Miners to Battle Rice in 79th Homecoming Game
Oct. 4, 2010
Miners, Owls Square Off in 79th Homecoming Affair
UTEP (4-1, 1-1 C-USA) begins a stretch of five straight games versus Conference USA opponents on Saturday when Rice (1-4, 0-1 C-USA) comes to the Sun Bowl. It marks the Miners' 79th Homecoming game. UTEP is 35-42-1 on Homecoming, including 8-4 over the last 12 seasons. The Miners have posted back-to-back Homecoming wins, topping Tulane in 2008 (24-21) and Houston in 2009 (58-41).
The Miners are off to their best start since 2005 when they won eight of their first nine contests. UTEP has posted wins in at least four of its first five games for the 12th time in school history, joining the 1930, 1931, 1932, 1948, 1949, 1953, 1956, 1957, 1987, 1988 and 2005 squads. Of those teams, all went on to record at least five victories in their first six contests.
The Miners are 16-8 in the month of October under head coach Mike Price, including 9-3 at home.
UTEP's three-game winning streak is its longest since 2008. The Miners haven't captured four consecutive victories since 2005, when they put together five wins in a row.
UTEP to Honor 2000 WAC Championship Team
UTEP will observe the 10th anniversary of the school's lone Western Athletic Conference championship team on Saturday. The Miners were 8-4 in 2000 and shared the WAC regular season title with TCU (both teams posted a 7-1 mark in league play). UTEP posted a school-record seven game winning streak that year (a feat later duplicated by the 2004 squad) and played in the Crucial.com Humanitarian Bowl.
The Owls slipped to 1-4 with Saturday's 42-31 loss to SMU in Houston. Despite their record, the Owls have been highly competitive this season while facing three teams from power conferences. They trailed Texas 24-10 late in the third quarter and Baylor 27-13 late in the fourth quarter. They were also within two scores of Northwestern late in the third period (20-6). Texas, Baylor and Northwestern are a combined 12-3 this season.
Rice rates 53rd nationally in passing offense (229.4 ypg) behind junior signal-caller Nick Fanuzzi, who has completed 89-of-141 passes for 903 yards. He was 27-of-43 for 276 yards against SMU last week. Rice also has a couple of high-profile FBS transfers in QB Taylor Cook (Miami) and RB Sam McGuffie (Michigan). Cook has completed 13-of-22 passes for 98 yards, and McGuffie is the team's leading rusher with 68 carries for 255 yards. The Owls are solid in the kicking area with freshman Chris Boswell (tied for fourth in the nation with 2.0 field goals per game) and junior punter Kyle Martens (fourth in the country, 47.5-yard average).
The Owls lead the series 8-5. UTEP hasn't beaten Rice since 2005, as the Owls have won the last four matchups between the schools.
The teams have split six previous meetings in El Paso.
The last six matchups between the state rivals have all been decided by eight points or less. The average total number of points scored in the previous 13 games of the series has been 66.4.
The Last Meeting
Donald Buckram ran for 147 yards to shatter a UTEP single season rushing record that had stood for 61 years, but the Miners fell at Rice, 30-29, on Nov. 21, 2009.
The Miners lost leads of 13-0, 20-10 and 29-17.UTEP shot itself in the foot time continuously in the second half, losing four fumbles, including three in the fourth quarter. The Miners had lost just three fumbles all year coming into the contest.
Buckram had 115 yards on 18 carries by halftime, but was limited to 32 yards on 16 attempts after the break. He fumbled twice in the closing minutes, including once on the goal line with 5:02 to go. The play resulted in a touchback. He fumbled again with 2:03 left and UTEP at the Rice 39.
The UTEP defense held Rice to 227 yards, the fewest by a Miner opponent in 2009.
Charles Ross rushed for three touchdowns, including two in the fourth quarter, to lead the Owls. He scored the winning TD with 7:45 remaining. Tyler Smith ran for 127 yards and a score for Rice.
UTEP-Rice Player Ties
UTEP's two-deep features one native of Houston (DB Antwon Blake) and seven from the greater Houston area (LB Aubrey Alexius, OL Eloy Atkinson, RB Joe Banyard, OL Nathan McCage, DL Bernard Obi, LB Royzell Smith and DL Greg Watkins). Rice DL Jared Williams and UTEP DL Adam Ayala were teammates for one year at Huntsville [Texas] HS. Rice OL Keshawn Carrington and UTEP's Smith started together for two years at Thurgood Marshall HS (Missouri City, Texas).
Rice DB Philip Gaines and UTEP LB Isaiah Carter both graduated from Converse [Texas] HS, but they missed playing together by one year.
Rice OL Scott Mitchell & TE Luke Willson and UTEP OL Brander Craighead all hail from the province of Ontario. Rice OL Eric Ball & DL John Gioffre and UTEP's Watkins are from Katy, Texas. Rice QB Nick Fanuzzi & OL Justin Warren and UTEP TE Jonny Moore are natives of San Antonio, Texas. Rice WR Andy Erickson and UTEP K Dakota Warren are from Austin, Texas. Rice DB Travis Bradshaw & RB Sam McGuffie and UTEP's Alexius hail from Cypress, Texas. Rice DB Chris Jones and UTEP OL Rod Huntley are natives of Arlington, Texas.
UTEP-Rice Coaching Ties
Nate Poss, UTEP's Assistant AD for Football Operations, earned four letters (1973-76) and was in the starting lineup for two years (1975-76) at Rice, receiving his degree from the school in 1978. Owls defensive coordinator Chuck Driesbach and UTEP WR coach Guy Holliday worked together at Western Michigan in 2000.
UTEP in the NCAA/C-USA Stats
The Miners rank in the top-50 nationally in kickoff returns (fifth, 27.5 avg.), punt returns (12th, 15.1 avg.), turnover margin (15th, 0.80), sacks allowed (tied for 21st, 1.0 avg.), passing efficiency defense (25th, 108.63), passing offense (33rd, 250.4 ypg), total offense (36th, 424.2 ypg), scoring defense (45th, 21.4 ppg) and rushing offense (47th, 173.8 ypg). Individually, senior WR Kris Adams is 33rd in receiving yards per game (83.8), sophomore WR Marlon McClure is tied for 17th in punt returns (14.0 avg.), 18th in kickoff returns (30.7 avg.) and tied for 39th in all-purpose yards (134.5 avg.), junior DB TraVaun Nixon is tied for 29th in interceptions (0.5 avg.), senior QB Trevor Vittatoe is 27th in total offense (269.0 ypg) and sophomore K Dakota Warren is tied for 50th in field goals (1.2 avg.).
UTEP is first in C-USA in kickoff returns, punt returns and turnover margin. The Miners are second in the league in sacks allowed, and third in passing efficiency defense, scoring defense and pass defense. Adams is third in receiving yards per game, junior RB Joe Banyard is fifth in rushing (66.0 ypg), McClure is second in kickoff returns & punt returns and fourth in all-purpose yards, Nixon is tied for third in interceptions, Vittatoe is third in total offense and fifth in passing efficiency (132.21) and Warren is fifth in field goals and ninth in scoring (7.4 ppg).
UTEP Climbs to 4-1 with 38-20 Triumph at UNM
Trevor Vittatoe completed 20-of-37 passes for 264 yards and three TDs, and Kris Adams also had a big game with five catches for 141 yards as UTEP dealt New Mexico its 20th loss in 21 games, 38-20 in Albuquerque last Saturday.
Adams scored on catches of 49 and 48 yards as UTEP won at UNM for the first time in 12 years. The Miners completed a season sweep of Southwest rivals New Mexico and NM State for the 23rd time in school history, while beating both by double-digit points for only the 13th occasion.
UTEP once again turned in a sterling defensive effort, holding the Lobos to 237 yards of offense including 98 rushing. New Mexico averaged only 3.8 yards per play.
After New Mexico knotted the game at 14 on a blocked field goal return by Anthony Hooks late in the first quarter, the Miners scored 24 unanswered points to build a 38-14 cushion late in the fourth quarter. UTEP racked up 169 of its 435 total yards on the ground, as Joe Banyard ran 15 times for 90 yards.
Fast to Four
UTEP is one of 31 FBS teams to record at least four wins in the first five weeks of the season, joining Air Force, Alabama, Arizona, Auburn, Baylor, Boise State, Florida, Florida State, Iowa, Kansas State, LSU, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Missouri, N.C. State, Nebraska, Nevada, Northwestern, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Southern Miss, Stanford, TCU, Temple, USC, Utah and Wisconsin.
Texas Three Step
UTEP has posted a 6-9 record versus the other three C-USA teams from the Lone Star state (3-2 versus SMU, 2-3 versus Houston, 1-4 versus Rice) since joining the league for the 2005 season. The Miners are 4-3 versus those schools in the Sun Bowl, but 0-2 versus Rice. In fact, Rice and UAB are the only two C-USA teams to win twice in the Sun Bowl since the league's realignment five years ago.
The Miners are Streaking
UTEP has strung together three victories in a row, marking only the 17th time in the modern era (since 1965) that the Miners have compiled a winning streak that long. Of the 17 separate winning streaks of three games or more, seven have occurred under coach Mike Price's watch.
Vittatoe on Verge of Breaking School Records
Trevor Vittatoe could break UTEP career records for total offense, passing yards and passing touchdowns against Rice on Saturday. Vittatoe trails Jordan Palmer (2003-06) in all three categories. He needs 260 yards of offense, 152 passing yards and three passing TDs to overtake Palmer in the respective categories.
Vittatoe Climbing Up C-USA Career Lists as Well
Trevor Vittatoe is the seventh player in Conference USA history to throw for 10,000 yards. Against New Mexico last week, he passed Louisville's Chris Redman (1996-99) and Houston's Kevin Kolb (2003-06) into third place on the all-time C-USA passing TDs list. Vittatoe is also fifth in passing yards (10,933) and seventh in total offense (10,782 yards).
C-USA Career Total Offense Leaders
Where Vittatoe Stacks Up With All-Time FBS Quarterbacks
Trevor Vittatoe needs two TD passes to tie Florida's Chris Leak (2003-06), UTEP's Jordan Palmer (2003-06), Florida's Tim Tebow (2006-09) and Oklahoma's Sam Bradford (2007-09) for the 23rd-most in NCAA history. He needs 316 passing yards to tie Oregon State's Derek Anderson (2001-04) for 25th place on the all-time NCAA list.
Vittatoe Could Join Some Elite Company
Trevor Vittatoe is on pace to become only the 12th player in NCAA history to hit the century mark in touchdown passes. Here's a look at who has already achieved the feat.
Player School Years TDs
Adams Etches Name on Receiving Yardage List
Kris Adams now ranks ninth in UTEP history with 2,006 receiving yards. He needs 16 yards to tie Chris Francies (2002-05) for eighth place, and 155 to tie Bob Wallace (1965-67) for seventh place. Adams is also fourth in school annals in TD catches (21), and eighth in 100-yard games (seven).
Adams Extends Streak of Games With Catch
Kris Adams has caught a pass in 29 consecutive games, tied for the 11th-longest active streak in the country.
Consecutive Games With a Reception
Adams is Seeing Double
For the second time in three games, and the sixth time in his career, Kris Adams recorded multiple touchdown receptions at New Mexico. The six games with two or more TD catches are the most by a UTEP player since Johnnie Lee Higgins, Jr. also had six from 2003-06. The last Miner with more than six multiple-TD reception games was Lee Mays from 1998-2001 (seven).
Adams & Vittatoe Listed Among FBS Career Leaders
Through Oct. 2, senior WR Kris Adams was tied for eighth among active FBS players in touchdown catches (21), and 17th in receiving yards (2,006). Senior QB Trevor Vittatoe was second in pass attempts (1,415), completions (796), passing yards (10,933) and passing touchdowns (86); third in total offense (10,782 yards) and TDs responsible for (87); and fourth in passing yards per game (266.7) and total offense per game (263.0).
Take it Away
The Miners already have eight interceptions in five games, putting them on pace for 19 which would mark their top seasonal total since 1989. The Miners' interception total is tied for ninth in the nation and ranks first in Conference USA.
UTEP has had three games with multiple interceptions this season (Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Memphis, New Mexico), tying its total number from the 2009 season. The Miners have put together consecutive games with two or more picks for the first time since November of 2008, when they achieved the feat against Louisiana-Lafayette and SMU. The last time UTEP had three straight games with multiple interceptions (within one season) was in 2004.
Pushing ` Em Back
Over the last two games, UTEP's defense has produced 12 tackles for losses and three sacks. In the first three contests of the season, the stop troops registered six tackles behind the line of scrimmage with two sacks. Junior LB Jamie Irving and freshman DL Germard Reed are tied for the team lead with 2.5 tackles for losses, and sophomore DL Ruben Munoz has two sacks to pace the Miners.
Keeping the Yardage Down
UTEP has held four of its first five opponents under 300 yards of offense for the first time since 1966 and the third occasion of the modern era. UTEP opened the 1966 campaign with six such games. In 1965 the Miners held four straight foes and seven of the initial eight below the figure.
Putting it into Perspective
UTEP's stop troops have registered a quartet of games in which the opposition failed to eclipse 300 yards. That makes this just the third UTEP team since 1977 and the 10th in the modern era to record four such contests in a season. The breakdown for the other squads to achieve the feat, including their tally at this juncture of the season, is as follows:
Games Holding Opp. Under 300 Yards of Offense
More Along Those Lines
The Miners are yielding 351 yards and 21.4 points per game. It marks the fewest yards per contest surrendered since 2004 (344.8), and the sixth-fewest allowed through five games since 1975. In terms of points, it is the eighth-lowest figure since 1971 and the lowest scoring output at this juncture of a season since 1996.
Points Not Coming Easy for the Opposition
Three straight UTEP opponents have been held to 21 points or less for the first time since 1997 and the third occasion since 1988. The last time four consecutive opponents failed to register more than 20 points (within one season) was in 1965.
Four of the first five opponents of 2010 have been limited to 20 points or less for the first time since 1967 and the fifth time since 1960 (1960, 1964 and 1965).
A Couple More Defensive Tidbits
The Miners have yielded 324 yards in the fourth quarter this season, an average of 64.8 per game. UTEP has yet to allow a touchdown in the second half of a home game, outscoring foes 51-3 after the break while surrendering a total of 312 yards (104 per contest).
Miners Getting the Ground Game Going Without Buckram
Despite Donald Buckram -- the nation's no. 2 leading returning rusher entering the season -- playing in just one of the first five games due to a bruised knee, UTEP has been more than effective at running the football in 2010. The Miners are averaging 173.8 yards per game on the ground, including 5.2 yards per carry. Both numbers are significant improvements from a year ago, when UTEP averaged 151.1 yards rushing and 4.5 yards per attempt.
The Miners have hit the century mark in rushing yards as a team in each of the first five contests despite not having an individual 100-yard back. It marks the first time since 1992 that UTEP has both rushed for 100 yards in its first five games and done so without an individual eclipsing the century mark.
Joe Banyard has helped cover for Buckram's absence by rushing for a team-leading 330 yards, including a pair of 90-yard performances (94 versus Arkansas-Pine Bluff, 90 at New Mexico). He has paced the Miners in rushing in four of five outings.
Buckram Could Be Back This Week
Donald Buckram has played in just one of the first five games while nursing a knee injury, but he could return to the Miner lineup this week. Buckram needs just 25 yards to tie Fred Wendt (1942,46-48) for 10th place on UTEP's career rushing list. Buckram has 382 carries for 2,141 yards in a Miner uniform. With 3,214 career all-purpose yards, Buckram needs 17 to tie Wendt for 10th place in that statistical category as well. Buckram's next rushing TD will be the 21st of his career and lift him into a tie for sixth place on the UTEP chart with Owen Price (1938,40-41).
McClure Putting the "Special" in Special Teams
Marlon McClure is the only player in the FBS listed in the top-20 in kickoff returns and punt returns. He has had five games with 100 all-purpose yards as a Miner.
McClure leads the team with 11 "big plays" (20 yards or more), with nine coming via the kickoff return. He has had 32 kickoff returns for 20+ yards in 13 collegiate games.
UTEP Restoring Home Field Advantage
After splitting 24 home games with their opponents over the previous four seasons, the Miners are 3-0 at home for the first time since 2007. UTEP also won its first three home games during the 1929, 1930, 1932, 1937, 1938, 1939, 1948, 1949, 1950, 1956, 1957, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1987, 1988, 1999, 2000 and 2005 seasons. The last time UTEP started 4-0 at home was in 2005.
UTEP Showing Resiliency
The Miners have certainly demonstrated resolve early in the 2010 season. In the season opener versus Arkansas-Pine Bluff, UTEP allowed the Golden Lions to move 80 yards on 10 plays for a TD on their initial drive before outscoring them 31-3 the rest of the night. On Sept. 25 against Memphis, the ordinarily explosive UTEP offense was held in check for most of the game before putting together a 12-play, 95-yard game-winning drive (punctuated by Dakota Warren's 18-yard field goal) over the final 3:13. Last week the Miners overcame an early fumble in New Mexico territory that enabled the Lobos to score the game's first TD.
Perhaps typifying the team's "bounce-back" attitude, UTEP is 3-0 this season when its opponent scores first.
That's Another Miner First Down ...
Although UTEP's school-record streak of consecutive games with 20+ first downs ended at eight against Memphis, the Miners have still averaged 23.4 first downs this season -- tied for the 21st-highest figure in the country. Among C-USA teams, only Tulsa (27.2 avg.) and East Carolina (24.3 avg.) average more first downs per game.
Miners Doing a Great Job Hanging on to the Football
The Miners have given the ball away only six times in five games, putting them in a tie for 23rd nationally in turnovers lost. That ties UTEP for the C-USA lead with East Carolina.
Trevor Vittatoe has a sparkling 11-2 ratio of touchdown passes to interceptions. Vittatoe has thrown only two picks in his last 231 pass attempts dating back to the 2009 season. As a team, UTEP is tied for 10th nationally in interceptions thrown.
A Shout-Out to the O-Line
While the Adams, Buckrams and Vittatoes of the world may get all the attention, the UTEP offensive line -- with a combined 87 starts to its credit entering the Rice game -- has done a nice job paving the way for the Miners to average 30.2 points and 424.2 yards per game. The offensive line has yielded only five sacks in five games to tie for 21st in the country.
Third Quarter Has Been Huge for the Miners
UTEP has outscored opponents 56-6 in the third quarter this season. The Miners have gained more yards in the third period (631, 126.2 per game) than in any other. Eight of UTEP's 19 TDs have been scored in the third quarter.
UTEP entered the week rated eighth nationally in third down conversion percentage (.534). The Miners are third in C-USA in that statistical category behind Houston (.540) and Southern Miss (.537).
UTEP Loses Amy For the Season
If a 54-24 loss at Houston on Sept. 10 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 required 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.
A different UTEP player will wear Amy's #1 jersey each game for the rest of the season. Senior LB Anthony Morrow did the honors against NM State, senior WR Pierce Hunter versus Memphis and senior DL Robert Soleyjacks at New Mexico.
Miners Spreading the Wealth on Offense Once Again
Seventeen different UTEP players have made receptions through four games -- tying the high water mark of the Mike Price era originally established in 2008.
Twelve players caught a pass in the Miners' loss at Houston on Sept. 10, the most for UTEP in the Price regime.
Here Come the Rookies
To date, 12 freshmen have seen action for the Miners this season. They are DL Adam Ayala, DL Marcus Bagley, LB James Davidson, 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.
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.
Miners Have Tri-Captains
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).
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.
29th Season For Price
UTEP's Mike Price is 167-161 in his 29th season as a collegiate head coach, including 38-39 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 167 victories behind Penn State's Joe Paterno (397), Ohio State's Jim Tressel (234), Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer (232), Texas' Mack Brown (217), Nevada's Chris Ault (211), South Carolina's Steve Spurrier (180), Notre Dame's Brian Kelly (173) and Arizona State's Dennis Erickson (170).
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: at UAB
The Miners will be on the road for four of their last six games, beginning on Oct. 16 when they play at UAB. UTEP is 1-2 versus the Blazers since joining C-USA, but 1-0 on UAB's home turf with a 36-17 triumph during the 2006 season. UAB won in El Paso, 38-33, on Halloween a year ago.