Miners One Win Away From Bowl Eligibility
KICKING OFF: UTEP (5-1, 3-1 C-USA) travels cross state to face league foe Rice ... it will be UTEP’s first Conference USA game against a former Western Athletic Conference rival ... UTEP will also meet former WAC opponents Tulsa and SMU later this season ... the Miners would be bowl-eligible with a victory ... last year UTEP earned a bid to the EV1.net Houston Bowl ... the Miners haven’t earned bowl bids in successive years since 1953-54 - the only previous time that this has happened in school history ... UTEP is looking to extend its winning streak to three games, while Rice is seeking its first win of the season in its seventh game overall ... UTEP is 2-1 on the road this season and 5-3 on the road under Mike Price ... Rice is 0-2 at home this season and has lost its last four in Houston ... UTEP’s offense has averaged 33.3 points and 411.0 yards per game on the road this season, while its defense has allowed 21.7 points and 377.7 yards per game ... Saturday’s game will be nationally televised by CSTV Football Nation on i (formerly PAX) ... it marks the eighth consecutive national telecast of a UTEP football game, including last year’s EV1.net Houston Bowl which was carried by ESPN.
IN THE POLLS: UTEP received 24 votes in this week’s USA Today poll, good for 30th in the nation ... the Miners did not receive any votes in the latest AP poll.
LAST TIME OUT: Jordan Palmer threw three touchdown passes and moved into second place on UTEP’s career total offense list, as the Miners dominated Marshall 31-3 on Oct. 22 in the Sun Bowl ... UTEP limited the Thundering Herd to 340 yards of offense in keeping an opponent out of the end zone for the first time this season ... the Miners held New Mexico to one touchdown on Sept. 24 in the Sun Bowl ... UTEP won its 100th game in the stadium before a capacity crowd of 51,500 on Homecoming ... the Miners tied the school record with their seventh consecutive victory in the Sun Bowl ... UTEP also won seven straight games in the stadium over the course of the 2000 and 2001 seasons ... Palmer completed 17 of 25 passes for 215 yards, giving him 5,751 yards at UTEP ... after Marshall pulled to within 10-3 on a 26-yard field goal by Ian O’Connor early in the second quarter, UTEP responded by scoring 21 unanswered points ... Palmer hit Johnnie Lee Higgins, Jr. on a 29-yard touchdown pass late in the second half, then found Jamar Hunt for a nine-yard score early in the third period ... Matt Austin scored on a two-yard run with 3:55 to go in the third to provide the final margin ... Tyler Ebell rushed 13 times for 92 yards for the Miners. He also caught two passes for 37 yards ... Aaron Givens was UTEP’s leading receiver with four catches for 54 yards ... Jeremy Jones led the stop troops with 17 tackles ... UTEP took a 10-0 lead in the first quarter on a season-long 49-yard field goal by Reagan Schneider, and a 22-yard pass from Palmer to Marcus Thomas ... the crowd of 51,500 was the fourth-largest in stadium history, and the second-largest for a Homecoming game ... Navy’s Matt Hall rushed for 91 yards and two touchdowns as the Midshipmen beat Rice 41-9 in Houston on Oct. 22 ... Chase Clement went 10 for 22 for 81 yards and threw a touchdown pass for Rice ... Clement started for Joel Armstrong, who injured his shoulder in a loss to Tulsa the previous week ... the Rice-Navy game was originally scheduled to be played on Sept. 24, but was postponed due to Hurricane Rita.
THE SERIES: The series is knotted at four games apiece ... UTEP is 1-3 when playing Rice in Houston ... UTEP has lost its last two games at Rice ... UTEP has been outscored by an average of 14.5 points per game in four previous trips to Houston ... the Miners have averaged 18.5 points at Rice, and have been held to less than 20 points in three of four games ... UTEP is 3-1 against Rice in El Paso, including a thrilling 35-28 double overtime victory last season.
LAST MEETING: Robert Rodriguez recovered a Rice fumble at the goal line in the second overtime, preserving UTEP’s 35-28 win over Rice on Nov. 13, 2004 in the Sun Bowl ... UTEP was triumphant despite being outgained in total yards 409-274 ... the Owls matched the heavily-favored Miners play for play until Quintin Demps stripped the ball from Ed Bailey and Rodriguez pounced on it to secure the victory ... Jordan Palmer’s 25-yard pass to Johnnie Lee Higgins, Jr. in the second overtime proved to be the winning score for UTEP ... UTEP was sluggish offensively in the first half ... the Miners led 7-3 at the break on a 56-yard punt return by Jahmal Fenner ... UTEP managed just 59 yards in the opening half ... both teams, however, came alive in a second half that featured four lead changes ... the Miners went ahead 21-17 on a one-yard run by Josh Chamois with 12:03 to go in the fourth quarter, and an interception by Adrian Ward with 6:51 to play seemingly cemented the win ... but UTEP went three downs and out on its next series and Bryce Benekos’ punt was blocked by Terry Holley for a safety, pulling the Owls to within 21-19 ... with 17 seconds to go, the Miners were clinging to the two-point lead and backed up at their own four-yard line. A bad snap went through Benekos’ legs out of bounds for another safety, knotting the game at 21 ... Rice drew first blood in overtime on a one-yard run by Bailey ... on third down, Palmer hit Casey Mauch for a three-yard touchdown to force a second overtime ... Palmer completed 19 of 28 passes for 191 yards and three touchdowns. He was 12 for 16 for 156 yards and three scores after halftime ... Howard Jackson rushed for 83 yards on 17 carries, and Jayson Boyd reeled in four catches for 61 yards ... Bailey ran for 155 yards and two touchdowns to pace Rice.
THE COACHES: UTEP’s Mike Price and Rice’s Ken Hatfield have met just once as head coaches ... Price’s Miners defeated Hatfield’s Owls 35-28 in double overtime last year in El Paso ... Hatfield is 4-4 lifetime when coaching against UTEP ... Price is 1-0 when coaching against Rice.
NCAA INDIVIDUAL RANKINGS: Tyler Ebell: 41st-all-purpose yards (125.5), 65th-rushing (73.3); Jordan Palmer: 20th-total offense (278.7), 50th-passing efficiency (133.6); Johnnie Lee Higgins, Jr.: 10th-punt returns (15.1), 15th-all-purpose yards (154.8), 19th-kickoff returns (28.0), 45th-scoring (8.0), 49th-receptions per game (5.3), 34th-receiving yards per game (85.0); Joe Felskoski: t61st-interceptions (0.3); Quintin Demps: t19th-passes defended (1.3), t61st-interceptions (0.3); Alex Obomese: t57th-sacks (0.6), t61st-interceptions (0.3), t97th-tackles for losses (1.0); Ryan Hotchkiss: 56th-punting (40.6); Reagan Schneider: 7th-field goals (1.8), 31st-scoring (8.8); Jeremy Jones: 11th-tackles (12.3), 29th-solo tackles (5.8), t49th-tackles for losses (1.3); Troy Collavo: 43rd-tackles (9.0), t87th-sacks (0.5); Nate Draughon: t4th-passes defended (1.7).
NCAA TEAM RANKINGS: Rushing Offense: 77th (126.3); Passing Offense: 18th (280.8); Total Offense: 40th (407.2); Scoring Offense: 29th (32.5); Rushing Defense: 59th (138.3); Passing Efficiency Defense: 35th (114.1); Total Defense: 64th (378.7); Scoring Defense: 30th (20.3); Net Punting: 23rd (37.4); Punt Returns: 17th (14.1); Kickoff Returns: 26th (23.6); Turnover Margin: 58th (0.0); Pass Defense: 84th (240.3); Passing Efficiency: 58th (130.4).
CONFERENCE USA INDIVIDUAL RANKINGS: Johnnie Lee Higgins, Jr.: 1st-punt returns (15.1), 2nd-all purpose yards (154.8), 2nd-kickoff returns (28.0), 3rd-receiving yards per game (85.0); Reagan Schneider: 2nd-field goals (1.8), 3rd-scoring (8.8); Jordan Palmer: 2nd-points responsible for (15.3), 3rd-total offense (278.7).
CONFERENCE USA TEAM RANKINGS: UTEP is first in punt returns (14.1) and scoring defense (20.3) ... UTEP is second in kickoff returns (24.1), passing offense (280.8) and scoring offense (32.5) ... the Miners are third in net punting (37.4).
NO PLACE LIKE HOME: UTEP has won its last seven games in the Sun Bowl, tying the school record originally established over the course of the 2000 and 2001 seasons ... the Miners can break the school record for consecutive wins in the Sun Bowl with a victory over Tulsa on Nov. 5 ... the Miners are 8-1 when playing in the Sun Bowl under Mike Price ... UTEP is averaging 38.6 points (347 total) and has an average margin of victory of 23.0 points with two shutouts at home under Price ... the Miners have also averaged 43,860 fans per home game since Price arrived on campus ... UTEP’s average home attendance in 2005 is 49,161 (Sun Bowl capacity is 51,500) ... the Miners’ average home attendance this season would break the 2000 record average of 44,715 fans ... currently 394,739 fans have entered the stadium since Price has taken over as head coach ... UTEP recorded its fourth-largest attendance in the Sun Bowl on Oct. 22 against Marshall with 51,500 fans ... it was UTEP’s first sellout since Nov. 11, 2000, when an overflow crowd of 53,304 witnessed the Miners’ 38-21 win over Rice ... it marked the first time that a Miner home game sold out a day in advance ... it was the sixth time that UTEP has had over 50,000 in attendance at the Sun Bowl ... UTEP is unbeaten (6-0) at home when 50,000 or more fans are in attendance ... UTEP is 7-0 when playing before 40,000+ spectators at home under Price (18-4 all-time, won last 12 dating back to 1994) ... UTEP also had 50,000+ fans against New Mexico this season ... the last time UTEP drew 50,000 fans three times in a season was in 2000 (New Mexico State, Fresno State, Rice).
MINERS SEE 100 IN SUN BOWL: UTEP picked up its 100th victory in the Sun Bowl with a 31-3 win over Marshall on Oct. 22 ... since the stadium opened on Sept. 21, 1963, UTEP is 100-137-3 in 240 contests.
MINERS GET RUNNING GAME GOING: UTEP had over 100 yards rushing for the third time this season, and the second straight game, against Marshall ... UTEP had season-highs for carries (38) and rushing yardage (194) versus the Thundering Herd ... the Miners are 9-1 under Mike Price when they rush for 100 yards, and 4-4 when they don’t ... UTEP is also 5-1 under Price when having a 100-yard rusher ... UTEP has had one 100-yard individual performance in 2005 (Tyler Ebell, 149 yards against Houston) ... UTEP is now 2-0 this season when rushing for over 150 yards and passing for over 200 yards in the same game ... the Miners had 194 yards rushing and 215 yards passing against Marshall ... UTEP also had 174 yards on the ground and 379 yards in the air versus Houston ... during the Price era, UTEP is 6-1 when having over 150 yards rushing and 200 yards passing in the same game.
A NOTE ON TURNOVERS: UTEP has committed 15 turnovers in 2005 (seven interceptions/eight fumbles lost), while forcing 15 turnovers (10 interceptions/five fumble recoveries) ... under Mike Price, UTEP is 12-1 when having equal or fewer turnovers than its opponents, including 4-0 this season ... UTEP finished the 2004 campaign +2 in turnover margin ... the Miners’ turnover margin is currently even on the year ... UTEP has not had consecutive seasons with a positive turnover margin since 1987-88-89 ... UTEP lost two fumbles and had an interception against Marshall, while forcing just one turnover ... the game marked the first time under Price that the Miners have won despite having more turnovers than their opponent ... the Miners are 1-4 under Price when having more turnovers than the opposition.
DEFENSIVE NOTES: The Miners are fifth nationally with 3.8 sacks per game behind Nebraska (5.4), Louisville (4.7), Ohio State (4.4) and Rutgers (4.0) ... UTEP rates 18th in the country in tackles for losses per game (7.8) ... the Miners limited Tulane to 48 yards rushing on 26 attempts (1.8 avg.) on Oct. 14 ... it marked the second time this season that UTEP has held a foe to fewer than 50 yards rushing ... New Mexico State rushed for -17 yards in the season opener on Sept. 3, the worst performance by a Miner opponent since 1965 ... since Tim Hundley came on board as defensive coordinator in 2004, UTEP has held four teams to less than 100 yards on the ground (twice in 2004, twice in 2005) ... the Miners haven’t surrendered less than 100 yards rushing in three games since 2000 (five times) ... UTEP is limiting its opponents to 3.7 yards per carry this season ... since 1970, UTEP has held opponents to less than four yards per carry on three occasions counting this season ... the others were 1991 (3.8 ypc) and 2004 (3.7 ypc) ... UTEP has given up fewer than 300 yards of offense four times under Hundley, including 285 to New Mexico on Sept. 24 ... Hundley’s defense surrendered less than 150 yards through the air for the third time this season and the eighth time in two years on Oct. 22 against Marshall ... UTEP allowed just 125 yards passing against Marshall, 122 at Memphis and 136 against New Mexico ... the Miners allowed 340 yards of total offense against Marshall, marking the third time in 2005 that they have allowed under 350 yards of total offense ... UTEP allowed 285 to New Mexico and 330 at New Mexico State ... UTEP is 8-1 over the last two seasons when yielding 350 yards of total offense or less.
OFFENSIVE NOTES: UTEP had more rushing attempts (38) than passing attempts (26) for the second time this season on Oct. 22 versus Marshall ... UTEP had 35 rushing attempts to 33 passing attempts at New Mexico State earlier in the year ... under head coach Mike Price, the Miners have rushed more times than they have passed in seven out of 18 games ... on the year, UTEP has rushed the ball 46 percent of the time and passed it 54 percent of the time ... UTEP has had two 40-point performances this season, and six in 18 games under Price ... Price is the first Miner coach to have teams put together six 40-point games in his first two seasons at the school since Mike Brumbelow also performed this feat in 1950 and 1951 ... no Miner coach has directed his team to seven 40-point games in his first two years at the helm of the program ... UTEP is 6-0 under Price when reaching the 40-point barometer ... the Miners have had over 400 yards of offense in the last three games, which is the longest streak under Price ... the last time the Miners compiled 400+ yards of offense in four straight games was in 2000 (Hawaii-New Mexico State-Tulsa-San Jose State) ... the Miners have had 500+ yards in two games this season (most since two in 2003) ... the last time UTEP had three 500-yard outings was in 1988 (four) ... UTEP did not commit a turnover at Tulane for the first time this season and the second time under Price (first time was Sept. 11, 2004 versus Weber State) ... it marked the first time that UTEP did not commit a miscue against an NCAA I-A opponent since Oct. 4, 2003 at SMU ... the Miners had one turnover versus New Mexico State (Sept. 3) and New Mexico (Sept. 24) earlier this season.
MINERS HAVE EDGE BUT NOT IN POSSESSION: UTEP won the time of possession battle for the first time this season at Tulane - by a mere eight seconds, no less ... the Miners compiled 30:04 of possession time to the Green Wave’s 29:56 ... UTEP dominated Tulane in the time of possession line in the second half (18:22 to 11:38) as the running game emerged ... UTEP is 6-0 under Mike Price when having an advantage in time of possession and 7-5 (4-1 in 2005) when trailing in that department ... UTEP’s opponents have had an advantage in time of possession in every quarter this season, including 194:03 minutes to UTEP’s 165:57 minutes overall ... opponents have enjoyed their biggest advantage in time of possession in the second quarter in 2005 (52:49 to 37:11) ... UTEP’s opponents have also ran more offensive plays in all but one game this season (at Memphis).
PALMER AND PASSING RECORDS: Junior quarterback Jordan Palmer now has 47 passing touchdowns in his career ... the total is second in school history behind 51 by Billy Stevens (1965-67) ... Palmer also has 5,654 passing yards, 430 completions and 782 attempts ... he rates second for completions and third for attempts and yards in the school record books ... he needs 831 yards to tie Stevens, 53 completions to catch Sammy Garza and 161 attempts to match Stevens ... Palmer is on pace to throw for 3,058 yards this season, which would be the third-best figure in school history ... the current mark is held by Garza (3,140 yards in 1986) ... only two Miner players have thrown for 3,000 yards in a season (Garza in 1986 and Stevens in 1965).
PALMER AND TOTAL OFFENSE RECORDS: Jordan Palmer could also become the school’s career total offense leader this fall ... he has recorded 5,751 career yards (5,654 passing, 97 rushing) to rank second in school annals, 305 yards behind leader Sammy Garza (1983-86) ... he is also responsible for 52 touchdowns, which ranks second in school history ... Billy Stevens (1965-67) holds the record with 56.
SPEAKING OF PALMER: Jordan Palmer threw for a career-high 431 yards against Memphis on Oct. 1 ... the mark is the fourth-highest total in school history ... Palmer’s previous high was 379 yards earlier this year versus Houston ... Palmer has now passed for over 300 yards six times during his career, including twice in 2005 ... the school record for 300-yard passing games is seven by Billy Stevens (1965-67) ... Palmer’s completion percentage (.688, 22-32) at Tulane on Oct. 14 was his best since Nov. 20, 2004 versus SMU (.741, 20-27) ... in the last two games, Palmer has completed 39 of 57 passes (.684) for 493 yards and six touchdowns.
NOT DONE WITH PALMER YET: Jordan Palmer has thrown for three touchdowns in four games this season (New Mexico State, Houston, Tulane and Marshall) ... for his career, Palmer has had eight games with three or more touchdown passes.
YOU CAN START HIM UP: Jordan Palmer has started at quarterback in UTEP’s last 18 games, posting a 13-5 record during this span ... Palmer’s starting streak is the longest by a Miner signal-caller since Sammy Garza started 23 consecutive games from 1985-86 ... Palmer is looking to become the first Miner quarterback to lead the team in passing in consecutive years since 1990-91 (Mike Perez).
RED ZONE NOTHING TO BE BLUE ABOUT: The Miners’ difficulties in the red zone came to an end at Tulane on Oct. 14 ... UTEP scored touchdowns on all four of its trips to the zone ... UTEP was two for three in the red zone against Marshall ... over the last two games, UTEP is six for seven in the red zone ... in the previous four games, the Miners were just 11 for 17 inside the red zone, including two for five (three turnovers) at Memphis on Oct. 1 ... UTEP opponents are 15 for 20 in the red zone this season, with eight touchdowns and seven field goals ... UTEP has forced four turnovers (three interceptions, one fumble lost) in the opponents’ red zone this season ... against Houston on Sept. 16, Quintin Demps sealed the 44-41 victory when he picked off Cougar QB Kevin Kolb at the Miner two-yard line in the second overtime.
IN THE HUNT: Tight end Jamar Hunt had the top game of his young career against Marshall, making his first career start in place of the injured Jake Sears ... Hunt caught four passes for 39 yards and one touchdown ... over the last two games, UTEP’s tight ends have become a larger part of the offense, catching nine passes for 85 yards and two scores.
A MILESTONE FOR MATT: Senior running back Matt Austin went over the 1,000-yard rushing mark for his career at Tulane on Oct. 14 ... Austin achieved the milestone on a 26-yard run in the fourth quarter ... the feat is particularly remarkable considering that Austin has never started a game for the Miners ... he has played in 41 games for UTEP, rushing for 1,065 yards on 235 carries ... Austin has had a pair of 100-yard games for UTEP ... he ran for 112 yards at Kentucky in 2002 and 112 more at Hawaii in 2003 ... Austin had a solid performance against Marshall, with seven carries for 42 yards and a touchdown.
JONES IS A TACKLING FOOL: Jeremy Jones had a career-best 17 tackles against Marshall ... the total was the most by a Miner since Robert Rodriguez posted 19 stops versus Rice in 2004 ... Jones leads the team with 74 total tackles (29 solos) this season, including 7.5 for losses (35 yards) and one sack (four yards) ... Jones leads the conference with 12.3 tackles per game and is 11th in the NCAA ... Jones, who previously had a single-game high of eight tackles entering the season, has had double-digit tackles in five out of six games in 2005.
THREE’S NO CROWD: Wide receivers Johnnie Lee Higgins, Jr., Jayson Boyd and Chris Francies became the first trio of receivers to gain over 100 yards receiving in the same game at Memphis on Oct. 1 ... Higgins caught seven passes for 134 yards and a touchdown ... Boyd had five catches for 126 yards ... Francies had six receptions for 120 yards ... Higgins has had five career 100-yard games, Boyd three and Francies two ... a fourth wideout, Chris Marrow, has had one 100-yard game as a Miner.
ALL-PURPOSE KIND OF GUYS: The duo of Tyler Ebell and Johnnie Lee Higgins, Jr. has racked up 1,682 all-purpose yards this season, which is 53 percent of UTEP’s total ... Ebell has collected 753 yards with 440 coming on the ground, 219 as a receiver and 94 on kick returns ... Higgins has picked up 929 with minus-one yard rushing, 510 receiving, 196 on punt returns and 224 on kickoff returns ... Higgins ranks 15th nationally in all-purpose yardage, and Ebell is 41st ... Higgins looks to become the first receiver to lead the team in all-purpose yards since Lee Mays did so in 2000 ... Higgins could crack UTEP’s top 10 list for career all-purpose yards this season ... he currently has 2,333 yards in his three-year career ... since being held in check in the season opener at New Mexico State (53 all-purpose yards), Higgins has exploded for 876 all-purpose yards over the last five games (175.2 avg.) ... Ebell has gained 2,374 all-purpose yards during his career at UCLA and UTEP ... Higgins’ average of 154.8 yards per game in 2005 would rank as the fourth-best seasonal total in season history, while Ebell’s average would be 11th (125.5 ypg).
MORE ON “TD” LEE: Junior receiver Johnnie Lee Higgins, Jr. has scored a touchdown in the last five games and 14 of his last 16 dating back to 2004 ... he had the third multiple touchdown game of his career at Tulane on Oct. 14 ... Higgins had a pair of receptions for scores versus the Green Wave ... he reached the end zone three times against Houston on Sept. 16 ... over the last five games, Higgins has scored eight touchdowns ... over the last 16 games, he has made his way to the end zone 18 times ... Higgins is on a pace to collect 935 yards receiving in 2005, which would be the fifth-best seasonal figure in school annals ... he is on pace to register 15 receiving touchdowns, which would tie the current school standard held by Lee Mays (15 in 2000) ... with 18 career touchdown receptions, Higgins rates sixth in school annals ... ahead of him are Chuck Hughes, Reggie Barrett, Bob Wallace and Volley Murphy, part of a four-way tie for second place with 19 each ... the record-holder is Mays, who had 28 touchdown catches from 1998-2001 ... Higgins has had 90 or more yards receiving in nine games during his career, including four of his last five (102 ypg during that span) ... for his career, he has averaged 19.4 yards per catch (81 rec-1,572 yards) ... he ranks ninth in career receiving yardage behind J.J. Rowlett (1,627, 1991-94).
YOU JUST CAN'T SAY ENOUGH ABOUT THIS GUY: Johnnie Lee Higgins, Jr. has returned 13 punts for 196 yards (15.1 ypr) which ranks 10th-best in the nation and first in the conference ... his average of 15.1 yards per attempt ranks seventh-best in single season history ... he is on pace to tally 24 returns for 359 yards ... both totals would put him in the single-season top 10.
TACKLE BATTLE: Three linebackers rank 1-2-3 on the Miner team in tackles ... junior Jeremy Jones is first with 74 stops, followed by junior Troy Collavo (54) and senior Thomas Howard (44) ... UTEP’s top three tacklers were also linebackers a year ago ... Jones has led the team in tackles in four of six contests, including a personal best 17 against Marshall on Oct. 22 ... Howard registered a season-high 14 stops against Houston (Sept. 16), and Collavo was credited with a career-high 12 takedowns versus the Cougars.
LOTS OF PICKS: UTEP has registered 10 interceptions this season ... the total is tied for 21st in the nation ... UTEP’s five picks against Houston on Sept. 16 marked its highest total in a game since recording six versus San Diego State in 1989 ... seven different Miners have collected interceptions this season -- Quintin Demps, Josh Ferguson, Joe Fleskoski, Thomas Howard, Jeremy Jones, Jason McQuay and Alex Obomese ... Obomese, Demps and Fleskoski lead the team with two picks apiece.
KICKING IT UP A NOTCH: Junior Reagan Schneider now ranks third in school annals with 82 point after touchdowns, fifth with 163 kicking points and seventh with 27 field goals ... Schneider has also converted on his last 72 PAT tries ... Schneider set a school record with five field goals against Houston ... the previous UTEP standard of four field goals was held by four players, including Schneider ... Schneider has now scored 10 points or more six times during his career ... he is 15-for-19 (.789) on field goal attempts of 40 yards or more over the last two seasons ... during the same span Schneider is 11-for-15 (.733) on attempts from less than 40 yards ... he is seven-for-eight on field goals of 40+ yards in 2005 ... after making his first six attempts from that range to open the season, he misfired on a 45-yard attempt at Tulane on Oct. 14 ... he bounced back to kick a season-long 49 yard field goal against Marshall on Oct. 22.
GETTING OFF TO A GOOD START: UTEP has outscored opponents 138-69 in the first quarter under Mike Price, including 39-10 so far this season ... the Miners have allowed an average of 3.8 points in the opening period under Price ... UTEP has surrendered just 32 points in the first quarter in its last 11 games (2.9 ppg) ... the Miners have allowed just two touchdowns in the first quarter in their last 10 outings ... UTEP gave up a touchdown in the first quarter for the first time this season on Oct. 14 at Tulane ... UTEP blanked Marshall in the first quarter on Oct. 22.
GRIZZLED VETERANS: Offensive linemen Jose Garcia and Josh House are both in their sixth year with the UTEP football program ... both came to UTEP in the fall of 2000 and attended preseason training camp in Socorro, N.M. before taking on “gray shirt” status ... they redshirted during the 2001 campaign ... Garcia and House have started 28 and 18 games for the Miners, respectively ... House has gained 50 pounds since coming to UTEP and earned honorable mention All-Conference honors in 2004, his first year as a starter.
EBELL TIME: Former UCLA standout Tyler Ebell made his highly-anticipated Miner debut on Sept. 3 at New Mexico State ... he will have one year of eligibility with the Miners after redshirting his freshman year (2001) with the Bruins ... Ebell rushed for 1,495 yards and 12 touchdowns in two seasons at UCLA (2002-03) before sitting out last season per NCAA transfer rules ... the native of Ventura, Calif., was a Parade and PrepStar All-American as a prep, setting national records for rushing yardage (4,495) and rushing touchdowns (64) as a senior ... he is one of three former prep All-Americans on the 2005 Miner roster ... the others are junior quarterback/wide receiver Lorne Sam (PrepStar All-American) and sophomore running back Marcus Thomas (Parade All-American) ... Sam is sitting out this season after transferring from Florida State, and will have two years of eligibility at UTEP beginning in 2006.
1,000-YARD CLUB: Barring injury, UTEP will likely have four receivers with over 1,000 yards in their careers at season’s end ... senior Chris Francies (1,481 yards) and junior Johnnie Lee Higgins, Jr. (1,572 yards) have already joined the 1,000-yard club ... senior Jayson Boyd has 951 yards, with 782 coming at UTEP (he also played at Oregon State in 2002) ... junior Chris Marrow has tallied 854 yards ... all four of the aforementioned wideouts have had 100-yard games at UTEP ... Boyd reeled in a career-high seven catches for 140 yards in the EV1.net Houston Bowl last season ... Francies posted a personal best 120 yards at Memphis on Oct. 1 ... Higgins has had five 100-yard performances, including 156 yards against Houston on Oct. 16 ... Marrow registered 116 yards versus Weber State a year ago.
QB NO QUESTION MARK: UTEP entered the 2005 season with an established quarterback for the first time since 2000, when Rocky Perez was the clear-cut starter ... Jordan Palmer started all 12 contests a year ago, throwing for 2,818 yards and 26 touchdowns ... the last time UTEP returned a 2,000-yard passer was 1990, when senior Howard Gasser was coming off a 2,586-yard campaign ... Palmer became only the second Miner sophomore to pass for 2,000 yards in 2004, joining Billy Stevens who achieved this feat in 1965 (3,032 yards).
WHERE’S THE BEEF? IN THE O-LINE: UTEP’s depth chart for the Rice game features four projected starters in the offensive line who weigh 300 pounds ... left guard Jose Garcia is 320 pounds, right tackle Luis Espinosa is 305, left tackle Josh House is 300 and right guard James Riley is 300 ... UTEP has never opened a season with at least four starting O-linemen weighing 300 pounds ... UTEP’s projected starting O-line for the Rice game averages 6-3 and 300 pounds.
HOWARD AMONG NATION’S FINEST: Senior linebacker Thomas Howard was named the preseason Defensive Player of the Year in the state of Texas by Dave Campbell’s magazine ... it marks the first time in the 46-year history of the prestigious publication that UTEP has had a preseason player of the year on either side of the ball ... a Lubbock native, Howard came to UTEP as a walk-on defensive back in 2001 ... at the time he weighed 195 pounds, now he’s up to 240 ... his father, Thomas Howard Sr., was also a linebacker who enjoyed a lengthy NFL career with the Kansas City Chiefs and St. Louis Cardinals ... Thomas Howard Jr. has posted 255 tackles in 42 games for the Miners, including 32.5 for losses and 12 sacks ... he ranks fourth in school history with 32.5 tackles for losses and seventh with 12 sacks.
FROM THE WEIGHT ROOM: UTEP Coach Mike Price says this is the fastest team he has ever coached. The team average in the 40-yard dash is 4.73 seconds (4.95 two years ago), led by junior WR Johnnie Lee Higgins, Jr.’s clocking of 4.18 seconds. Other significant 40 times belong to junior DB Nate Draughon (4.29), senior LB Thomas Howard (4.33) and senior RB Tyler Ebell (4.37) ... six Miners achieved vertical jumps of 40 inches or better in winter testing, double the number from the previous year. They are sophomore DB Emeri Spence (44 inches), senior DB Cedric Click (43), Draughon (42), senior WR Jayson Boyd (41), senior DB Marshall Sanford (40.5) and freshman RB Jon Lane (40) ... UTEP’s average standing long jump has increased from 8-5 to 8-10 1/4 in two years, and the average 10-yard dash time has improved from 1.6 seconds to 1.53 seconds. The average vertical jump has increased from 31.8 inches to 33.3 inches over one year ... junior WR David Sutton has the top standing long jump on the team at 10-10.
UTEP ON THE TUBE: Eight Miner games are slated for national television in 2005 ... three will air on ESPN networks and five on CSTV affiliates ... ESPNU televised UTEP’s game at New Mexico State ... the home opener versus Houston (Sept. 16) was carried on ESPN2, and the game at Tulane (Oct. 14) was televised by ESPN ... CSTV or its affiliate, the i network (formerly PAX), showed the New Mexico game (Sept. 24), the Memphis game (Oct. 1) and the Marshall game (Oct. 22) ... the network will also air the Rice (Oct. 29) and UAB (Nov. 19) contests ... prior to this season, a total of four UTEP games all-time have aired on national television, including the 2004 EV1.net Houston Bowl on ESPN.
MINER NUGGETS: UTEP is 7-1 in October under head coach Mike Price ... with senior Chris Francies sidelined due to injury, sophomore wide receiver Joe West made his third career start against Marshall ... with starters Jayson Boyd, Jake Sears and Francies out against Marshall, Aaron Givens stepped up with four catches for 54 yards. Givens had two receptions for 15 yards in the first five games ... junior tight end Jake Sears tied his career-high with 40 yards receiving against Tulane ... UTEP had 100 yards in penalties for the second time this season at Tulane on Oct. 14. The Miners’ season-high for penalty yards in 2004 was 78 at San Jose State. The last time the Miners had two games with 100 yards in penalties in a season was 1986 (four times) ... linebacker Gabe Macias and running back Jon Lane saw their first action of the season against Marshall ... wide receivers Matt Ellis and Chris Day saw action for the second time this season versus the Thundering Herd ... defensive back Fred Pattton and defensive lineman James Olalekan are the only true freshmen to see action for the Miners this fall ... Joe Fleskoski has three career interceptions for 135 yards and two touchdowns. His two interceptions for touchdowns rank second-best in school history ... Fleskoski has the longest UTEP play this season with a 68-yard interception return ... Price was able to keep his coaching staff together during the offseason, a rarity for UTEP football. It marks the first time since 1987-88 that the Miner staff has remained intact from one season to the next ... two former Miners were inducted into the UTEP Athletic Hall of Fame on Sept 23. Fred Carr (1965-67) was one of the greatest linebackers in school history, and went on to play for Green Bay in the NFL (he is a member of the Packer Hall of Fame). Fred Wendt (1942, 1946-48) was the only player in school history to rush for 300 yards in a game, rocketing for 326 yards versus New Mexico State in 1948 ... deep snapper Aaron King leads the Miners with three punt return tackles ... Matt Austin and Reagan Schneider lead the team with six tackles on kickoff coverage ... Austin is UTEP’s special teams tackle leader with seven (six kickoff, one punt).
USELESS STATE OF THE GAME: Forrest Gump’s buddy Private Benjamin Buford “Bubba” Blue could name various types of shrimp and their use ... “shrimp is the fruit of the sea. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, saute it,” he would say ... you can also serve shrimp over rice for an appetizing dish ... ironic because not only are there many different varieties of shrimp, but there are many different varieties of rice ... there is white rice, wild rice, long rice, medium rice, short rice, sweet rice, brown rice and many others ... what does this have to do with UTEP’s game at Rice University on Saturday? ... absolutely nothing.