GAME 6: Miners Seek First C-USA Victory at Tulane
Oct. 10, 2011
UTEP (2-3, 0-2 C-USA) returns to action after a 16-day break on Saturday when the Miners head to the "Big Easy" to face Tulane (2-4, 1-1). Kickoff is slated for 1:30 p.m. MT. The game will be nationally televised on Fox College Sports with Steve Physioc (play-by-play), Yogi Roth (analyst) and Desmond Purnell (sideline) calling the game.
The Miners are looking for their first C-USA victory of the season after losses to SMU (28-17; Sept. 10) and Houston (49-42; Sept. 29). UTEP has dropped 12 consecutive conference road games dating back to Oct. 4, 2008 when the Miners defeated Southern Miss 40-37 in double overtime. The Miners are 0-1 in league road trips this season.
The series is tied 3-3. Tulane has won three of the last four meetings between the schools, including a 45-38 overtime decision in New Orleans in 2009. The Miners have never beaten the Green Wave in New Orleans.
The Last Meeting
Ryan Griffin threw two touchdown passes to Casey Robottom, the last with 5:30 to play, as Tulane defeated UTEP 34-24 on Oct. 23, 2010 in the Sun Bowl. Phillip Davis intercepted Trevor Vittatoe's pass on UTEP's first play after Tulane took a 31-24 lead, and Cairo Santos clinched the Green Wave win on a 20-yard field goal with just over two minutes to play. Vittatoe's touchdown pass to Kris Adams early in the fourth quarter had tied the game at 24. Tulane had 461 yards of offense to UTEP's 286.
UTEP-Tulane Player Ties
Tulane has 17 Texas natives on its roster, while the Miners have one player from Louisiana (sophomore TE Kevin Perry). Tulane senior LB Kristofar Rhymes and UTEP senior DB Antwon Blake attended Thurgood Marshall High School in Houston, Texas. Tulane senior OG Emmanuel Aluko and senior DT Chris Asumnu are also natives of Houston, Texas, as are Miner freshman WR Mark Jackson, freshman WR Jordan Leslie and sophomore TE Katrae Ford. Tulane sophomore DE Devin Willams and freshman TE Aaron Bryant and UTEP junior DL Greg Watkins are from Katy, Texas. Tulane sophomore DB Kyle Davis is a native of San Antonio, Texas as are UTEP freshman QB Blaire Sullivan, freshman LB Anthony Puente and freshman DL Herbert Gonzales. Tulane sophomore K Cairo Santos and senior DT Cedric Wilson hail from Sugar Land, Texas as does UTEP freshman RB Josh Bell. UTEP sophomore OLDavid Grubaugh and Tulane junior QB Ryan Griffin call Westlake Village, Calif. home.
UTEP-Tulane Coaching Ties
Tulane's Bob Toledo and UTEP's Mike Price faced one another five times as head coaches from 1996-2002 when Price was at Washington State and Toledo was at UCLA, with Price's Cougars winning three of those games. Toledo guided the Bruins to a 2000 Sun Bowl appearance. Tulane defensive coordinator Steve Stanard is familiar with UTEP, having spent six years (1997-2002) at New Mexico State. He was the defensive ends/outside linebackers coach for three years and the defensive coordinator for the latter three.
Price vs. Toledo
Tulane's Bob Toledo and UTEP's Mike Price will be coaching against one another for the 10th time on Saturday. While Price was 3-2 versus Toledo when both were coaching in the Pac-10 Conference, Toledo's Tulane squad has won three of the four matchups with the Miners since 2007.
Miners at their Best in October Under Price
October has traditionally been UTEP's best month under eighth-year head coach Mike Price. The Miners are 17-11 in October during the Price era, although they dropped their last three games in the month a year ago to UAB (21-6), Tulane (34-24) and Marshall (16-12).
Last Time Out
Case Keenum passed for 471 yards and Houston racked up 710 yards of offense in a 49-42 come-from-behind victory over UTEP. Houston handed UTEP its first-ever loss in a Conference USA home opener, as the Cougars battled back from a 14-0 first quarter deficit. The Miners had 538 yards of offense, with Joe Banyard rushing for 240 yards. Nick Lamaison completed 19-of-29 passes for 267 yards and three touchdowns.
Miners Seeing a Lot of the West Division
UTEP's first three C-USA games are versus West Division opponents. The Miners will play three of their last five league games against East Division competition, starting on Oct. 29 at home versus Southern Miss. UTEP has fared better versus West Division foes (14-16 record) than East Division opponents (6-14) since joining C-USA for the 2005 season.
Miners Play First Day Game of 2011
UTEP has two afternoon games scheduled this season, the first coming on Saturday at Tulane (the time for the game at Rice on Nov. 5 is still to be determined). The Miners are 7-18 in day games (before 5 p.m. Mountain time) and 35-30 in night games during the Mike Price era.
UTEP in Day Games Since 2004
A Long Time Coming
Could this be the week that the Miners end their 12-game Conference USA road losing streak? UTEP hasn't tasted victory in a C-USA opponent's stadium since Oct. 4, 2008, when Trevor Vittatoe's six-yard touchdown pass to Kris Adams lifted the Miners past Southern Miss, 40-37, in double overtime in Hattiesburg. A lot has happened since that day. On Oct. 4, 2008, George W. Bush was still president of the United States, Michael Jackson was still alive and the first "Twilight" movie was still over a month away from being released.
Here is a look at some of the narrow setbacks during UTEP's 12-game C-USA road losing streak. Six of the 12 losses have come by a touchdown or less.
Tough Way to Start
UTEP is 0-2 in conference action for the first time since 2002 after facing the two teams (SMU and Houston) picked by many to challenge for C-USA's West Division title. The Miners haven't dropped their first three league games since 1996, when they finished 0-8 in Western Athletic Conference play.
Miners in the National Ranks
Through games of Oct. 8, 2011, the Miners held national top-50 rankings in net punting (first, 44.15 avg.), kickoff returns (fourth, 28.5 avg.) and passing offense (42nd, 255.2 ypg).
Price Era Has Produced a Bunch of High-Scoring Games
Not only has UTEP enjoyed more 30-point (50), 40-point (22) and 50-point games (six) under Mike Price than any other coach, but the Miners have been involved in eight games in the Price era where both teams scored 40 points or more. The Miners are 4-4 in such contests:
Banyard Gets Going
Joe Banyard had the best game of his UTEP career against Houston on Sept. 29, rambling for 240 yards on 22 carries. The 240 rushing yards are the fourth-most in school history behind Fred Wendt's 326 yards versus New Mexico State in 1948, and Donald Buckram's 262 yards and 241 yards versus Houston and SMU respectively in 2009. Banyard is the ninth Miner player to have a 200-yard rushing game, joining the likes of Wendt (four times), Buckram (three times), John Harvey (three times), Toraino Singleton (twice), Robert Elliott, Elzie Johnson, Ed Smith and Marcus Thomas. Banyard is third in C-USA in rushing, averaging 76.6 yards per game.
Banyard Could Join Exclusive Group
Joe Banyard could join an elite group of players at UTEP with back-to-back 200 yard rushing games. John Harvey registered 209 yards against New Mexico and 202 against Utah during the 1987 campaign. Donald Buckram achieved the feat in 2009 with 234 at Tulane and 241 at SMU. Banyard posted a career-high 240 yards against Houston the last time out.
Rushing Attack Back on Track
UTEP has piled up 551 rushing yards (183.7 avg.) over the last three games after being held to 66 yards combined in the first two games of the season. The Miners gained 271 yards versus Houston on Sept. 29, their third-best total in a C-USA game under coach Mike Price. UTEP had 308 yards rushing in an overtime win at SMU in 2007 and 305 versus the Cougars in 2009.
Jeffery Has Had a Hand in Rushing Success
While the Miners have received contributions from several freshmen on offense, none have been more impressive than Nathan Jeffery, who has rushed for 103 yards on 16 carries over the last three games. Jeffery scored two first quarter touchdowns versus Houston on Sept. 29, the first coming on a 22-yard pass from Nick Lamaison and the second on a 10-yard run. Getting into the end zone is nothing new for Jeffery, who scored 136 touchdowns during his career at Caddo Mills High School - tied for second on the all-time Texas high school list.
Lamaison Picks Up Where He Left Off
After missing two games with a shoulder injury, quarterback Nick Lamaison returned to the starting lineup versus Houston and completed 19-of-29 passes for 267 yards and three touchdowns. Lamaison also started the opener versus Stony Brook and passed for 365 yards. So in two starts this season, Lamaison has completed 43-of-67 passes (64 percent) for 632 yards with a 2:1 (6/3) touchdown/interception ratio. Lamaison is the second quarterback to pass for 267 yards or more in the first two games of his UTEP career, joining Billy Stevens who threw for 500 yards versus North Texas and 297 at New Mexico to kick off the 1965 season.
Lamaison Has Been Efficient
Nick Lamaison's passing efficiency rating of 147.11 would rank third in school history behind Jordan Palmer's 149.60 in 2006 and Rocky Perez's 147.14 in 2000.
Coming Out Throwing
Nick Lamaison has been an effective thrower on the year connecting on 62.4 (58-93) of his passes in 2011. Lamaison has been even better when the Miners come out throwing on first down. The junior has hit on 77% (31-40) of first down tosses. Sophomore Carson Meger, who is 65.9% (27-41) on the year, has also excelled on first down. Meger has completed 9-of-12 (.750) when throwing on the traditional running down.
Tight Ends Have Been a Top Target
UTEP tight ends Kevin Perry, Eric Tomlinson and Craig Wenrick have totaled 12 catches for 162 yards with six touchdowns in five games. Last season, tight ends Perry, Elijah Goldtrap and Jonny Moore did not score a TD while combining for 138 yards on 15 receptions. UTEP tight ends are averaging 13.5 yards per catch, up from 9.2 in 2010. With Wenrick registering the first touchdown catch of his Miner career versus Houston on Sept. 29, UTEP has three tight ends with at least one score for the first time since 2008.
Leslie is Another Freshman Making His Mark
Jordan Leslie has led the Miners in receiving in each of the last two games, putting up 64 yards against both USF and Houston. The last freshman to pace UTEP in receiving in consecutive games was Chris Marrow versus Hawaii (58 yards) and Tulsa (84 yards) in 2003. Leslie has 11 catches for 178 yards this season.
Show Me the Money
Mike Edwards has caught 22 receptions for 318 yards in 2011. Even more impressive is that 13 (59% avg.) of his receptions have resulted in first downs. Edwards registered two money receptions against Houston - for 16 and 21 yards - the latter that resulted in a touchdown.
Don't Forget About Me
Donavon Kemp has 15 catches for 278 yards to rank second on the squad behind Mike Edwards. Like Edwards, Kemp's receptions have come at opportune times. Twelve (80%) of Kemp's receptions have resulted in first downs, including a team-high tying (Edwards) six on third down.
Another Big Day For Campbell
Ian Campbell averaged better than 50 yards per punt for the fourth time in his Miner career against Houston on Sept. 29. Campbell punted five times for 253 yards, a 50.6-yard average. Last season he had 50+ yard averages versus Rice (55.6) and UAB (50.2), and he averaged 54.8 yards per punt in the season opener versus Stony Brook.
Miners Put Up 500 Yards Versus UH
The UTEP offense produced 538 yards against Houston, its highest total since the 2009 season finale versus Marshall (589 yards). UTEP had topped 500 yards just once in its previous 19 games. The Miners are now 9-5 under coach Mike Price when tallying 500 yards or more.
A Statistical Oddity
UTEP has now lost its last three games where it accumulated 30 or more first downs. The Miners had 31 first downs in a 45-42 overtime loss to East Carolina in 2007, 36 in a 33-38 loss to UAB in 2009 and 30 in the 49-42 loss to Houston on Sept. 29. UTEP is 5-7 since 1965 when amassing 30 first downs or more, including 2-5 under coach Mike Price.
Defense Gaining Strength as Games Have Progressed
The UTEP defense has yielded 820 yards in the first quarter, 543 in the second, 625 in the third and 355 in the fourth this season. The defense has surrendered 42 points in the first quarter, 41 in the second, 34 in the third and 18 in the fourth (opponents have scored 28 points directly off turnovers).
UTEP Closing in On 2010 Sack Total
The Miners have registered 11 sacks in five games this season and are only three away from duplicating their total for the entire 2010 season (14). James Davidson, Horace Miller and Richard Spencer are tied for the team lead with two sacks each.
Balance Typifies Stop Troops
UTEP has had four different players lead the team in tackles through five games. DeShawn Grayson has topped the team twice, while Josh Fely, Travaun Nixon and Jeremy Springer have done the honors once each. In 18 games under defensive coordinator Andre Patterson, the Miners have had 10 different players pace the team in stops.
The Miners will be playing a game in an NFL stadium for the seventh time in the Mike Price era, and for the second time in three games. Price's UTEP debut came on Sept. 2, 2004 at Arizona State in a game that was played at Sun Devil Stadium, former home of the Arizona Cardinals. The Miners lost the game 41-9. UTEP also ended the 2004 campaign by playing in an NFL venue, falling to Colorado, 33-28, in the EV1.net Houston Bowl at Reliant Stadium. The Miners kicked off the 2006 season by topping San Diego State, 34-27, at Qualcomm Stadium - home of the Chargers. UTEP has played two games in the Louisiana Superdome during Price's coaching stint, falling to Tulane in 2007 (34-19) and 2009 (45-38 in overtime). UTEP lost to 18th-ranked USF, 52-24, on Sept. 24 at Raymond James Stadium, home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.