UTEP Hoping to Get Back on Winning Track Against Tulane
Oct. 18, 2010
UTEP Vies For Sixth Straight Home Win
UTEP (5-2, 2-2 C-USA) looks to rebound from a 21-6 loss at UAB last week -- and keep its perfect home record intact -- on Saturday when Tulane (2-4, 0-2 C-USA) comes to El Paso. The Miners are 4-0 at home this season and have won five consecutive games in the Sun Bowl dating back to the 2009 season finale.
UTEP will become bowl eligible for the first time in five years with its next win. The Miners have played in 12 bowls all-time, including two under coach Mike Price (2004 and 2005), and posted a 5-7 record. The Miners' last bowl win came in 1967.
UTEP had won four straight games -- its longest string of victories since 2005 -- before suffering its ninth consecutive C-USA road loss at UAB. It was only the Miners' ninth defeat in 26 games in the month of October under Price. UTEP is 10-3 at home in October during the Price era.
The Green Wave racked up 527 yards of offense, including 446 passing, but came up on the short end of the scoreboard last Saturday at Tulsa, 52-24. After Tulane pulled within two touchdowns (31-17) on a 25-yard field goal by Cairo Santos with 5:51 remaining in the third quarter, the Golden Hurricane scored 21 of the game's final 28 points. Sophomore QB Ryan Griffin completed 36-of-53 passes for a career-high 412 yards and had a pair of 100-yard receivers in sophomore Ryan Grant (6-128) and senior Casey Robottom (9-106).
Tulane is 1-2 on the road this season but does have a quality victory at Rutgers, 17-14, on Oct. 2. The Green Wave is averaging 21.2 points per game this season to rank 10th in C-USA. Tulane is also 10th in the league in total offense (327.5 ypg) and rushing defense (187.2 ypg), and 12th in rushing offense (83.8 ypg).
The Green Wave is fourth in C-USA in total defense (370.5 ypg) and has been particularly solid against the pass, giving up 183.3 ypg to rate second in C-USA and 27th in the country. The leaders of the stop troops are sophomore LB Trent Mackey (tied for fifth in the FBS, 12.0 tackles per game) and senior DT Justin Adams (tied for 21st in the nation, 0.8 sacks per game).
The Miners lead the series 3-2, but dropped a 45-38 overtime decision in New Orleans last season. Tulane has won two of the last three meetings between the schools, both at the Louisiana Superdome. UTEP is 2-0 versus the Green Wave in El Paso with victories during the 2006 (34-20) and 2008 (24-21) seasons.
The Last Meeting
Tulane drove 86 yards for the game-tying score in a little over a minute late in regulation, and Andre Anderson's seven-yard run in overtime propelled the Green Wave to a 45-38 win over UTEP on Nov. 7, 2009 in New Orleans.
The loss spoiled one of the great individual performances in school history by Donald Buckram, who amassed 343 all-purpose yards -- 234 rushing and 109 receiving. Buckram became the first player in UTEP annals to tally 100 yards both rushing and receiving in the same game.
UTEP outgained Tulane in total yardage, 486-445. The Miners led 10-0, 17-14, 31-24 and 38-31, but couldn't hold on.
The triple threat of Anderson (29 carries-105 yards), Ryan Griffin (24-for-36, 278 yards, three TDs) and Jeremy Williams (10 catches-139 yards) carried Tulane to the victory.
UTEP-Tulane Player Ties
Tulane has 22 Texas natives on its roster, while the Miners have one player from Louisiana (freshman TE Kevin Perry). Tulane senior DT Justin Adams and UTEP junior LB Royzell Smith helped Thurgood Marshall High School in Missouri City finish 9-1 with a district title in 2006. Green Wave junior OL Emmanuel Aluko and junior DT Chris Asumnu are natives of Houston, Texas, as are Miner junior DB Antwon Blake, freshman TE Katrae Ford and freshman DB Chad Moncure. Tulane freshman LB Dominique Robertson and UTEP sophomore LB Aubrey Alexius are both from Cypress, Texas. UTEP junior OL Nathan McCage and Tulane junior OL Joey Ray call Spring, Texas, 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.
UTEP in the NCAA Stats
The Miners rank in the top-50 in the country in punt returns (15th, 13.5 avg.), sacks allowed (18th, 1.0 avg.), kickoff returns (19th, 25.5 avg.), passing offense (38th, 249.7 ypg), turnover margin (41st, 0.43), net punting (44th, 37.5 avg.), scoring defense (45th, 21.7 ppg) and total offense (49th, 401.9 ypg). Individually, senior WR Kris Adams is 26th in receiving yards per game (85.3), sophomore WR Marlon McClure is ninth in kickoff returns (30.7 avg.), senior QB Trevor Vittatoe is 29th in total offense (264 ypg) and sophomore K Dakota Warren is tied for 50th in field goals (1.1 avg.).
UTEP in the C-USA Stats
UTEP rates in the top half of the league in punt returns (first, 13.5 avg.), kickoff returns (second, 25.5 avg.), scoring defense (second, 21.7 ppg), sacks allowed (third, 1.0 avg.), turnover margin (third, 0.43), passing efficiency defense (fourth, 121.76), net punting (fifth, 37.5 avg.), passing defense (fifth, 215.1 ypg), passing efficiency (fifth, 126.54), passing offense (fifth, 249.7 ypg), total defense (fifth, 371.0 ypg), rushing offense (sixth, 152.1 ypg) and scoring offense (sixth, 28.7 ppg). Four Miner players rate among the C-USA individual leaders in their respective stat categories -- senior WR Kris Adams (second in receiving yards per game), sophomore WR Marlon McClure (first in kickoff returns), junior DB TraVaun Nixon (tied for fifth in interceptions) and senior QB Trevor Vittatoe (fourth in total offense and fifth in passing efficiency).
Miners Stumble at UAB, 21-6
UTEP couldn't get its ordinarily potent offense on track in a 21-6 setback at UAB last Saturday. The Miners were held to a season-low 229 yards of offense, including 60 rushing, and averaged 4.1 yards per play to the Blazers' 7.1.
Trailing 6-0 late in the third quarter, the Blazers erupted for three touchdowns over the final 18 minutes of play. UAB gained over half (253-of-500) of its total offensive yards on the three scoring drives.
Bryan Ellis threw a pair of TD passes to Frantrell Forrest and connected with Jeffery Anderson for another score as the Blazers climbed to 2-1 at Legion Field this season.
Dakota Warren accounted for UTEP's only scoring by nailing both of his field goal attempts, one from 25 yards and another from 20 yards. Trevor Vittatoe completed 15-of-33 passes for 169 yards for the Miners, but threw a season-high three interceptions.
Price Vying For 40th Win at UTEP
UTEP's next victory will be its 40th under the direction of coach Mike Price. Only Mack Saxon (66), Mike Brumbelow (46) and Bobby Dobbs (41) have posted more wins at the helm of the Miner program.
Six-Win Seasons Not the Norm
If UTEP can win at least one of its last five games, the Miners will have six victories for only the seventh time in the last 40 years. The Miners finished 6-4 in 1970, 7-4 in 1987, 10-3 in 1988, 8-4 in 2000, 8-4 in 2004 and 8-4 in 2005.
Of the 23 seasons with six wins or more in UTEP history, six came under the leadership of coach Mack Saxon, five under Mike Brumbelow, four under Bobby Dobbs, two each under Jack Curtice, Bob Stull & Mike Price, and one each under Ben Collins & Gary Nord.
Miners to See a Lot of Wild Wild West
Three of UTEP's last four C-USA games are against West Division teams. The Miners (2-2 league) enter the Tulane game tied for third place in the West Division standings with Tulsa, a half-game behind second place Houston (2-1). SMU leads the pack with a 3-0 league mark.
UTEP is 13-14 versus C-USA West Division teams, including 10-3 at home (3-0 versus Tulsa, 2-0 versus SMU, 2-0 versus Tulane, 2-1 versus Houston, 1-2 versus Rice).
Miners Looking to Bounce Back in the Bowl
UTEP is 8-5 under Mike Price when playing at home following a road loss, including 4-0 over the last two seasons. Last year the Miners followed up road losses to Texas, Memphis and Rice with home victories over Houston, Tulsa and Marshall, respectively. This year UTEP lost at Houston, 54-24, on Sept. 10 before blasting NM State in the Sun Bowl, 42-10, on Sept. 18.
UTEP Has Rebounded From Subpar Offensive Performances
Prior to this season, the Miners had four games in the Mike Price era where they scored 10 or fewer points, and in each instance they responded by putting 30+ points on the board the next week. In 2004, UTEP followed up a 41-9 season-opening loss at Arizona State with a 32-0 drubbing of Weber State. In 2007, the Miners kicked off the season by edging New Mexico, 10-6, before falling at Texas Tech 45-31. In 2009, UTEP routed NM State 38-12 a week after losing 34-7 to Kansas, then thumped Houston 58-41 the week following a 64-7 setback at Texas.
UTEP Shooting For Fifth Win in the Sun Bowl
A victory over Tulane on Saturday would make the Miners 5-0 in the Sun Bowl for the first time since 2005 and only the fourth time ever. UTEP also achieved the feat during the 1988 and 2000 seasons. The school record for wins in the Sun Bowl -- which opened in 1963 -- is six, accomplished by the 1965 (6-1) and 1988 (6-0) squads. Only seven Miner teams have posted five or more victories in the Sun Bowl, including the 1966 (5-1), 1967 (5-1), 2000 (5-0), 2004 (5-1) and 2005 (5-1) clubs.
Noting the Miners' Recent Dominance in the Sun Bowl
During their current five-game winning streak in the Sun Bowl, the Miners have collected 37.0 ppg and allowed 15.6 ppg for an average margin of victory of 21.4 points. UTEP has averaged 459.6 yards of offense (161.6 rushing/298.0 passing), while yielding 339.4 ypg (120.6 rushing/218.8 passing). The Miners have also forced eight turnovers in their last five home games with only three giveaways. UTEP has coughed up the football just once in its last three home games.
Defense Has Carried Miners to 4-0 Home Mark
UTEP has allowed just 57 points in four games in the Sun Bowl this season -- an average of 14.3 per contest. The Miners have surrendered 17 points in the first quarter, 23 in the second, 0 in the third and 17 in the fourth. UTEP has given up 1,204 yards combined (301 per game) -- 303 in the first quarter, 411 in the second, 180 in the third and 310 in the fourth.
The Miners have allowed only two touchdowns in the second half at home this season, and both came in the fourth quarter the last time out against Rice.
More on UTEP's Sterling Defense
The Miners have allowed 24 points or less in six of seven games. The last time UTEP surrendered 24 points or fewer as many times in a season was in 2000 (six), and the last time the Miners had more than six games yielding 24 points or less was in 1991 (eight). UTEP has also held four teams under 300 yards of offense this year after achieving the feat four times in the previous three seasons combined.
Not What We're Used To
UTEP has had three games without a passing touchdown this season (Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Memphis and UAB), tying its total number of such games for the 2009 campaign. The Miners have recorded a passing TD in 68 of 79 games under coach Mike Price, including 33 of 36 games during the Jordan Palmer era (2004-06) and 35 of 43 games during the Trevor Vittatoe era (2007-present).
Not What We're Used To, Part II
The Miners, who have averaged 31.6 points and 407.0 yards of offense under coach Mike Price, were held to six points and 229 yards in last Saturday's game at UAB. The six points marked the lowest total for UTEP under Price, and the 229 yards were the fourth-lowest figure of the Price era. The Miners amassed 53 yards at Texas in 2009, 195 versus New Mexico in 2007 and 208 versus Kansas in 2009.
UTEP didn't score a touchdown against UAB for the first time since a 34-0 loss to San Diego State on Sept. 13, 2003.
First Team to 10 Points Wins
UTEP and UAB combined to tally 27 points last Saturday, making it the second-lowest scoring game (both teams) in the Mike Price era. UTEP and New Mexico teamed to put 16 points on the board in a 10-6 Miner victory on Sept. 1, 2007.
Defense Bent, But Didn't Break
The Miner defense yielded 500 yards in the loss to UAB -- marking only the second time that it has allowed more than 342 yards in a game this season. Still, the stop troops kept the Blazers out of the end zone for the first 42 minutes of the game and surrendered only 21 points total. The 21 points were the fewest allowed by UTEP in a loss since dropping a 20-0 decision at Tulsa on Oct. 26, 2002.
Incidentally, the 21 points by UAB were the fewest scored by a Miner opponent with a minimum 500 yards of offense.
UAB Grounds Miner Rushing Game
UTEP was limited to 60 rushing yards on 23 carries at UAB. It marked the first time this season that the Miners were held under the century mark in rushing. The last time UTEP opened a season with six straight 100-yard rushing games (as a team) was in 1992. In fact, this year marked only the eighth time in the modern era (since 1965) that the Miners have rushed for 100 yards in their initial six games of a season (1975, 1976, 1980, 1982, 1988, 1991, 1992).
Vittatoe Continues Ascent up NCAA Career Passing List
Trevor Vittatoe now has 11,429 career passing yards, moving into 20th place on the all-time NCAA list. He passed five players (Western Michigan's Tim Lester, Western Michigan's Tim Hiller, BYU's Max Hall, USC's Carson Palmer, San Diego State's Todd Santos) in the UAB game.
Within reach for Vittatoe this week are Cincinnati's Gino Guidugli (19th, 11,453 yards), Georgia's David Greene (18th, 11,528 yards) and Notre Dame's Brady Quinn (17th, 11,762 yards).
Vittatoe is tied for 21st on the NCAA FBS career passing touchdowns list (89) with Tennessee's Peyton Manning and Marshall's Byron Leftwich. Kansas' Todd Reesing ranks 20th with 90 TD passes, and Houston's David Klingler is 19th with 91.
Vittatoe is knocking on the door of etching his name on the NCAA career total offense list as well. With 11,285 yards, he needs 291 to tie Northwestern's Brett Basanez (11,576) for 25th all-time and 305 to tie Tulsa's Paul Smith (11,590) for 24th.
Vittatoe Can Move Up on C-USA Chart Too
Trevor Vittatoe needs only 25 passing yards to leap past Cincinnati's Gino Guidugli into fourth place on the C-USA career list. He needs 242 yards to pass Rice's Chase Clement into sixth place on the C-USA career total offense chart, and 306 to pass Tulsa's Paul Smith into fifth place.
Already UTEP's career leader for passing yards, passing touchdowns and total offense, Vittatoe has 14 career 300-yard passing games and is two shy of tying Jordan Palmer's school standard.
Adams Now Seventh on Receiving Yardage List
Kris Adams is ranked seventh in UTEP history with 2,184 receiving yards. He needs 50 yards to tie Ed Puishes (1969-71) for sixth place. Adams is also fourth in school annals in TD catches (24), and tied for seventh in 100-yard games (eight). Adams is tied for 14th on the C-USA career touchdown receptions list.
Adams Ties Mays' Record For Multiple TD Games
Kris Adams tied Lee Mays' (1998-01) school record for games with multiple TD receptions against Rice on Oct. 9. Adams and Mays have both recorded at least two touchdown catches in seven contests. Adams has had three games with three TD catches and four with two.
Adams Regains Sophomore Form
Following a subpar 2009 season, Kris Adams' numbers look a lot like they did in 2008, when he racked up 50 catches for 958 yards and 14 TDs. He has scored seven touchdowns over the last five games. His 22.1 yards per catch would beat the school record of 21.9 established by Volley Murphy in 1967. In fact, of the nation's top 100 receivers (yards per game), only Baylor's Josh Gordon has a better yards per catch average (22.3) than Adams.
And the Streak Goes On ...
Kris Adams has caught a pass in 31 consecutive games, tied for the 10th-longest active streak in the country.
Consecutive Games With a Reception
Adams & Vittatoe Listed Among FBS Career Leaders
Through Oct. 16, senior WR Kris Adams was fifth among active FBS players in touchdown catches (24), and 14th in receiving yards (2,184). Senior QB Trevor Vittatoe was second in pass attempts (1,480), completions (830), passing yards (11,429) and passing touchdowns (89); third in total offense (11,285 yards) and TDs responsible for (90); fourth in passing yards per game (265.8) and eighth in total offense per game (262.4).
Buckram Working Way Back into Form
Donald Buckram, the nation's no. 2 leading returning rusher for the 2010 season, has only played in three of UTEP's first seven games while nursing a bruised knee (he hurt the knee in practice on Sept. 1). But Buckram has led the Miners in rushing in all three games, running 13 times for 59 yards against Memphis, nine times for 47 yards versus Rice and 11 times for 38 yards at UAB.
Buckram ranks eighth on UTEP's career rushing list with 2,226 yards. He is also ninth in school history with 3,337 all-purpose yards. Buckram's next rushing TD will be the 21st of his career and will lift him into a tie for sixth place on the UTEP chart with Owen Price (1938,40-41).
Campbell Solves UTEP's Punting Quandary
Sophomore Ian Campbell has given the Miners everything they could have hoped for at punter, averaging 44.7 yards on 24 attempts. The transfer from Mt. SAC College would rank 20th nationally in punting if he averaged 3.6 attempts per game (he averages 3.4).
Campbell has had a punting average of better than 50 yards in back-to-back weeks. He averaged 55.6 yards on five punts against Rice on Oct. 9, and 50.2 yards on five punts at UAB last week. Campbell had a 72-yard punt versus the Owls and added a 67-yarder against the Blazers. The last Miner punter to compile averages of 50+ yards in consecutive games was All-American Ed Bunn during the 1992 season (54.0 avg. versus New Mexico State, 51.8 avg. versus Air Force).
Campbell has had seven punts travel 50 yards or more this season.
Explosive Offense in C-USA Play
In 44 C-USA games since joining the league for the 2005 season, UTEP has scored 1,431 points (32.5 avg.) and totaled 19,397 yards of offense (440.8 avg.). The Miners are averaging 36.0 points (791 total) and 464.0 yards (10,207 total) in C-USA home games, and 29.1 points (640 total) and 417.7 yards (9,190 total) in C-USA road games. UTEP has scored 30+ points 16 times in C-USA home games and 10 times in C-USA road games. The Miners have scored 40+ points nine times in C-USA home games and four times in C-USA road games.
Take it Away
The Miners have eight interceptions in seven games, a total which ranks tied for 26th nationally and tied for second in Conference USA. Tulsa is the league leader with nine picks. UTEP has had three games with multiple interceptions this season (Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Memphis, New Mexico), tying its total number from the 2009 season.
Pushing `Em Back
Over the last four games, UTEP's defense has produced 20 tackles for losses and six 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 is first on the team with 4.5 tackles for losses, while sophomore DL Ruben Munoz and senior DL Robert Soleyjacks are tied for first on the squad with two sacks apiece.
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 371.0 yards and 21.7 points per game. It marks the fewest yards per contest surrendered since 2004 (361.2), and the fewest points per game allowed since 1991 (21.0). In fact, only three times since 1970 has UTEP given up fewer points per game -- in 1971 (19.7 ppg), 1988 (21.3 ppg) and 1991.
Miners Showing Resolve
UTEP is 4-0 this season when its opponent scores first. Entering 2010, the Miners had been 9-19 under Mike Price when falling behind at the start.
UTEP Taking Care of the Football
The Miners have given the ball away only nine times in seven games, putting them in a tie for 26th nationally in turnovers lost. Only Southern Miss has fewer turnovers among C-USA teams (seven).
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 97 starts to its credit entering the Tulane game -- has done a nice job paving the way for the Miners to average 28.7 points and 401.9 yards per game. The offensive line has yielded only seven sacks in seven games to tie for 18th in the country.
Third Quarter Has Been Huge for the Miners
UTEP has outscored opponents 66-13 in the third quarter this season. Nine of UTEP's 25 TDs have been scored in the period.
Miners Awfully Good on Third Down
UTEP entered the week rated third in C-USA and 12th nationally in third down conversion percentage (.500).
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. Co-captain 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.
A different Miner will wear Amy's #1 jersey each game for the rest of the season. The breakdown so far: LB Anthony Morrow (NM State), WR Pierce Hunter (Memphis), DL Robert Soleyjacks (New Mexico), WR Kris Adams (Rice) and DB DeShawn Grayson (UAB).
Miners Spreading the Wealth on Offense Once Again
Eighteen different UTEP players have made receptions through seven games -- the most in the Mike Price era. Twelve players caught a pass in the Miners' loss at Houston on Sept. 10, the most for UTEP in the Price regime.
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.
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.
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.
29th Season For Price
UTEP's Mike Price is 168-162 in his 29th season as a collegiate head coach, including 39-40 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.
Price ranks ninth among active FBS coaches with 168 victories behind Penn State's Joe Paterno (397), Ohio State's Jim Tressel (235), Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer (234), Texas' Mack Brown (218), Nevada's Chris Ault (212), South Carolina's Steve Spurrier (181), Notre Dame's Brian Kelly (175) and Arizona State's Dennis Erickson (171).
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: Marshall
The Miners will travel 2,859 miles round-trip -- their longest jaunt of the season -- to face Marshall on Oct. 30 in Huntington, W. Va. UTEP will be seeking its first win on the Herd's home field after dropping a 49-21 decision there in 2006.