Football Game Notes Versus NMSU
UTEP (1-2) and New Mexico State (1-3) renew the I-10 rivalry for the first time since the 2002 season, when the Aggies defeated the Miners 49-14 in Las Cruces. New Mexico State has been UTEP's most frequent opponent, with Saturday's game marking the 82nd meeting between the two schools. The Miners lead the series 46-33-2. Until the 2001 season, the teams had met every year since 1935 (the schools did not play football from 1943-45 due to World War II). The Miners are 32-15-1 versus the Aggies while playing in El Paso, and have won the last four meetings in the Sun Bowl (UTEP is 15-8 against NMSU in the Sun Bowl overall).
On The Radio
The Miners can also be heard in Spanish on La Consentida 1150 AM. KINT-TV weekend sports anchor Omar Ropele handles the play-by-play, while former collegiate and high school coach Rick Bolanos serves as the color commentator.
Three-Game Homestand To Come To An End
A Conference Game?
In 1999, the UTEP-New Mexico State game was also designated a conference game for the Aggies, who were in the Big West Conference at the time. UTEP and New Mexico State have not played each other as members of the same conference since the 1961 season, when the two schools were members of the Borderland Conference. The Miners were a member of the Borderland from 1935-61, while NMSU played in the conference from 1931-61.
The Aggies' five-year run in the Sun Belt Conference will come to an end this season. They will join the Western Athletic Conference for the 2005-06 athletic year. The Miners' 37-year relationship with the WAC ends next year. UTEP will become a member of Conference USA on July 1, 2005.
New Rivlary To Begin
Price coached Washington State against rival Washington in 14 battles for the Apple Cup. Now as coach of UTEP, he will be trying to help the Miners reclaim a pair of traveling trophies -- the Silver Spade and Brass Spitoon.
This will mark the first time that Price has faced New Mexico State in his coaching career.
NMSU's Tony Samuel is 2-3 lifetime against UTEP. His Aggies are 0-3 when playing in the Sun Bowl.
Saturday's matchup will not represent the first time that Price and Samuel have coached against one another. Washington State, with Price as head coach, fell 35-21 to Nebraska in 1995, when Samuel was the Huskers' rush ends/strongside linebackers coach. Nebraska finished the 1995 season 12-0, including an Orange Bowl victory.
The Miners are 64th in total offense (357.7 ypg), 67th in scoring offense (24 ppg), 71st in rushing offense (139.7 ypg) and 74th in passing efficiency defense (130.1 rating).
UTEP/New Mexico State Ties
UTEP walk-on Justin Watson and NMSU senior Preston Williams each attended Farmington High School in Farmington, N.M.
UTEP offensive linemen Clay Salima and Anthony Casey attended Compton Junior College with NMSU's Joe Ford.
UTEP's Ben Graniello and Ibok Ibok attended Coronado High School in El Paso with NMSU's Clay Vincent.
The Miners' Matt Austin and the Aggies' Adam Honaker each attended Parkland High School in El Paso.
UTEP's Marcus Thomas and NMSU senior Cole Leslie are each graduates of Tolleson High School in Phoenix, Ariz.
Big Time College Football
The largest crowd in the Sun Bowl came on Nov. 11, 2000, when 53,304 fans saw the Miners clinch a share of the WAC title by defeating Rice 38-21. That game also happens to be the last time the Miners drew over 40,000 in the Sun Bowl.
Making El Paso Proud
A Look Ahead
UTEP fell 47-31 to Boise State, which was ranked 23th by the AP at the time.
The Miners are 3-42 against AP top-25 opponents in their history, and 1-28 when playing ranked squads away from El Paso. UTEP last faced two top-25 opponents in the same season in 2000 (#19 Oklahoma, #15 TCU).
UTEP's lone road victory against a top-25 team came on Nov. 2, 1974 at Arizona State (31-27).
Two For Two
Since the WAC started naming a Special Teams Player of the Week in 1995, a school has had back-to-back winners 16 times.
Past WAC Special Teamers of the Week for the Miners have included Glen Beard (Oct. 23, 2000; Oct. 11, 1999; Sept. 6, 1999), Ricky Bishop (Oct. 18, 1999), Jahmal Fenner (Oct. 1, 2001), Matthew Finley (Oct. 5, 1998), Jon Olsen (Sept. 30, 1996) and Keith Robinson (Oct. 21, 2002).
Keeping Them Under 100
Since 1970, UTEP has only opened a season three times (1975, 1983, 2000) without allowing a 100-yard rusher in four consecutive games.
New Mexico State enters the contest averaging 65.5 yards rushing per game. Justine Buries is the Aggies' leading rusher, averaging 28.3 yards on the ground.
The Miners have allowed 113.3 rushing yards per game, a figure which ranks 41st nationally.
The Miners are showing better discipline, with their penalty total decreasing in each game this season. UTEP opened with eight penalties at Arizona State, had seven against Weber State and two versus Boise State.
The 2003 team was the most penalized team in program history, setting records for penalties (109) and penality yards (864).
Through three games last year, UTEP had given up eight fumbles. The lone fumble giveaway this season marks the best start for the Miners since they only had one fumble lost through three games in 1996.
UTEP has not had three games in a row without a fumble giveaway since 1999.
Since 1965, the UTEP record for consecutive games without a fumble turnover is six, held by Charlie Bailey's 1997 squad.
The Miners have had six turnovers via the interception. Jordan Palmer had four of those interceptions in the first game at Arizona State.
Games without turnovers are rare for UTEP teams. Since the 1965 season the Miners have played 431 games and have had only 29 games (6.7 percent) with no turnovers. The school record for most games without a turnover in a season is four, set in 1988.
This season the Miners have had three fumble takeaways and four interceptions. The turnover margin is even, since the offense has had six interceptions and one fumble lost.
UTEP has not finished the season with a plus turnover margin since 2000 (+0.4 tm). Last year the Miners finished with 40 turnovers (-1.2 tm). In 2002 UTEP had 37 (-1.6 tm) and in 2001 the Miners had 31 (-0.9 tm).
Potentially a future Jim Thorpe Award candidate, Demps had eight stops, an interception, a 51-yard fumble return for a TD, a blocked PAT and a pass breakup against #23 Boise State.
Coming Up On The Ray Guy Award Radar
Against Boise State, Benekos punted seven times for an average of 47.3 yards. He also landed two punts inside the 20 yard line.
Benekos rates second in school history in punts (212) and punting yards (8,567). His punting average has risen steadily in four years with the Miners, from 34.5 as a freshman to 40.8 in 2002, 44.1 in 2003 and 46.0 this season. His 46.0 average in 2004 stands as the third-best seasonal figure in UTEP history.
In addition to ranking sixth in the country, Benekos leads the WAC in punting average. He has also pinned five punts inside the opponents' 20-yard line.
Benekos, who got married during the off season, is a three-time Academic All-WAC pick.
Testing The Scoreboard
Senior Howard Jackson ranks 17th in the country with 10.0 points per game this season. He has scored five touchdowns (four rushing, one receiving) overall.
Jackson will catch Toraino Singleton (1994-95) with another 74 yards to move into third on the rushing list. He is now 1,015 yards away from tying school record-holder John Harvey (1985-86-87-88). Jackson will need to average 126.9 yards per game over the last eight contests to catch Harvey.
Jackson will also move into fifth place for carries with 27 more attempts, passing Ray Holt (1974-75, 1978).
Jackson has already smashed UTEP's career all-purpose yardage record. He has 4,755 all-purpose yards -- tops in school history -- and has averaged 132.1 all-purpose yards per contest (second in the UTEP books behind Chuck Hughes' 133.0 average). Last season Jackson racked up 2,146 all-purpose yards, shattering Hughes' single-season mark which had stood for nearly 40 years.
Jackson also rates third on the Miner charts in kickoff returns (71) and kickoff return yardage (1,645). UTEP coaches have hinted that he could be utilized on punt returns as well this fall. Jackson hasn't returned punts since his freshman year (2001), when he had one return for five yards at Rice.
Jackson has not had a kickoff return over his last two games.
More On Jackson
Jackson ranks fourth in the WAC and 33rd in the country with 94.0 rushing yards per game this season.
Improvement Significant on Defense
Under new defensive coordinator Tim Hundley, the Miners are a different team on the defensive side of the ball. UTEP is 78th nationally in total defense (388.7 ypg), 41st in rushing defense (113.3 ypg) and 103rd in passing defense (275.3 ypg).
Against Weber State, UTEP put up its best defensive effort since the 1967 Sun Bowl game, when it allowed 109 yards in a 14-7 victory over Mississippi. The Miners held Weber State to 112 yards of total offense (34 rushing, 78 passing). The performance marked only the eighth time since 1965 that the Miners have held an opponent to under 150 yards of total offense.
The Kid Can Kick
Schneider booted four field goals -- including a 52-yarder before halftime -- to tie the school record against Weber State. His four field goals tied Scott Wedell (1983 vs. Weber State), Chris Jacke (1988 vs. Colorado State) and Jason Gillespie (1990 vs. Hawaii and 1990 at Colorado State) for the top figure in school annals.
Schneider also set a personal high with 14 points (four field goals, four PATs) versus Weber, which was the highest total by a kicker since Jacke had 16 points (three field goals, seven PATs) in a 58-7 win over San Diego State on Nov. 12, 1988. Schneider is currently ninth in the NCAA with 2.5 field goals made per game.
My Favorite Marrow
Marrow had the first 100-yard receiving game of his career with seven catches for 116 yards against Weber State. Among his receptions was a diving grab over the middle for 16 yards which helped sustain a 10-play, 98-yard scoring drive.
Getting Better All The Time
In the last two contests, Palmer has completed 56.7 percent (34-for-60) of his passes for 458 yards with only two interceptions. His rating over those contests was 125.12. His efficiency rating was 66.96 against Arizona State, a game in which he completed 21-of-44 passes for 196 yards and four interceptions.
He completed 16-of-32 passes for 235 yards and two touchdowns versus Boise State, including a 70-yarder to Howard Jackson. His yardage total was the second-highest of his career. He threw for 287 yards against Tulsa last season.
Palmer went 18-for-28 for 223 yards and no interceptions against Weber State.
He is the first Miner quarterback to throw for 200-plus yards in back-to-back games since Omar Duarte did so against SMU and Louisiana Tech to close out the 2002 season. No UTEP quarterback has had three games in a row with 200+ yards through the air since Rocky Perez had 11 straight contests with over 200 yards passing in 2000.
Palmer is third in the WAC and 45th nationally with 219.33 yards of total offense per game.
Palmer is the younger brother of Carson Palmer, winner of the 2002 Heisman Trophy at USC and the first pick by Cincinnati in the 2003 NFL Draft.
First Year Head Coaches
First time Division I-A coaches include J.D. Brookhart (Akron), Mike Stoops (Arizona), Brian Kelly (Central Michigan), Mark Dantonio (Cincinnati), Jeff Genyk (Eastern Michigan), Nick Holt (Idaho), Sylvester Croom (Mississippi State) and Bill Callahan (Nebraska).
Price has now compiled a 130-124 record in a 23-year coaching career at Weber State (1981-88), Washington State (1989-2002) and UTEP (2004). He directed the Cougars to three 10-win seasons (1997, 2001, 2002). During his 14 years in Pullman, Price coached five players who were selected in the first round of the NFL Draft, including quarterbacks Drew Bledsoe and Ryan Leaf.
Thomas is being eased into the college game. He has rushed 11 times for 42 yards, and caught two passes for five yards.
Darby saw his first collegiate action on special teams against Boise State.
Along with Thomas and Darby, 11 other Miners currently on the active roster saw action as true freshmen. Among them are Matt Austin (debut in 2001), Bryce Benekos (debut in 2001), Mark Dowdy (debut in 2000), Justin Hunt (debut in 2000), Howard Jackson (debut in 2001), Jeremy Jones (debut in 2003), Aaron King (debut in 2003), Chris Marrow (debut in 2003), Phillip Moss (debut in 2002), Reagan Schneider (debut in 2003) and Jimmy Smith (debut in 2001).
In the Lineup Together!
The duo is currently 1-2 on the team in tackles. Rodriguez leads the unit with 29 stops, while Akinduro has posted 22 over three games. Rodriguez also leads the team with five tackles for losses and has one sack.
A Natural On Returns
He also had his career-long return of 84 yards in the fourth quarter versus the Sun Devils. His previous long was 62 yards last year against Cal Poly. Fenner currently ranks 12th in the NCAA in punt return average (17.9 ypr).
Fenner (72 career returns) holds the school record for career punt returns. The previous record was held by Javier Sanchez (1996-98, 2000) with 70. He now has 718 career punt return yards. Gerald Campbell (1949-51) is the career record-holder with 874 yards.
Moss played one game at quarterback against Boise State in 2002. He went three of 13 for 25 yards in that contest. He was redshirted last year to make the transition to defense.
Senior Jimmy Smith began his Miner career on the defensive side of the ball before switching to running back. He notched 14 tackles in eight games in 2001.
Big Numbers For Rodriguez
An El Paso native and converted running back, Rodriguez had a personal best 22 stops against SMU and Rice in 2001. He has posted double-digit tackles in 18 career games, including nine of the last 10 contests in 2003.
Rodriguez's 351 career tackles rate fourth nationally among all active players. He also ranks eighth on the UTEP career list.
More On Rodriguez
Rodriguez ranks eighth on UTEP's all-time tackle list. Next on the list is Pete Shufelt (1989-92), who posted 385 stops in his Miner career.
Rodriguez is trying to become only the fourth Miner to lead the team in tackles in three seasons this fall. This was previously achieved by Raymond Morris (1980-83), Barron Wortham (1990-93) and Micheal Comer (1994-96). Morris, Wortham and Comer all went on to enjoy NFL stints. Morris was with Chicago, Comer was with Arizona and Wortham was with Houston, Tennessee and Dallas.
Rodriguez is on the watch lists for the Butkus Award and Rotary Lombardi Award, presented to the nation's best linebacker and finest lineman respectively.
O-Line Is Youngest Unit
Two of this year's starters -- junior LG Jose Garcia and senior RT Robert Espinosa -- have started 11 and 19 career games, respectively. Senior RG Ben Graniello has started on six occasions. Senior Bo Morris and junior Josh House -- who start at center and left tackle, respectively -- made the first starts of their careers in the season opener at Arizona State.
Also seeing action on the offensive line this season have been Anthony Casey, Alex Dimatteo, Luis Espinosa, James Riley, Clay Salima and Andy Smith.
UTEP Picked Eighth
Media Takes Notice
All In The Family
Breaking Down the 2004 Miners
C-USA in '05
Four Miners are playing the 2004 season as graduate students -- Givens, Graniello, senior TE Justin Hunt and Morris.
From The Weight Room
Nine Miners have registered vertical jumps of 40 inches or better, compared to two in 2003. Twenty-six players have vertical jumps of over 35 inches.
Senior DLs Ibok Ibok and Aaron Osborn can both bench press 429 pounds. Twenty-five players bench pressed 350+ pounds over the summer, compared to 17 in the summer of 2003.
Junior WR Jayson Boyd has achieved a standing long jump of 10 feet seven inches. Junior DB Cedric Click has the top vertical jump on the team at 42.5 inches.
UTEP-NMSU Traveling Trophies
The winner of the contest receives a pair of trophies &endash; the Silver Spade and the Brass Spittoon.
Although the series began in 1914, the first spade wasn't presented until the 1947 season. The first spade was an old prospector's shovel dug up from an abandoned mine in the Organ Mountains near Las Cruces.
The idea of the present Silver Spade was thought up by UTEP student Don Henderson, the student association president, who was a former mayor of El Paso and is now a successful businessman. In 1955, Henderson secured the present spade and after each meeting, the score of the game is engraved on the blade.
One of the myths behind the rationale for the spade was that when the prospector's spade was unearthed, both schools' major field of study had use for the tool &endash; mining and metallurgy for the College of Mines and agriculture at then New Mexico A&M.
The brass spittoon, officially known as the Mayor's Cup, came into existence in 1982 when the mayors of the two cities -&endash;Jonathan Rogers, El Paso, and David Steinberg, Las Cruces &endash; decided to present another trophy to the winner of the UTEP-NMSU game.
Distance Between Division I-A