Football Game Notes Versus NMSU

For Starters
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
UTEP's English flagship station is KROD 600 AM. The announcers are Jon Teicher (play-by-play) and Bernie Ricono (color commentary). Teicher is in his 24th season as "Voice of the Miners." Ricono was the Miners' defensive coordinator from 1977-79. The pregame show begins at 4 p.m. Mountain time. The game will also be carried on KBUY 1360 AM in Ruidoso, N.M.

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
UTEP is closing its longest homestand (three games) since the 1996 season. It marks only the second time the Miners have had a three-game homestand since the 1985 campaign. A three-game homestand was not uncommon for the program from 1946-85. The Miners played three straight games or more in El Paso in 25 different seasons during that span. The Miners played four straight home contests in 1948, 1950, 1953 (six in a row), 1954, 1964, 1970, 1973 and 1983. The last time the Miners won two games in a three-game homestand came during the 1979 season.

A Conference Game?
Saturday's game has been designated a conference game for New Mexico State, which plays in the Sun Belt Conference. It is not considered a conference game for UTEP.

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
Head Coach Mike Price will become part of a new rivalry when his Miners square off against I-10 rival New Mexico State.

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.

National Rankings
UTEP ranks 18th in the country in punt returns (13.8 avg.), 41st in rushing defense (113.3 ypg), 41st in net punting (37.3 avg.), 52nd in passing offense (218 ypg) and 58th in turnover margin (even).

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).

Last Meeting
New Mexico State scored the first 21 points and cruised to a 49-14 win over UTEP on Oct. 5, 2002 at Aggie Memorial Stadium in Las Cruces. The Miners got on the board with 1:57 left in the opening period on a 25-yard run by Jimmy Smith. But New Mexico State answered with 14 points to build a 35-7 advantage at the intermission. Walter Taylor rushed for two touchdowns in the first half for NMSU and Buck Pierce threw for a pair of scores, including a 66-yard strike to P.J. Winston. UTEP quarterback Jon Schaper left the game with an injury to his left collarbone with 12:46 to go in the second quarter. Schaper completed four of six passes for 17 yards before departing. The lead swelled to 42-7 with 9:19 remaining in the third period on a one-yard run by NMSU's Eric Higgins. The Miners scored their second touchdown of the night on a 35-yard pass from Orlando Cruz to Terrance Minor with 1:59 to go in the third quarter.

UTEP/New Mexico State Ties
UTEP Head Coach Mike Price and NMSU defensive line coach Richard Glover were on the Washington State coaching staff together during the 1977 season.

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
A large crowd is expected for Saturday's UTEP-New Mexico State game in the Sun Bowl. If more than 40,000 fans pack the stadium, history will be on the side of the Miners. UTEP is 11-4 all-time when playing before crowds of over 40,000 in the Sun Bowl, including 3-1 when facing the Aggies.

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
UTEP is one of just 17 schools in the nation to have faced two teams which are currently rated in the Associated Press top 25. Boise State (#23) and Arizona State (#21) are both listed in the AP poll and have faced the Miners early this season. The other 16 schools to have played two ranked opponents are Air Force, Arizona, BYU, Central Florida, Colorado State, Houston, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana Tech, Marshall, Mississippi State, UNLV, Northwestern, Oregon State, Syracuse and Temple.

A Look Ahead
UTEP will potentially face its second nationally ranked opponent of the season on Oct. 9 at Fresno State. The Bulldogs enter the weekend ranked 17th by the Associated Press, and will face Louisiana Tech in Ruston, La.

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
The Miners have had back-to-back WAC Special Teams Players of the Week for the first time in school history. Sophomore Reagan Schneider earned honors on Sept. 13 after scoring 14 points (four FGs, four PATs) against Weber State. On Sept. 20, senior Bryce Benekos gained accolades after averaging 47.3 yards on seven punts versus #23 Boise State.

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
The Miner defense has not allowed an opposing player to rush for over 100 yards in the first three games of the 2004 season. Overall, the string is now up to four games, extending back to the final contest of the 2003 campaign.

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.

Showing Discipline
UTEP committed only two penalties against Boise State, which was the fewest since the Miners had two versus Louisiana Tech on Nov. 10, 2001.

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).

More Discipline
The Miners have made tremendous strides holding onto the football as well. UTEP has had only one turnover via fumble this year -- Marcus Thomas' bobble in the second half at Arizona State.

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.

No Turnovers
After the Miners turned the ball over five times (four interceptions and a fumble) in the opener at Arizona State, UTEP did not cough up the ball once in the 32-0 victory over Weber State. It was the first time the Miners did not have a turnover in a game since defeating SMU on Oct. 4, 2003. During the past three seasons the Miners have had only two games with no turnovers, while committing a whopping 108 miscues during that span.

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.

Causing Trouble
UTEP has forced a turnover in each of its last 22 games. Quintin Demps and Jahmal Fenner each had interceptions against Boise State to extend the Miners' interception streak to six games. The interception was the sixth of Fenner's career, and the first for Demps.

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).

Something Special
Quintin Demps is building his candidacy for WAC Freshman of the Year. Demps is the third-leading tackler on the squad with 19 stops. He has also recorded an interception, two pass breakups, blocked a kick and returned a fumble for a touchdown.

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
Senior P Bryce Benekos ranks fifth in the NCAA with a punting average of 46.0 yards this year. He hopes to continue his improvement each week and gain consideration for the Ray Guy Award, which is presented to the college punter of the year.

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
UTEP didn't exactly light up the scoreboard over the last three seasons. However times are changing under first-year head coach Mike Price. The Miners scored 32 points against Weber State, and followed it up by totaling 31 points against #23 Boise State. It marked the first time that UTEP has scored 30 or more points in back-to-back games since doing so against Nevada (45) and Rice (38) in 2000. That season was also the last time UTEP had more than two consecutive games with over 30 points (four).

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.

Tracking Jackson
Senior RB Howard Jackson, a Doak Walker Award candidate, seeks to continue his climb up the UTEP charts when the Miners meet New Mexico State. The slight (5-9, 160) but speedy (4.26 time in the 40) Jackson ranks fifth in career rushing yardage (2,561), sixth in rushing attempts (489) and tied for sixth in rushing touchdowns (19). The Freeport, Texas, native has had 10 career 100-yard rushing games which puts him in a tie with Paul Smith (1996-97-98) for third on the all-time list.

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
Howard Jackson was chosen first team All-WAC by three preseason publications (Athlon, Lindy's, Street & Smith's), as well as an honorable mention All-American by Street & Smith's. He was rated a "Special Teams Demon" in the WAC by Lindy's, as well as a "Top 10 NFL Talent" in the league by that publication.

Jackson ranks fourth in the WAC and 33rd in the country with 94.0 rushing yards per game this season.

Improvement Significant on Defense
The Miners' defense ranked 104th in the country (448.3 ypg) in 2003. UTEP finished 114th in scoring defense (38.3 ppg), 91st in rushing defense (190.8 ypg) and 102nd in passing defense (257.5 ypg) a season ago.

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
Sophomore Reagan Schneider has scored 24 points this season, with six field goals and six PATs. Schneider is 6-for-6 in field goals this season, including a long of 52 yards. He is also 6-for-7 in PAT tries.

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
Sophomore Chris Marrow has been Jordan Palmer's favorite target in the first three contests. He has snagged 15 passes for 170 yards this season.

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.

Big Play!
Junior Chris Francies has produced big plays over the first three games. Six out of his 10 receptions have been good for 14 yards or greater. Francies had a 59-yard reception against Boise State and nearly had a 40-yard TD catch from fellow WR Jayson Boyd on a toss-back reverse pass.

Getting Better All The Time
After a rocky start at Arizona State, sophomore Jordan Palmer has put together back-to-back solid efforts.

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
Head coach Mike Price is one of 14 coaches who are new at NCAA Division I-A schools this season. Price was named National Coach of the Year when he led Washington State to a 10-2 record and a Rose Bowl appearance in 1997. Price is not the only former national coach of the year to start at a new school this year. Army's Bobby Ross and Central Florida's George O'Leary have also earned that honor in the past. Ross was the 1990 National Coach of the Year after directing Georgia Tech to an 11-0-1 record, while O'Leary was also recognized after leading Georgia Tech to a 9-3 mark in 1999.

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.

True Freshmen
Former Parade All-American Marcus Thomas and Paul Darby have been the only true freshmen on the field for the Miners in 2004.

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!
Senior linebackers Robert Rodriguez and Godwin Akinduro were on the field together for the first time in their careers at Arizona State. Previously Akinduro backed up Rodriguez. He was switched from middle linebacker to weak side linebacker under the new staff.

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
Senior Jahmal Fenner returned three punts for 98 yards at Arizona State. The 98 yards stand as the 11th-highest single-game total in school history. Fenner had 115 yards (ranks fifth) in 2001 against Texas Southern.

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.

Turning Defensive
The Miners have six defensive players who began their careers on the other side of the ball, including starting linebackers Robert Rodriguez (running back) and Godwin Akinduro (tight end). Mark Dowdy (wide receiver), Matt Elwood (wide receiver), Justin Gissendanner (offensive line) and Phillip Moss (quarterback) also came to UTEP as offensive players.

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
Senior LB Robert Rodriguez has amassed a whopping 351 tackles in his career despite having a down year (50 stops) in 2002. He has led the WAC in tackles two of the last three years, registering 137 stops in 2001 and 135 in 2003.

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
Robert Rodriguez's preseason honors included first team All-WAC by Athlon, The Sporting News, Street & Smith's and Lindy's; honorable mention All-American by Street & Smith's; and second team All-Texas by Dave Campbell's Texas Football. He was rated the 14th-best inside linebacker in the country by The Sporting News.

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
UTEP's biggest graduation losses from 2003 are in the offensive line. Three starters have departed -- RG Robert Clayton, LT Trey Darilek and C Chris Kerr. Darilek was chosen by Philadelphia in the fourth round of the 2004 NFL Draft.

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
The Miners were picked to finish eighth in the Western Athletic Conference this season by league media. Boise State is picked first (434 points), followed by Fresno State (427), Hawaii (384), Tulsa (312), Nevada (256), Rice (212), Louisiana Tech (199), UTEP (179), SMU (95) and San Jose State (87).

Media Takes Notice
The hiring of Mike Price has brought a great deal of national attention to the UTEP football program. Since the beginning of August, television crews from ESPN, Fox Sports Net Southwest and College Sports Television (CSTV) have made visits to Miner practices. Also in attendance have been writers from the Associated Press Dallas bureau, Albuquerque Journal, Arizona Republic, Denver Post and ESPN The Magazine. USA Today also ran a piece on Price via the Reno Gazette Journal in late July.

All In The Family
When it comes to the UTEP football coaching staff, the Price is right -- times three. Father Mike is the head coach, and sons Aaron and Eric are the quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator, respectively. Although the Prices bring a combined 56 years of coaching experience to the gridiron, 2004 marks the first time that they have worked together on the same staff. Eric played for his father at Weber State in 1988, and Aaron was Mike Price's kicker at Washington State from 1991-93.

Gone Bowling
The Miners know what it takes to win. Fifteen players are still around from the 2000 Humanitarian Bowl team which finished the season 8-4. Seniors Mark Dowdy and Justin Hunt each saw action in the bowl game. The other Miners redshirted that season. Among those players are Godwin Akinduro, Jonas Crafts, Dirk Dillard, Omar Duarte, Matt Elwood, Robert Espinosa, Jahmal Fenner, Brian Givens, Ben Graniello, Ibok Ibok, Bo Morris, Aaron Osborn and Robert Rodriguez.

Back Again
When he was hired as UTEP's head coach in December 2003, Mike Price opted to retain three members of the previous coaching staff. Returning in 2004 are linebackers coach Tim Duffie, offensive graduate assistant/tight ends coach Brian Natkin and Director of Football Operations Nate Poss. Poss is the elder member of the Miner staff. He is beginning his eighth tour of duty in the Sun City.

Breaking Down the 2004 Miners
The 2004 UTEP roster features 97 players -- 21 seniors, 30 juniors, 23 sophomores and 23 freshmen. The Miners have a large senior class for the first time since 1998, when they had 25 seniors (UTEP had 13 seniors in 2000 and 2001, 16 in 2002 and seven in 2003).

C-USA in '05
UTEP will join the realigned Conference USA in July, 2005. The Miners will be grouped in the league's Western Division with Houston, Rice, SMU, Tulane and Tulsa. UTEP has been a member of the Western Athletic Conference since September 1967, and has won 20 team national titles as WAC members. The most famous was the 1966 men's basketball national championship, in which legendary coach Don Haskins made history by starting five black players.

Oh Brother
UTEP has four brother combinations on its 2004 roster: the Espinosas (OL Luis and OL Robert), the Givens (WR Aaron and RB Johan), the Hunts (TE Jamar and TE Justin) and the Jones (LB Jeremy and DB Victor).

3.0 Club
Thirteen Miners had grade point averages of 3.0 or better at the conclusion of the spring 2004 semester. They are sophomore DL Jake Belshe, senior P Bryce Benekos, freshman QB Joe Castro, senior DB Matt Elwood, junior DL Tevita Fifita, senior DL Brian Givens, senior OL Ben Graniello, freshman TE Jamar Hunt, senior DB Victor Jones, senior OL Bo Morris, senior DB Mike Perez, freshman DL James Riley and sophomore PK Reagan Schneider.

Four Miners are playing the 2004 season as graduate students -- Givens, Graniello, senior TE Justin Hunt and Morris.

From The Weight Room
Some noteworthy numbers from the Miner strength and conditioning program ... senior RB Howard Jackson has been timed at 4.26 in the 40, while sophomore WR Johnnie Lee Higgins, Jr. has been timed at 4.28 and freshman DB Quintin Demps at 4.31. UTEP's team average in the 40 is 4.79 seconds, down from 4.95 in 2003. Junior LB Thomas Howard, at 230 pounds, has posted a 4.38 time in the 40.

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.

Miner Nuggets
UTEP is eight for nine in red zone opportunities this season. The Miners have scored five touchdowns and kicked three field goals. UTEP's opponents are also eight for nine in red zone opportunities, with six touchdowns and two field goals...UTEP's tight ends have caught three passes this year (all by Jonas Crafts)...Jimmy Smith and Aaron Givens did not play against Boise State. It was the first game Givens did not play during his three-year career at UTEP...Jordan Palmer, Omar Duarte and Orlando Cruz each saw action at quarterback against Weber State...Jackson did not have a kickoff return against Weber State and Boise State. It marked only the sixth and seventh time in his career that he didn't have a kickoff return...the temperature at kickoff was 95 degrees for the Weber State game, tying for the sixth-hottest game in UTEP history. The kickoff temperature at Arizona State was 104 degrees, the second-hottest game in school history. UTEP played in 89 degree weather versus Boise State. The record is 106 degrees at kickoff on Sept. 2, 2000 at Oklahoma. Average temperature at kickoff in 2004 has been 96.0 degrees...UTEP has two players returning who are coming off 100-tackle seasons. They are senior LB Robert Rodriguez (135 stops in 2003) and junior LB Thomas Howard (118)...senior DB Jahmal Fenner is sixth in kickoff return yardage (1,147) and seventh in kickoff returns (48)...three receivers -- junior Chris Francies and sophomores Johnnie Lee Higgins, Jr. and Chris Marrow -- have had 100-yard games at UTEP. Junior RB Matt Austin has gone over the century mark in rushing twice.

UTEP-NMSU Traveling Trophies
As with most rivalries across the country, travelling trophies are awarded to the victorious team. And that is no different with the UTEP-New Mexico State football rivalry.

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
Football Schools Who Play on a Regular Basis
Houston-Rice6.5 miles
Duke-North Carolina8 miles
Idaho-Washington State8 miles
UCLA-USC13 miles
Akron-Kent State16 miles
Duke-NC State18 miles
North Carolina-NC State22 miles
Bowling Green State-Toledo25 miles
Cincinnati-Miami (Ohio)29 miles
California-Stanford31 miles
SMU-TCU32 miles
Oregon-Oregon State37 miles
Colorado-Colorado State38 miles
New Mexico State-UTEP41 miles
BYU-Utah41 miles
Michigan-Michigan State50 miles
Pittsburgh-West Virginia55 miles

UTEP game notes versus NMSU UTEP game notes versus NMSU



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