Miners to Take on Defending C-USA Champion Tulsa
Oct. 7, 2013
Miners Complete Two-Game Homestand Versus Defending C-USA Champion
UTEP (1-4, 0-2 C-USA) concludes a two-game homestand -- its only one of the year -- on Saturday when defending Conference USA champion Tulsa (1-4, 0-1 C-USA) comes to the Sun Bowl. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. MT and the game will be nationally televised on Fox Sports 1. The Miners are playing their first three conference games at home for the first time since 1953, when they were members of the Border Conference. UTEP is 0-2 thus far in the swing with a 32-13 loss to UTSA on Sept. 21, and a 38-35 loss to LA Tech last week. After Saturday, the Miners have a bye week at the midway point of the season before playing five of their last six regular season games on the road, starting at Rice on Oct. 26.
The Last Meeting
October 11, 2012
Tulsa leads 13-8 and has won three in a row over the Miners, tying its longest streak of victories in the series (also happened from 2002-04). The combined score of the last two matchups was 90-39 in favor of the Hurricane -- 57-28 in the Sun Bowl in 2011, and 33-11 at Tulsa a year ago. Tulsa leads the series in El Paso by a 6-4 count. However, after the Hurricane won the first four games in the Sun City from 1989-1999, the Miners have prevailed in four of the last six battles between the long-time rivals in the Sun Bowl. Three of the last four games between the teams in the venue have been decided by four points or less. That includes a 41-38 UTEP victory in 2005, a 48-47 triumph in 2007 and a 28-24 win in 2009. Two years ago, Tulsa snapped a three-game losing skid to the Miners in El Paso.
The Last Meeting
Ja’Terian Douglas had an 81-yard touchdown run and finished with 128 yards on 13 carries to help Tulsa top UTEP, 33-11, on Oct. 11, 2012 at H.A. Chapman Stadium. Alex Singleton added 96 yards and two touchdowns to tie the Tulsa career record for rushing TDs, and Cody Green was 13 of 22 for 198 yards for the Golden Hurricane. Jordan Leslie led UTEP with 10 catches for 218 yards and a touchdown. Carson Meger was 16 of 23 for 257 yards with a touchdown and an interception in relief of the injured Nick Lamaison. Up 6-3 at the half, Tulsa outscored UTEP 20-0 in the third quarter. Singleton scored on a 1-yard run, Douglas added his 81-yarder, and Shawn Jackson made it 26-3 with a 17-yard fumble return. UTEP ended a 10-quarter touchdown drought with Meger’s 61-yard pass to Leslie with 11:06 left. Singleton countered with a 10-yard scoring run. DeAundre Brown had 14 tackles for Tulsa, and the Hurricane defense forced three turnovers and had 10 tackles for loss and six sacks. Leslie became the sixth UTEP player to amass 200 receiving yards in a game, joining Arnie Adkison, Johnnie Lee Higgins Jr., Chuck Hughes, Volley Murphy and Bob Wallace, with the sixth-best single game total in school annals. Leslie accounted for over half of the Miners’ 407 total offensive yards. UTEP finished with 31 yards rushing and turned the ball over three times, leading to two Tulsa touchdowns.
UTEP DB Adrian James and Tulsa DB Will Barrow are both graduates of Skyline High School in Dallas. UTEP DL Cooper Brock and Tulsa LB Donnell Hawkins attended Copperas Cove [Texas] High School. UTEP LB Cooper Foster and Tulsa WR Chris Showels are both products of Vista Ridge High School in Cedar Park, Texas. UTEP DL Silas Firstley and Tulsa LB Craig Suits hail from Poteet High School in Mesquite, Texas. UTEP TE Katrae Ford and Tulsa DB Darrell Williams both graduated from Westfield High School in Houston.
The Hurricane entered the season having won 19 of its last 21 Conference USA games, but dropped to 0-1 in league play with last Saturday’s 30-27 overtime loss to Rice at H.A. Chapman Stadium. Taylor McHargue threw a 25-yard TD pass to Darik Dillard for the game-winner after Carl Salazar kicked a 36-yard field goal to put Tulsa ahead 27-24. Trey Watts rushed 34 times for 165 yards and two TDs as Tulsa gained 222 yards on the ground. Cody Green completed 16-of-32 passes for 193 yards for the Hurricane, but was picked off twice. Tulsa scored on its first two possessions and its last three, finishing with 415 yards while holding Rice to 344. Michael Mudoh (15 tackles) and DeWitt Jennings (12) both had double-figure tackles for the Hurricane. Jennings collected 2.5 tackles for losses and two sacks. The Hurricane has had its struggles on offense this year (21.0 ppg/362.0 ypg) while replacing three starters in the line. Tulsa does rank ninth nationally and first in C-USA in sacks allowed (0.8 per game). The Hurricane is also among the nation’s least penalized teams with 25 yards per game (third in the FBS) and 3.6 penalties per game (eighth). Tulsa returned just three starters on defense and is yielding 36 points and 412.2 yards per contest. The Hurricane’s individual stars include Watts on offense and defensive back Mudoh on defense. Watts is fifth in the country in all-purpose yards (188.0 ypg), and Mudoh is sixth in tackles (11.8 avg.). Tulsa is 0-2 on the road with losses to Bowling Green (34-7) and Oklahoma (51-20).
Kenneth Dixon rushed for 200 yards, and LA Tech racked up 353 in the ground game in a 38-35 win over UTEP on Oct. 5 in the Sun Bowl. The Bulldogs won their fourth in a row in El Paso and by the same score as the last time the teams met in the stadium in 2003. Jameill Showers completed 18-of-33 passes for 237 yards and three TDs for UTEP, and Jordan Leslie went over 100 yards receiving for the third time in four games with five catches for 114 yards. Aaron Jones added 121 rushing yards for the Miners. The Bulldogs scored 24 unanswered points after Showers gave UTEP a 7-0 lead on a one-yard touchdown run with 11:17 remaining in the first quarter. The Miners cut the 17-point deficit to 10 (24-14) late in the second quarter on Showers’ 28-yard pass to Leslie. UTEP had a chance to pull closer before halftime when Richard Spencer forced and recovered a fumble by the Bulldogs’ Ryan Higgins at the Miner 25-yard line, but time ran out as he returned the ball to the LA Tech 17-yard line. The Miners pulled within a field goal (24-21) early in the third quarter when LA Tech’s D.J. Banks fumbled a punt return, and Trey Brown recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchdown. The Bulldogs reinstated a 10-point lead (31-21) on Higgins’ two-yard run with 7:35 remaining in the period. UTEP answered with a three-play, 72-yard drive, capped by a 65-yard touchdown pass from Showers to Leslie, to make the score 31-28. The backbreaker came at the start of the fourth quarter when LA Tech, facing third and 21 at its own one-yard line, moved the ball to the Miner 27-yard line on a 72-yard run by Dixon. Three plays later, Dixon punched it into the end zone with a nine-yard rushing TD. UTEP mounted an 11-play, 69-yard drive, but Jay Mattox’s 22-yard field goal was blocked by LA Tech’s Daniel Cobb. The Miners closed the gap to three points (38-35) with 1:03 remaining on a six-yard touchdown pass from Showers to Craig Wenrick. But the Bulldogs recovered the onside kick and UTEP, with no timeouts, was unable to stop the clock.
UTEP is 0-3 in the Sun Bowl for the first time since 1992, when it finished 0-5 at home. The Miners have lost five straight games in the stadium dating back to 2012, their longest skid since also dropping five in a row over the course of the 2007 and 2008 seasons. UTEP hasn’t lost six consecutive home games since dropping nine in a row from 1991-92.
Slow Start in Conference Too
The Miners are 0-2 in Conference USA play, marking the third straight year that they have dropped their first two league games. The Miners got off to an 0-2 start in C-USA action in 2011, and 0-3 in 2012. Prior to that, UTEP achieved at least a split in its first two C-USA games in its first six years as a league member (2005-10), including 2-0 starts in 2006, 2007 and 2008.
No Trouble Scoring
For the first time in school history, UTEP has scored 35 points or more in four of its first five games. The Miners are averaging 33.4 ppg, which would rank sixth in school history and best since 2007 (33.6 ppg). UTEP is the only Conference USA school to tally 35 points or more in four games this season (East Carolina, Florida Atlantic, Marshall and Middle Tennessee have achieved the feat twice). The last time the Miners had four 35-point games in a season was 2009 (four), and the last time they had more than that was 2008 (seven).
The Miners have totaled 1,093 passing yards and 1,007 rushing yards on the year. The 52/48 percent split is the closest for UTEP since 1991 when it compiled 2,110 yards rushing (49 percent) and 2,176 passing (51 percent). UTEP has run 223 rushing plays and 155 pass plays in 2013. The Miners have rushed for 57 first downs and passed for 48. UTEP is on pace to have more rushing first downs than passing first downs for the first time since 2003.
Miners Dominating Time of Possession
UTEP is averaging 33:05 of possession time, a figure which rates 17th nationally and second in Conference USA. The Miners held the ball for a school-record 41:53 at NM State on Sept. 14, and 35:55 at Colorado State on Sept. 28. The last time the Miners played two games in a season where they controlled the clock for 35:55 or more was in 2008 (36:41 versus Texas and 36:40 against SMU), and the last time they did so in two road games was in 1996 (36:16 at San Jose State, 37:37 at Northern Illinois). The Miners have compiled 13 offensive drives of 10 plays or more in 2013, putting them well on their way to eclipsing last year’s seasonal number (19).
When it Rains ...
The Miners have shown that they can get in a real groove offensively this season. In week one against New Mexico, they scored TDs on four straight possessions during the first, second and third quarters. In week two at NM State they put together consecutive TD drives twice, in the first and fourth periods. In week four at Colorado State, they punched it in for six points on three drives in a row to start the third quarter, then on their last two possessions of the final period. The Miners scored three second-half touchdowns last week against LA Tech, including on back-to-back drives in the third quarter to get back into the game.
602 Yards in Two Games For Showers
Jameill Showers has thrown for 602 yards and eight touchdowns in the last two games. The 602 yards are the most by a UTEP quarterback in back-to-back contests since Trevor Vittatoe threw for 761 yards in the final two games of the 2009 season.
Showers’ Career Night
Jameill Showers established career-highs for passing attempts (43), completions (26), yardage (365), and passing touchdowns (five) at Colorado State on Sept. 28. His performance earned him a spot on the Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award National Player of the Week Honorable Mention list for the fifth week of the college football season. Showers is one of nine UTEP quarterbacks to throw for five TDs in a game, joining Brooks Dawson, Sammy Garza, Howard Gasser, Bob Laraba, Jordan Palmer, John Rayborn, Billy Stevens and Trevor Vittatoe. His 365 yards passing were the most by a UTEP player against an FBS opponent since Vittatoe compiled a school-record 517 in the 2009 season finale against Marshall. Showers is one of 12 UTEP quarterbacks to pass for 300+ yards in a game.
Showers Getting it Done With His Feet Too
Jameill Showers is UTEP’s third-leading rusher with 117 yards. He has four rushing TDs this season, most by a UTEP quarterback since Orlando Cruz had five in 2003. The last Miner signal-caller with more than five rushing scores in a season was Rocky Perez in 2000 (six).
A Responsible Guy
Jameill Showers is tied for 20th nationally in points responsible for (86), having thrown for 10 touchdowns and a two-point conversion and rushing for four TDs this season. He ranks second in the statistical category among Conference USA players behind East Carolina’s Shane Carden (96 points). At his current pace, Showers would be responsible for 34 touchdowns this season, which would tie the school record. Trevor Vittatoe was responsible for 34 TDs in 2008.
Showers Doing His Part Taking Care of the Football
Jameill Showers has thrown two interceptions in 155 pass attempts this season. UTEP is tied for sixth in the country in passes intercepted (two). New Mexico has had zero picks, while Houston, Louisville, Nebraska and Army have one each. Including his last six games at Texas A&M (2012), Showers has thrown two interceptions over his last 189 pass attempts. He had a string of 91 consecutive pass attempts without an interception come to an end in the second quarter versus LA Tech last week.
Leslie’s Warming Up
Jordan Leslie has three 100-yard receiving games in the last four contests. He compiled 103 yards at NM State, 130 at Colorado State and 114 versus LA Tech. The last UTEP receiver to go over 100 yards three times in the first five games of a season was Lee Mays in 2000. Leslie has posted back-to-back games with multiple TD receptions and back-to-back games with 100+ yards receiving for the first time as a Miner. He now has seven career 100-yard receiving games, the ninth-top total in school history. Bob Wallace (1965-67) ranks eighth with eight 100-yard games. Leslie has 1,786 career receiving yards, leaving him 148 away from cracking the all-time UTEP top-10 list.
Jones is Something Special
El Paso native Aaron Jones has established himself as one of the top freshmen running backs in the nation. He ranks 32nd in the FBS, averaging 93.4 yards per game, and second among freshmen behind Arkansas’ Alex Collins (108.5 ypg). Jones is the first UTEP freshman to lead the team in rushing in at least four of the first five games in a season since Mike Belew in 1974. UTEP’s all-time leading rusher, John Harvey, compiled 777 yards as a freshman in 1985. Jones is on pace for 1,121 yards in 2013, which would be a Miner rookie record and the 10th-most in a season in school history. Jones has two 100-yard rushing games this season. That’s the most by a UTEP freshman since Harvey had four in 1985.
Running Game Has Been Plenty Potent
The Miners are averaging 201.4 yards rushing per game to rank 39th nationally. UTEP went over 200 yards rushing for the third time this season versus LA Tech last week. That ties the total number of 200-yard games for the 2012 season. The Miners had four 200-yard games in 2011. UTEP has been particularly adept at running the football in the second half this season. The Miners have compiled 146 rushing yards in the first quarter this season, 158 in the second quarter, 308 in the third quarter and 379 in the fourth quarter.
Running Backs Have Been Involved in the Passing Game as Well
UTEP running backs Josh Bell, Nathan Jeffery, Aaron Jones and Darrin Laufasa have combined to make 20 catches for 118 yards this season. Last year, the running backs had 20 catches for 146 yards in 12 games. Two UTEP running backs (Jeffery and Laufasa) have touchdown receptions this season. No UTEP running backs had TD catches a year ago, and the last time two did so in a season was 2008 (Terrell Jackson and Daniel Palmer one each).
Tight Ends More of a Focal Point in Offense
The UTEP tight ends combined for 11 catches and 116 yards in the Colorado State game on Sept. 28. The last time the Miners received that kind of production from the position was during the 2000 season. On Nov. 11, 2000 versus Rice -- the night UTEP clinched at least a share of the WAC title -- Brian Natkin and Joey Knapp combined for nine catches for 141 yards. The tight ends added six receptions for 97 yards last week versus LA Tech. This year, they have totaled 26 catches for 288 yards. The tight ends had 23 receptions for 252 yards in all of 2012.
Kickoff Returns are Golden
Only a sophomore with 17 games under his UTEP belt, Autrey Golden is in seventh place on UTEP’s all-time kickoff return list with 1,210 yards. He is targeting Sam Rogers, who stands in sixth place with 1,252 yards. Golden and Cedric Johnson are tied for first place in UTEP annals with three kickoff returns for scores.
Golden and the National Rankings
Autrey Golden ranks 23rd nationally in kickoff return average (27.7), and second in kickoff returns for TDs (one). Golden’s 28.1 career kickoff return average ranks eighth among active FBS players behind Miami (Fla.)’s Duke Johnson (32.4), Kansas State’s Tyler Lockett (31.8), Purdue’s Raheem Mostert (29.2), Texas State’s Jafus Gaines (28.9), Middle Tennessee’s Reggie Whatley (28.9), Georgia Tech’s Jamal Golden (28.3) and Kent State’s Dri Archer (28.2). Golden is tied for sixth among active FBS players with three kickoff returns for TDs in his career. Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert has five, while Lockett, Archer, Florida’s Andre Debose and Northern Illinois’ Tommylee Lewis have four each. Golden is second among active FBS players in kickoff return yards per game (71.2) after North Texas’ Brelan Chancellor (80.8). Golden’s theatrics this season have helped the Miners garner a no. 18 national ranking in kickoff returns (25.3 avg.).
Miners Among Least Penalized
The discipline that Sean Kugler has brought to the UTEP football program shows in the national rankings for penalties and penalty yards. The Miners rate 24th in the country in penalties per game (4.8) and 28th in penalty yards per game (40.6). For the season, UTEP has been assessed 24 penalties for 203 yards in five games. It marks the fewest total penalties for the Miners through five games since 1992 (21).
Ball Security is in Play
The Miners didn’t commit their first turnover of the season until the third quarter of game two at NM State (Sept. 14). They turned in an error-free performance in weeks one (New Mexico) and three (UTSA). For the season, UTEP has a total of four giveaways (two fumbles/two interceptions) to rate fifth in the nation. Louisville is first with two, while Navy, Florida State and Houston have three each. The Miners have lost one fumble in 223 rushing plays this season.
UTEP has eight takeaways (six fumbles/two interceptions) and four giveaways this season. The Miners’ turnover margin (0.8) ranks 28th in the FBS. After recovering a pair of fumbles versus LA Tech last week, UTEP now rates 14th nationally in the statistical category. The Miners have scored 42 points off turnovers this season, while opponents have tallied 18.
Richard Spencer was playing about as well as any defensive back in the country last season before blowing out his knee in the fourth game at Wisconsin. He posted 36 tackles, a tackle for loss, an interception, a pass break-up, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and a blocked kick before his season ended prematurely. It was a long road back, but Spencer is starting to round into form. He posted a career-high 17 tackles last week against LA Tech. It marked the most stops by a UTEP player since future Pittsburgh Steeler Da’Mon Cromartie-Smith had 19 versus Buffalo in the 2009 season opener. The forced fumble by Spencer in the second quarter was the fifth of his career, tying him for eighth place on UTEP’s all-time list. Trey Merkens (1997-00) and Robert Rodriguez (2001-04) are tied for sixth place with six forced fumbles.
Three of a Kind
The Miners had 10 players with 10 or more tackles (Richard Spencer, Roy Robertson-Harris, Marcus Bagley) versus LA Tech last week for the first time since the final game of the 2012 season versus Rice (Josh Fely, Drew Thomas, Aubrey Alexius). The numbers were career highs for all three players as Spencer was credited with 17 stops, and Robertson-Harris and Bagley 10 apiece. Robertson-Harris added three tackles for losses and 2.5 sacks after the Miners compiled two sacks as a team in the season’s first four games.
Why They’re Struggling
While the Miners have yielded 38.4 points and 464 yards per game this season, keep in mind that coordinator Scott Stoker came on board after spring ball and couldn’t start implementing his 4-2-5 scheme until practice began in early August. Complicating matters even further is the fact that UTEP’s defensive personnel is largely new, particularly in the secondary. In only five games this season, 13 Miners have made their first starts on defense, including cornerbacks Nick Gathrite, Ishmael Harrison (moved from wide receiver this season), Adrian James and Da’Carlos Renfro, and safeties Devin Cockrell, Jameel Erving, Leon Hayes, Demarcus Kizzie, Traun Roberson and Dashone Smith. Erving and Gathrite are junior college transfers, while Cockrell, Hayes and Smith are freshmen. In all UTEP has started 20 different players on defense this season.
Players Turned Coaches
Sean Kugler is the second UTEP head coach who played for the Miners at one time. The other is Walter Milner, a three-year letterman from 1931-33 who served as head coach in 1942. Kugler is one of 12 active Division I head coaches who played at the school where they are currently coaching.
School Head Coach Years Played at School
Air Force Troy Calhoun 1985-88
East Carolina Ruffin McNeill 1976-80
Kent State Paul Haynes 1987-91
Miami (Ohio) Don Treadwell 1978-81
Northwestern Pat Fitzgerald 1993-96
Oklahoma State Mike Gundy 1986-89
Stanford David Shaw 1991-94
Texas Tech Kliff Kingsbury 1999-02
Tulsa Bill Blankenship 1975-79
Utah State Matt Wells 1994-96
UTEP Sean Kugler 1985-88
Virginia Tech Frank Beamer 1966-68
Two years after completing an eight-year run with the U.S. Army, Michael Kelly is a 27-year old linebacker hoping to make the most of his senior year with the Miners. He was in for special teams duty in the opener against New Mexico. Kelly’s service dates were from October, 2003 to June, 2011. He was stationed in Fort Bragg, N.C. (2004-05), Darmstadt Germany (2005-07) and Fort Bliss, Texas (2007-11). He worked in communications including as a switching system operator. His highest title was platoon sergeant (2009-11). He and his wife, Denise, have two sons, Kenneth (six years old) and Michael Jr., who will turn two years old on Oct. 14.
Up Next: at Rice
The Miners will return to action on Oct. 26 versus the Owls, as they begin a stretch of five road games in their last six outings.