UTEP Football Notes/Game 5/Southern Miss
Sept. 29, 2008
The Basic Facts
Fresh off its first victory of the season, UTEP (1-3, 1-0 C-USA) plays at Southern Miss (2-2, 0-1 C-USA) on Saturday in Hattiesburg. Kickoff is slated for 5 p.m. MDT at 36,000-seat Carlisle Faulkner Field. The game will be televised in El Paso on Time Warner Cable MetroSports Southwest Channel 24.
The Miners ended a nine-game losing streak with a 58-13 thumping of defending C-USA champion UCF last week in the Sun Bowl. Southern Miss was idle and, in its last action, dropped a 34-27 decision to Marshall at home on Sept. 20. The Golden Eagles are 1-1 at home this season, including a 51-21 victory over Louisiana-Lafayette on Aug. 30.
UTEP is 1-2 in C-USA road openers, including losses to Memphis (27-20) in 2005 and Houston (34-17) in 2006 and an overtime win at SMU (48-45) last season. The Miners are 4-8 in C-USA road games (1-3 last season) under head coach Mike Price.
UTEP is 1-0 in Conference USA action for the fourth straight year. The Miners won their first two league games each of the last two seasons before being saddled with their first loss in the circuit. The four straight conference opening victories are the most for UTEP since winning five consecutive Border Conference openers from 1956-60.
Southern Miss leads the series 2-1. UTEP posted a 37-14 triumph over Southern Miss in the 1954 Sun Bowl. The Golden Eagles beat the Miners in the 1988 Independence Bowl, 38-18, led by future NFL star Brett Favre. Southern Miss defeated UTEP 56-30 in the Sun Bowl last season.
The Last Meeting
Damion Fletcher rushed for 211 yards and three touchdowns, leading Southern Miss to a 56-30 victory over UTEP on Nov. 17, 2007 in El Paso.
After UTEP opened a 7-0 lead on a 13-yard pass from Trevor Vittatoe to Jeff Moturi with 10:24 remaining in the first quarter, Southern Miss scored 28 of the game's next 31 points to go ahead 28-10. Fletcher scored on a pair of touchdown runs during the spurt. UTEP couldn't get closer than 11 points the rest of the night, as Southern Miss put up 42 points in the second half.
Jeremy Young threw for 205 yards and rushed for 60 for the Golden Eagles, who piled up 568 yards of offense. UTEP had 414 yards.
UTEP landed its second-biggest win over a conference opponent in the modern era of football (post 1965) with a 58-13 drubbing of UCF in the Sun Bowl. The Miners beat San Diego State, 58-7, in 1988.
Highlights were aplenty, as Jose Martinez kicked a school and C-USA record 64-yard field goal -- falling a yard short of the NCAA record. Kris Adams had a career-high 128 yards receiving for the Miners, including a 74-yard touchdown reception from Trevor Vittatoe. The UTEP defense scored two touchdowns for the second straight week, as Josh Ferguson and Dane O'Neill each collected fumble recoveries for scores. Overall the defense continued its gradual progression by limiting UCF to 336 yards of offense and tallying 10 tackles for losses.
UTEP in the National Stats
UTEP is ranked 13th nationally in turnover margin (1.25), tied for 37th in tackles for losses (6.3 avg.), tied for 39th in sacks (2.0 avg.), 47th in scoring offense (30.3 ppg) and 48th in net punting (36.1 avg.). UTEP's top-100 individual national rankings are as follows: Kris Adams, tied for 80th in receiving yards per game (65.0), Cornelius Brown, tied for fifth in interceptions (0.8 avg.); Josh Ferguson, tied for 83rd in kickoff returns (21.4 avg.); Jose Martinez, tied for second in field goals (2.0 avg.) and tied for 27th in scoring (9.3 avg.); Jeff Moturi, 18th in kickoff returns (28.6 avg.); Kyle Petersen, 35th in punting (41.9 avg.); Adam Vincent, tied for 80th in tackles (8.0 avg.); and Trevor Vittatoe, 71st in total offense (189.3 ypg) and 89th in passing efficiency (112.71).
UTEP in the C-USA Stats
The Miners are second in C-USA in turnover margin (1.25), fourth in scoring offense (30.2 ppg) and rushing defense (149.2 ypg), and fifth in rushing offense (152.0 ypg), total defense (397.5 ypg) and kickoff returns (22.1 avg.). Individually, Cornelius Brown is first in interceptions (0.8 avg.) and third in passes defended (1.3 avg.); Isaiah Carter is tied for ninth in fumble recoveries (0.3 avg.); Josh Ferguson is tied for first in forced fumbles (0.5 avg.); Terrell Jackson is eighth in rushing (56.7 ypg); Jose Martinez is first in field goals (2.0 avg.), tied for first in PAT percentage (1.000) and field goal percentage (.667), second in kicking scoring (9.2 ppg) and fourth in scoring (9.2 ppg); Anthony Morrow is tied for ninth in interceptions (0.3 avg.); Kyle Petersen is fifth in punting (41.9 avg.); Robert Soleyjacks is tied for second in fumble recoveries (0.5 avg.); James Thomas II is 10th in rushing (51.5 ypg); Adam Vincent is sixth in tackles per game (8.0); and Trevor Vittatoe is 10th in passing average per game (190.5 ypg), passing efficiency (112.7) and total offense (189.2 ypg).
Miners End Skid in Resounding Fashion
UTEP's 58-13 victory over UCF ended a nine-game losing streak dating back to last season, including a five-game skid at home. It was UTEP's first victory since a 48-47 triumph over Tulsa on Oct. 6, 2007. So in their last two victories, the Miners have beaten the 2007 C-USA Eastern and Western Division champion.
Adams Has First 100-Yard Game of the Year
Kris Adams posted the Miners' first 100-yard receiving performance of the season against UCF last week. Adams finished with four catches for 128 yards, including a 74-yard TD catch from Trevor Vittatoe which was the Miners' longest play from scrimmage this year. Adams actually surpassed his career-high for receiving in the first half alone when he had two catches for 85 yards. His previous best was 69 yards against Texas earlier this year. Adams is averaging a team-leading 65.0 yards per outing, and eight of his 12 catches have resulted in first downs.
Martinez Makes a Little History
Although he missed tying the NCAA record for longest field goal without a tee by one yard, Jose Martinez's 64-yarder against UCF last week was a C-USA and school record. The previous C-USA record was a 57-yard field goal by Martinez against Houston last season. The previous school record was a 59-yard field goal by Keith Robinson versus Rice in 2002.
Martinez made a 70-yard field goal in practice earlier this season. For the year he is 8-for-12 on field goal tries, including 7-for-8 from less than 50 yards.
Martinez One of Three Groza "Stars of the Week"
Jose Martinez was named one of three Lou Groza National Collegiate Place-Kicker Award "Stars of the Week" on Monday. Martinez tallied 16 points versus UCF, as he was 3-for-3 on field goals and 7-for-7 on PATs.
The other two Groza "Stars of the Week" are Pittsburgh's Conor Lee and Michigan State's Brett Swenson.
The Lou Groza Collegiate Place Kicker Award presented by the Fed Ex Orange Bowl will be announced on the Home Depot ESPNU College Football Awards, aired on ESPN on Thursday, Dec. 11. The three finalists will be honored at the Lou Groza Awards Banquet at the Palm Beach County Convention Center on Tuesday, Dec. 9. Martinez was a finalist for the award in 2007.
Martinez was also named the Conference USA Special Teams Player of the Week on Monday, the third-such distinction of his career.
Defensive Improvement Continues
UTEP installed a new 3-3-5 defense under new coordinator Osia Lewis this season. And while the Miners allowed 484 yards to Buffalo in the season opener, they have decreased that number over the last three games. UTEP surrendered 404 yards to national power Texas, 366 New Mexico State and 336 to UCF. The Miners have allowed less than 400 yards to FBS opponents in back-to-back games for the first time since the final game of the 2006 season and the first game of the 2007 campaign.
The Miners are third in Conference USA with 25 tackles for losses, an average of 6.3 per game. UCF leads the league with a 6.5 average, and East Carolina is second at 6.4. UTEP had a season-high 10 tackles for losses versus UCF, spread amongst nine players.
Miners Forcing Turnovers
UTEP has forced a whopping 10 turnovers over the last two games -- four against New Mexico State and six versus UCF. The Miners scored 17 points off turnovers against the Aggies and 31 versus the Knights. The 31 points off turnovers were the most for UTEP in a game since Sept. 27, 2003 against Sam Houston State (31), and tied for the top game total in the modern era of football (post 1965).
The six turnovers forced against UCF were the second-most in the Mike Price era behind the seven caused at Rice last season.
The Miners are tied for eighth nationally in turnovers forced with 13 behind Wake Forest (17), Boston College and Rice (15 each), Akron, Vanderbilt, San Jose State and Minnesota (14 each). UTEP is tied for third in the country in fumble recoveries with eight behind Akron (10) and Air Force (nine).
More on UTEP's Opportunistic "D"
UTEP has scored two defensive touchdowns in each of the last two games. Anthony Morrow scored on a 27-yard interception return and Robert Soleyjacks reached the end zone off a 24-yard fumble recovery versus New Mexico State on Sept. 20. Last week against UCF, Soleyjacks recovered another fumble and pitched to Josh Ferguson for a 45-yard TD run, and Dane O'Neill recovered a fumble in the end zone for another score. The last time UTEP scored defensive touchdowns in back-to-back games was the New Mexico State (Quintin Demps 100-yard interception return) and Texas Southern (Cornelius Brown nine-yard fumble recovery) games last year.
More Defensive Tidbits
The Miners limited UCF to 161 yards through the air, halting a stretch of 13 straight games by FBS opponents tallying 200-plus passing yards. Additionally, UTEP registered two interceptions and was credited with a season-high eight pass break-ups. The 161 yards passing marked the fewest permitted by the Miners since they limited Marshall to 135 on Nov. 18, 2006.
UTEP's eight pass break-ups in the win against UCF were two more than it registered during the first three games combined this season. Furthermore, it marks the third-highest single-game total for the Miners in the past 34 contests.
The Miners recorded three sacks against the Knights, lifting their 2008 total to 10. UTEP had a total of 16 sacks all of last season, including four total in the first six games. UTEP also had six quarterback hurries versus UCF, and owns 10 over the last two outings.
Notes on the Margin of Victory Versus UCF
The Miners' 45-point win over UCF marked their fifth-largest margin of victory ever in a conference game, and the second biggest since 1965:
UTEP's 45-point triumph over UCF also ranks tied for the seventh-highest margin of victory in all games since 1965, including tied for third in games versus FBS opponents.
Notes on the Point Total Versus UCF
The 58 points against UCF marked the highest scoring output against an FBS opponent since 1988, when Bob Stull's Miners also tallied 58 points in a 51-point thrashing of San Diego State. Overall, it ties for the fifth most points ever against an FBS opponent, and the 10th-highest tally against a foe of any classification.
The Miners have now topped the 50-point barrier under head coach Mike Price four times. That effort ties the number of 50+ point games from 1988-2003. In fact, the Miners scored 50+ points on only five occasions from 1968-2003. Price now stands alone in second place for UTEP coaches in terms of 50+ point contests. Only Bobby Dobbs (six times) guided his team to more 50+ point games.
Brown Has Big Game For Stop Troops
Junior corner Cornelius Brown had a big night to spark the UTEP defense versus UCF. In addition to being credited with three tackles, he recorded a pair of interceptions (for 21 yards), two pass break-ups and a blocked punt. The blocked punt set up UTEP's first score of the game -- a 38-yard field goal by Jose Martinez -- and both of his interceptions resulted in Miner touchdowns. Brown had the first blocked punt by a UTEP player since Emeri Spence got a hand on Jared Scruggs' attempt against Rice on Nov. 4, 2006.
Brown now has two interceptions this season (the first versus Texas on Sept. 6) and six in his collegiate career.
Moturi Ends TD Drought
Junior WR Jeff Moturi, who tied for fourth nationally in touchdown receptions (13) last season, got into the end zone for the first time this season against UCF last week. He scored on a 25-yard pass from Trevor Vittatoe midway through the third quarter. Moturi now has 14 career touchdown catches, putting him in a tie with David Karns (1966-68) and Cedric Johnson (1993-96) for seventh place on the all-time UTEP list. Chuck Hughes, Bob Wallace, Volley Murphy and Reggie Barrett are part of a four-way tie for third place with 19 TD catches.
Frazier Puts on a Show
Freshman Vernon Frazier electrified the Sun Bowl crowd with a 55-yard touchdown run versus UCF -- the longest rushing play for the Miners in 2008. He ended the game with four carries for 73 yards, a sparkling 18.2-yard average. The week before against New Mexico State, he tallied 74 yards on 14 attempts. That gives him 147 yards on 18 rushes (8.2 avg.) over the last two contests. Frazier is third on the team in rushing (37.0 ypg) and averaging 7.0 yards per carry.
Miners Scored Double-Digit Points in Every Quarter Versus UCF
UTEP tallied 10 points in the first quarter, 17 in the second, 14 in the third and 17 in the fourth against UCF. It marked the first time that the Miners scored at least 10 points in every quarter since their 58-7 pasting of San Diego State on Nov. 12, 1988. In that game UTEP tabulated 17 points in the first quarter, 14 in the second, 10 in the third and 17 in the fourth.
Hunt Coming Through in the Clutch
Senior TE Jamar Hunt, who is tied for the team lead with 14 receptions, has made catches at opportune times. Eight of his receptions have resulted in first downs, including a team-leading five on third down.
Hunt is second on the team in receiving with 149 yards. He scored his first touchdown of the year against UCF when he reeled in a 14-yard pass from Trevor Vittatoe.
Martinez Making Long Kickoff Returns a Thing of the Past
Jose Martinez's strong leg has allowed UTEP's kickoff coverage team plenty of field to work with. Excluding an onside kick attempt at Buffalo, 13 of Martinez's 23 kickoffs have resulted in touchbacks. In 2007, Martinez managed only 22 touchbacks on 67 attempts in which he was not trying for an onside kick. Martinez is averaging 68.6 yards per kickoff in 2008 after averaging 65.5 yards a year ago.
Petersen Hikes Punting Average
Kyle Petersen has been much-improved in his second year as the Miners' punter, raising his average from 40.7 yards to 41.9. He opened the season by averaging a career-high 48.3 yards on three punts at Buffalo. Petersen has had a 50-yard punt in three of the Miners' first four games -- a career-long tying 59 yarder at Buffalo, a 54-yarder versus Texas and a 55-yarder against New Mexico State.
New Kids on the Block
Fourteen freshmen have seen action for the Miners already this season, including eight true freshmen -- Antwon Blake, Josh Flores, Ramonte Harris, Jamie Irving (who made his UTEP debut last week against UCF), Negale Miller, Bernard Obi, Daniel Palmer and Nick Sampson. Only two true freshmen -- Isaiah Carter and Craig Wood -- played for the Miners in all of 2007.
Miners Have 12 Seniors, Only Three Fifth Years
UTEP has only 12 seniors this season -- WR Chris Day, OL Robby Felix, DB Josh Ferguson, TE Jamar Hunt, RB Terrell Jackson, DB George Kelly, DL Ja-Boy Leomiti, K Jose Martinez, DL James Olalekan, LB Nuuese Punimata, LB Adam Vincent and DB Roddray Walker. Walker is out for the season with a separated shoulder. Of the 12 seniors, only three -- Day, Felix and Hunt -- are in their fifth year with the Miner program.
The 12 scholarship seniors ties UTEP for the fourth-lowest total among FBS programs. Alabama and Middle Tennessee have nine scholarship seniors, Central Michigan and Toledo have 10, and Minnesota and North Carolina have 11 apiece. Arizona, Fresno State and C-USA brethren UCF also have 12 scholarship seniors.
Streak Continues For Felix
Senior center Robby Felix made his 40th consecutive start against UCF. He has started every contest since his freshman year of 2005. Felix is on the watch list for the Rimington Trophy, presented to the nation's top center, for the third year in a row.
Miners Name Four Captains For `08
Bell in the Two-Deep, But Not in the Media Guide
Junior DB Dustin Bell isn't included in the 2008 UTEP media guide, but is listed second on the depth chart at right corner. Bell originally signed with the Miners as a wide receiver in the spring of 2006 before spending the last two seasons at Bakersfield College. He played his prep ball at Wilmer Hutchins High School in his hometown of Dallas, earning All-State and district MVP honors his senior year. He had 93 catches for 1,770 yards and 27 touchdowns in his high school career, leading Wilmer Hutchins HS to district titles his sophomore and senior campaigns. He was also an All-District baseball and basketball player. Bell compiled 70 tackles and 10 interceptions in two years at Bakersfield College. Bakersfield had the top-rated defense in the Western State Conference during the 2007 season, limiting the opposition to 256.3 yards per game. Bell's younger brother Derrius is a sophomore defensive back at SMU.
Price 11th on Active Wins List
Mike Price ranks 11th among active FBS coaches with 155 wins. He has posted a 155-148 mark in his 27th year as a Division I head coach, including a 26-26 record in his fifth year at the helm of the UTEP program. Price already rates fourth on UTEP's career wins list with 26 behind Mack Saxson (66), Mike Brumbelow (46) and Bobby Dobbs (41).
Eye-Popping Offensive Numbers Under Price
Since Mike Price took over as head coach for the 2004 season, UTEP has played 52 games and scored 30+ points thirty-two times -- a school record. The Miners have had fifteen 40-point games under Price, including five last year which tied the school standard originally established in 1950. UTEP has racked up 20,768 yards of offense under Price (399.3 avg.), including the top two seasonal outputs in school annals -- 5,074 yards in 2007 and 5,073 yards in 2005.
Amy, Walker, Williams Injured
Junior DB Braxton Amy, senior DB Roddray Walker and junior RB Jason Williams will all miss the entire 2008 season. Amy tore his ACL and Williams suffered a fractured dislocated ankle in spring ball. Walker sustained a separated shoulder in fall camp that will require surgery.
Amy was the team's leading tackler a year ago with 112 stops. Walker was a reserve safety in 2007. Williams has rushed for 154 yards on 48 carries as a Miner.
UTEP has scored multiple defensive touchdowns in back-to-back games for the first time in school history ... three Miners made their first career starts against UCF -- RB Donald Buckram and RT Will Osolinsky on offense, and RSLB Landon Goodwell on defense ... UTEP's opponents haven't attempted a field goal in four games ... UTEP forced three fumbles against UCF, its most in a game since Oct. 30, 2004 at San Jose State (four). UTEP has already forced six fumbles this year; the Miners forced seven total fumbles in 2006 and 2007 ... the Miners' 10 tackle for losses versus UCF tied for the third-top game total in the Mike Price era ... the Miners posted 10 tackles for losses, eight pass break-ups, six hurries, three forced fumbles, three sacks, two interceptions and a blocked punt in the victory against UCF for a total of 33 "big plays" by the defense (only category with no "big play" was safety). That ranks as the highest single-game total by a UTEP squad in the past 81 games. On Oct. 13, 2001 UTEP registered 18 QBs, 10 TFLs, four sacks, two pass break-ups and one forced fumble for a combined 35 "big plays" at Hawaii.