walker, Round Two
UTEP's Mike Price and New Mexico State's DeWayne Walker will be squaring off for the second time as head coaches on Saturday. However, they have been on opposing sidelines three times overall. Washington State and California battled during the 1996 and 1997 seasons when Price was head coach of the Cougars and Walker was defensive backs coach for the Golden Bears. Washington State won both matchups. In 2001, Price was the head coach at Washington State and Walker was defensive backs coach at USC, but the teams didn't face one another in Pac-10 play.
Price is 4-2 versus NM State as a head coach, all at UTEP.
UTEP Player Notes Versus NM State
Trevor Vittatoe has completed 32-of-66 passes for 476 yards with one touchdown and one interception in three games versus the Aggies. He missed most of the 2008 matchup with an ankle injury. James Thomas II had a big night against NM State in Vittatoe's absence that year, rushing 19 times for 142 yards and two TDs. He became only the third Miner quarterback since 1982 to have a 100-yard rushing game.
Last year, Donald Buckram became the 25th UTEP player to rush for 100 yards versus NM State when he rambled for 113 yards on 14 carries.
Kris Adams has four catches for 60 yards lifetime versus the Aggies. Vernon Frazier had a big night against NMSU in 2008 (14 carries-74 yards). Defensively, Anthony Morrow had a 27-yard interception and Robert Soleyjacks had a 24-yard fumble recovery in the `08 matchup. Jeremy Springer was the Miners' defensive star a year ago versus NM State, logging a personal best 10 tackles.
Inside the Numbers of the I-10 Series
Miners Drop C-USA Opener at Houston
Houston amassed 656 yards of offense in a 54-24 win over UTEP in the Conference USA opener for both teams on Sept. 10 at Robertson Stadium.
The Cougars compiled 348 yards passing and 308 rushing, becoming the third Miner opponent to top 300 yards in both categories since 1965. The others are Tulsa in 2008 (321 rushing/470 passing) and Texas in 2009 (304 rushing/335 passing).
Bryce Beal rushed for 195 yards for UH, Case Keenum threw for 279 and Patrick Edwards reeled in six catches for 118 yards. The Cougars didn't punt, becoming the third UTEP foe to achieve the feat over the last three seasons (Southern Miss and East Carolina in 2008 are the others).
UTEP finished with 440 yards of offense, the bulk of them coming through the air (340).
UTEP Loses Amy For the Season
If the 30-point margin of defeat at Houston wasn't tough enough for the Miners, they lost their best defensive player to a season-ending injury in the process. Senior SS Braxton Amy sustained a torn achilles tendon that will require surgery. That closes the book on a collegiate career that has produced 229 tackles, 8.5 tackles for losses, 10 interceptions and 10 pass break-ups in 32 games, including 23 starts. Amy, UTEP's 2010 defensive captain, is tied for ninth on the school's all-time interceptions list and is tied for 10th in career interception yards. The plan was for him to be utilized as the team's primary punt returner in 2010, and he averaged 9.0 yards on his first four attempts.
Adams, Vittatoe Put Up Big Numbers in Loss
Senior WR Kris Adams and senior QB Trevor Vittatoe were the offensive stars in the Miners' setback at Houston. Adams snared seven catches for 114 yards and a touchdown. It marked the sixth time in his career that he has gone over the century mark, tying him with Volley Murphy (1967-68) and J.J. Rowlett (1991-94) for the eighth-most 100-yard games in school history. Adams had five 100-yard games as a sophomore (2008), but none as a junior.
Vittatoe completed 30-of-54 passes for 340 yards and three scores for his 13th 300-yard game. That puts him within three of tying Jordan Palmer's (2003-06) school standard.
Adams Moving the Chains
Kris Adams leads the team with nine receptions for 162 yards and a TD. Eight of his catches have resulted in first downs, with five coming on third down. Junior RB Joe Banyard is second in the category with a trio of "money receptions."
Adams Extends Streak of Games With Catch
Kris Adams has caught a pass in 26 consecutive games, tied for the ninth-longest active streak in the country.
Consecutive Games With a Reception
Vittatoe Crosses 10,000 Yards Passing
Trevor Vittatoe's 340-yard effort at Houston gave him 10,252 yards in his UTEP career. He needs 833 yards to supplant Jordan Palmer (2003-06) as the Miners' all-time leading passer.
Vittatoe is the seventh player in Conference USA to throw for 10,000 yards. He needs 388 yards to pass Tulsa's Paul Smith (2005-07) into fifth place on the all-time C-USA list. Vittatoe is also tied for seventh on the C-USA career touchdown passes list (78), and ranks ninth in total offense (10,033 yards).
C-USA Career Passing Leaders
C-USA Career TD Pass Leaders
C-USA Career Total Offense Leaders
Vittatoe Improving as Downs Progress
Trevor Vittatoe has completed 45 percent of his passes on first down (15-of-33), 66 percent on second down (16-of-24) and a stout 72 percent on third down (16-of-22). Additionally, all three of his TDs this year have come on third down throws.
Interception-Free Aerial Assault
For the seventh time of his career, Trevor Vittatoe passed for 300+ yards without being picked off. From 1965-2006, nine Miner signal callers combined to record 16 such games. Brooks Dawson (four), Jordan Palmer (three), Sammy Garza (two) and Rocky Perez (two) all had multiple contests. Omar Duarte, Howard Gasser, Pat Hegarty, Gary Keithley and Billy Stevens did so once.
Big-Time Passing Numbers Not the Norm Early
By passing for 340 yards in just the second game of the year, Trevor Vittatoe bucked the recent trend of slow starts by UTEP signal callers. He joins Jordan Palmer as the lone Miners to register a 300-yard passing yard game prior to the sixth contest of the season dating back to 1990. Palmer achieved the feat twice (2005 and 2006), both in the second game of the campaign.
Vittatoe Could Join Exclusive Group
If Trevor Vittatoe is able to throw for 300 yards or more against NM State, he would become just the third Miner quarterback in the modern era to record multiple 300-yard games within the first three contests of the season. Sammy Garza (games one and three in 1986) and Billy Stevens (games two and three in 1965) both achieved the feat previously. Incidentally, Garza and Stevens both threw for 300 yards in a game three matchup against the Aggies.
Kemp Getting Comfortable in the End Zone
Junior WR Donavon Kemp has now recorded a touchdown reception in three of his last four games dating back to the 2009 season. Kemp pulled in a 12-yard reception for a score at Houston. He had a 13-yard TD catch in the `09 season finale versus Marshall, and reached the end zone on a 40-yard grab the previous week at Rice.
Kemp ranks second among Miner wideouts with five catches for 64 yards in 2010. He has also averaged 21.0 yards on a pair of kickoff returns.
Electrifying Season Debut For McClure
After missing the season opener versus Arkansas-Pine Bluff due to a suspension, sophomore WR Marlon McClure had a big game in his first action of the year at Houston. In addition to making two catches for 48 yards -- a team-leading 24.0-yard average -- McClure collected a career-high 165 yards on six kickoff returns with a long of 63. The 165 yards are the seventh-most by a UTEP player, while the six returns are tied for the second-top total in school annals.
Most KOR Yards in a Game by a UTEP Player
Nixon Was Awfully Good at the Start Too
Another player suspended for the season opener, junior DB TraVaun Nixon, stepped right in and made an impact in his initial game with the Miners at Houston. Nixon contributed five tackles, including one for loss, while adding a 68-yard interception return in the third quarter. The 68-yard pick tied for the 10th-longest by a UTEP player and the longest since Quintin Demps had a pair of 100-yard interceptions (versus New Mexico State and UCF) in 2007.
Nixon was an interception machine at Ventura College in 2009. He had six picks on the year, with two more that were nullified due to penalties. Against Cerritos Junior College on Sept. 26, he intercepted three passes in the first 18 minutes, returning one 27 yards for a TD.
Great Start Goes For Naught
The UTEP offense had a fantastic drive to open the Houston game, moving 60 yards on nine plays -- capped by Trevor Vittatoe's seven-yard touchdown pass to Pierce Hunter on third and six. It marked the second third down that the Miners converted on the drive, the first being an 11-yard pass from Vittatoe to Kris Adams on third and eight from the UTEP 42-yard line.
Unfortunately, the offense wasn't quite as proficient the rest of the way. While the Miners compiled 380 yards on their remaining 11 drives, only three produced scores (two TDs and a field goal). UTEP punted three times, saw three drives end on either a loss of downs or end of the half, missed a field goal and lost a fumble during that stretch. Six of UTEP's last eight offensive drives lasted fewer than two minutes with only one producing over 31 yards.
Speaking of Great Starts
UTEP has scored a touchdown on its opening drive in both games of 2010. The Miners hadn't opened a season in that manner since 1988. UTEP did NOT score a TD on its initial drive the third game of that year.
Scoring First No Guarantee of a Win
Perhaps UTEP is happier when playing from behind. The loss at Houston dropped the Miners to 6-14 in their last 20 games where they score first. Meanwhile, UTEP has actually won four of the 10 games since 2008 where the opponent put the initial points on the scoreboard.
Miners Spreading the Wealth on Offense Once Again
Fourteen different UTEP players have made receptions through two games -- only one fewer than the total number for the 2009 season. The Miners have had at least 15 players record a catch in each of Mike Price's previous six seasons as head coach -- 2004 (15), 2005 (16), 2006 (15), 2007 (16), 2008 (17) and 2009 (15). The last time UTEP didn't have 15 players with a reception was in 2001 (14).
Twelve players caught a pass in the Miners' loss at Houston, the most for UTEP in the Mike Price era. The previous best was 11 players with a reception versus Southern Miss in 2008 and UAB in 2009.
Miners Tie First Down Standard
UTEP has compiled 20 or more first downs in seven straight games to tie the school record, originally established by the 2000 team. The Miners had 24 first downs but only 24 points in the loss at Houston. The last time UTEP scored fewer points with 24 or more first downs was on Nov. 19, 2005 versus UAB (30 first downs in a 35-23 loss).
You Know What They Say About All Good Things
The Miners had been unbeaten in Conference USA openers (5-0) before kicking off this year's league slate with the setback at Houston. UTEP matched Tulsa by going unbeaten in its first five C-USA openers prior to losing this year; the Golden Hurricane dropped a 51-49 decision at East Carolina on Sept. 5.
UTEP Still Awaiting Buckram's Return
Junior RB Donald Buckram dressed and warmed up for the Houston game, but has yet to make his season debut after injuring his knee on Sept. 1. Buckram's status is day-to-day entering NM State game week. He broke a 61-year old UTEP rushing record last season with 1,594 yards and is the nation's second-leading returning rusher for the 2010 campaign.
Several Miner Defenders Post Career Bests Versus Houston
While the collective result wasn't what the Miners hoped for defensively at Houston, there were some solid individual performances from the stop troops against the Cougars. Junior LB Isaiah Carter led the way by tallying a career-high 12 tackles (11 assists); his previous best was eight stops at Louisiana-Lafayette in 2008. Other UTEP players who registered career-highs in tackles included Brandon Miller (tied his personal best with seven), Wiston Jeune (seven), Drew Thomas (six), Greg Watkins (six), TraVaun Nixon (five), Jamie Irving (tied his personal best with five), Germard Reed (four), Adam Ayala (three), Jamie Fehoko (three), Isaac Tauaefa (tied his personal best with two) and Traun Roberson (tied his personal best with one).
In addition, senior SS Braxton Amy was credited with double-digit tackles (10) for the ninth time in his career while playing in his final collegiate game.
Upon Further Review ...
UTEP's opening kickoff of the second half was credited for 26 yards to Dakota Warren, but due to a stat glitch was actually 67 yards. With the change Warren had five kickoffs for 321 yards, a 64.2 average. Warren has had 11 kickoffs for 686 yards this season, a 62.4-yard average.
Miners Having Their Difficulties in the Red Zone
UTEP has scored just five touchdowns in 10 trips inside the Red Zone after converting 57 percent (28-of-49) of their Red Zone opportunities into six points last season. Overall the Miners have scored points on seven of 10 Red Zone trips (70 percent), down from an 82 percent success rate a year ago.
UTEP in the NCAA/C-USA Stats
The Miners rank in the top-50 nationally in passing offense (22nd, 284.5 ypg), kickoff returns (23rd, 25.6 avg.), total offense (27th, 451.5 ypg), sacks allowed (tied for 28th, 1.0 avg.) net punting (tied for 32nd, 40.0 avg.) and turnover margin (tied for 40th, 0.5). Individually, Trevor Vittatoe is tied for 17th in total offense (298 ypg), Isaiah Carter is tied for 26th in interceptions (0.5 avg.), Kris Adams is tied for 45th in receiving yards per game (81.0) and Dakota Warren is tied for 49th in field goals (1.0 avg.).
UTEP is second in C-USA in turnover margin and third in kickoff returns. Carter is tied for first in the league in interceptions, Vittatoe is third in total offense, Adams is fourth in receiving yards per game and Warren is tied for fifth in field goals.
Miners Seeking Third Straight Home Win
UTEP, which posted a combined 12-12 record in the Sun Bowl from 2006-09, has now put together back-to-back home wins, routing Marshall in the `09 finale 52-21 before blasting UAPB 31-10 on Sept. 4. The Miners haven't won three consecutive home games since 2007, but will have a chance to duplicate that streak versus NM State on Saturday.
Here Come the Rookies
To date, 11 freshmen have seen action for the Miners this season. They are DL Adam Ayala, DL Marcus Bagley, TE Katrae Ford, OL Wayne Frazier, DB Adrian James, QB Carson Meger, DB Chad Moncure, TE Kevin Perry, DL Germard Reed, DB Traun Roberson and TE Craig Wenrick. Bagley, Ford, James, Moncure and Roberson are true freshmen. UTEP also played five true freshmen all of last season.
Miners Have Tri-Captains
A Good Omen?
The last time UTEP faced two conference opponents in the first four games of the season was 2005. Ironically enough, both league games came against Houston and Memphis. The Miners met the Cougars last week and will host the Tigers on Sept. 25. UTEP enjoyed its last winning season in 2005, finishing 8-4 and earning a berth in the GMAC Bowl.
Miners Have Experience
UTEP's roster features 26 seniors, including 16 on the offensive side of the ball. The 26 seniors ties UTEP for the fourth-top total in the country behind Hawaii (31), Louisville (27) and TCU (27). Army, Iowa and Syracuse also have 26 seniors. The Miners have 22 juniors, 19 sophomores and 40 freshmen (30 true/10 redshirt).
Adams & Vittatoe Listed Among FBS Career Leaders
Through Sept. 11, senior WR Kris Adams was tied for eighth among active FBS players in touchdown catches (17). Senior QB Trevor Vittatoe was second in pass attempts (1,315), passing yards (10,252), passing yards per game (269.8) and passing touchdowns (78); third in completions (741), total offense (10,033 yards), total offense per game (264.0) and TDs responsible for (79); and 17th in passing efficiency (136.85).
Vittatoe Could Cap Career as One of NCAA's All-Time Leading Passers
Trevor Vittatoe has 10,252 career passing yards. If he throws for 3,228 yards in 2010 -- his average in his first three seasons with the Miners -- he would conclude his career as the no. 9 all-time leading passer in NCAA history. Vittatoe has 78 career TD passes, and 22 more in 2010 would place him in a tie for 11th place on the all-time NCAA list. Here is a look at the 11 signal-callers in NCAA history who have hit the century mark in touchdown passes.
Player School Years TDs
Donald Buckram is the first Miner ever to make the preseason watch list for the Walter Camp Football Foundation Player of the Year Award. Buckram is one of 30 players on the list, which includes reigning Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram from Alabama. Buckram is one of 49 players on the watch list for the Doak Walker Award, presented to the nation's top running back. He was a semifinalist for the award last season.
Defense Gets an Overhaul for 2010
UTEP has a new defensive scheme -- with a 4-3 base -- and a largely new defensive staff for the 2010 season. The Miners employed a 3-3-5 scheme in 2008 and 2009. UTEP's new defensive coordinator is long-time NFL defensive line coach Andre Patterson. Adam Gonzaga takes over coaching the safeties, and former Miner Robert Rodriguez has been elevated from a graduate assistant to linebackers coach. The only holdover on the defensive staff is cornerbacks coach Allen Johnson.
UTEP was 4-8 last season and tied for third place in Conference USA's Western Division with a 3-5 mark. The Miners lost five games by a touchdown or less, and were 28 points shy of winning nine games.
UTEP beat two bowl-bound teams in Houston and Marshall. The Miners' 58-41 conquest of the 12th-ranked Cougars on Oct. 3 marked their first win over a ranked opponent in 12 years. UTEP was named the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl National Team of the Week following the win over Houston, and RB Donald Buckram was appointed the Walter Camp Foundation National Offensive Player of the Week after rushing for 262 yards versus the Cougars.
29th Season For Price
UTEP's Mike Price is 164-161 in his 29th season as a collegiate head coach, including 35-39 in his seventh year at the helm of the Miner program. He has coached seven bowl teams during a career that has taken him to Weber State, Washington State and UTEP, including two with the Miners (2004 Houston, 2005 GMAC).
Price ranks ninth among active FBS coaches with 164 victories behind Penn State's Joe Paterno (395), Ohio State's Jim Tressel (231), Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer (229), Texas' Mack Brown (216), Nevada's Chris Ault (208), South Carolina's Steve Spurrier (179), Notre Dame's Brian Kelly (172) and Arizona State's Dennis Erickson (169).
Miners Have Set School Total Offense Standard in 2 of the Last 3 Seasons
The top two total offense marks in UTEP history have been established over the last three seasons. In 2007, the Miners set a school standard by racking up 5,074 yards. They bettered the mark a year ago by compiling 5,144 yards.
The UTEP season benchmark for passing yards (3,754) has also been produced in the Mike Price era (2006).
Miners Achieving Success in the Classroom and the Community
Nineteen Miners posted cumulative grade point averages of 3.0 or better following the spring 2010 semester. Senior DB Braxton Amy has already graduated and is pursuing his Masters of Leadership Studies.
UTEP football players performed 664 hours of community service during the 2009-10 athletic year, tops among the school's 16 varsity sports. Leading the way were senior tight end Jonny Moore (36.5 hours) and sophomore DB Richard Spencer (24 hours).
Up Next: Memphis
UTEP returns to Conference USA play on Saturday, Sept. 25 against Memphis in the Sun Bowl (7:05 p.m.). The Tigers and East Carolina are the only teams the Miners haven't beaten since joining C-USA. UTEP is 0-3 all-time versus Memphis with losses during the 2005 (27-20), 2006 (38-19) and 2009 (35-20) seasons.
Adding further intrigue to this year's matchup is the fact that Mike Price's son, Eric, will be on the opposite sideline as the Tigers' offensive coordinator. "E.P." was the Miners' offensive coordinator from 2004-07.