Game 8: Miners Look To Stay Hot Against Nationally-Ranked Southern Miss
UTEP (4-3, 1-2 C-USA) looks to continue its winning ways when it resumes C-USA action against Southern Miss (6-1, 2-1 C-USA) on Saturday in the Sun Bowl. Kickoff is slated for 6:02 p.m. The game will be nationally televised on CBS College Sports with James Bates (play-by-play), Aaron Taylor (analyst) and Brooke Collins (sideline) calling the game.
The Miners seek their second C-USA victory of the season, while Southern Miss, which is ranked 25th nationally in the USA Today Coaches Poll, looks to remain on top of the Eastern Division. The Eagles turned in a 27-3 win over SMU on Saturday. UTEP is 1-2 in C-USA play including a 44-7 win at Tulane and losses to SMU (28-17) and Houston (49-42).
UTEP Seeks Third Straight Win
The Miners will gun for their third consecutive victory on Saturday against Southern Miss. UTEP posted winning streaks of three games or more in six of Mike Price's first seven seasons as head coach, the exception being the 2009 campaign. However, the Miners haven't enjoyed a winning streak of three games or more that included the last game of October since 2005. In fact, UTEP hasn't won its last game in October since 2005, when it scored a 38-31 triumph at Rice to cap a 3-1 month.
October Remains Successful for the Miners
The Miners continue to enjoy success in October, more than any other month under the direction of coach Mike Price. The Miners are 19-11 after capturing victories over Tulane and Colorado State. The Miners have had back-to-back October victories in 2008, 2010 and 2011. The Miners won three consecutive contests in October in 2005 and five straight in 2004.
The Last Time Out
Vernon Frazier rushed for a career-high 167 yards and UTEP piled up 340 yards on the ground in a 31-17 win over Colorado State. UTEP's defense held the Rams to 255 yards of offense while collecting seven sacks and 11 tackles for losses and held the Rams to 93 yards rushing.
The Miners scored the game's first 14 points and didn't trail. The Rams cut the deficit to 14-10 but UTEP responded with 17 unanswered points, highlighted by an 83-yard scoring run by Frazier -- the longest rushing play by a UTEP player since 1988.
The Series vs. Southern Miss
The series is tied 2-2 including 1-1 in the Sun Bowl. The two teams haven't met in the Sun Bowl since Nov. 17, 2007 when UTEP fell 56-30. The Miners won the last meeting in 2008, a 40-37 overtime victory in Hattiesburg, Miss. The Golden Eagles beat the Miners in the 1988 Independence Bowl, 38-18, led by future NFL quarterback Brett Favre. UTEP and Southern Miss also squared off in the 1954 Sun Bowl with the Miners prevailing 37-14.
The Scouting Report on Southern Miss
After defeating SMU 27-3, Southern Miss captured a no.25 ranking in the USA Today Coaches Poll. The Golden Eagles are 6-1 on the season and 2-1 in league action to sit atop the Eastern Division standings. Southern Miss is on the verge of cracking the Associated Press poll, standing 27th.
Eastern Division Foes on Tap For Miners
UTEP will play two of its next three games -- and three of its last five -- versus teams from Conference USA's Eastern Division. The Miners are 15-16 against Western Division foes and 6-14 versus the Eastern Division since joining C-USA for the 2005 season. UTEP, however, has won back-to-back games against Eastern Division squads in the Sun Bowl for the first time, topping Marshall in the 2009 season finale (52-21) and Memphis last season (16-13).
Good to See You Again
UTEP hasn't faced Southern Miss since Oct. 4, 2008, when Trevor Vittatoe's six-yard TD pass to Kris Adams in the second overtime lifted the Miners to a thrilling 40-37 win over the Golden Eagles in Hattiesburg. Only five players on this year's team appeared in that game, including LB Royzell Smith who started. The others are DB Antwon Blake, RB Vernon Frazier, LB Jamie Irving (who is redshirting in 2011) and WR Donavon Kemp.
Miners in the National Ranks
Through games of Oct. 22, the Miners held national top-50 rankings in net punting (second; 43.0 avg.), kickoff returns (third; 28.31 avg.), passing efficiency defense (28th; 115.84), sacks (29th; 2.43 avg.), rushing offense (43rd; 174.1 avg.) and punt returns (45th; 9.46 avg.).
Individually, Vernon Frazier was sixth in kickoff returns (31.74 avg.) and 48th in all-purpose yards (129.43 ypg.), Anthony McGhee was 36th in punt returns (7.30 avg.) and Dakota Warren was tied for 27th in field goals (1.43 avg.).
Miners Scoring Early
UTEP has put seven points on the board in the first two and a half minutes of each of the last two games. The Miners took a 7-0 lead at Tulane on Vernon Frazier's 15-yard run with 12:49 remaining in the initial period. UTEP scored even more quickly last week against Colorado State, as a 36-yard pass from Nick Lamaison to Nathan Jeffery with 13:41 left in the first quarter gave the Miners a lead that they would not relinquish. It was the quickest score of the Mike Price era. The last time the Miners scored earlier in a game was on Sept. 6, 2003 versus Cal Poly, when Omar Cruz threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Jacob Gonzales with 14:16 to go in the opening period. UTEP has scored touchdowns on its first drive in each of the last three games.
Miners Have Piled Up 877 Rushing Yards in Three Games
Over the last three contests UTEP has compiled 271, 266 and 340 yards rushing. It's the second-best three-game stretch for the Miners in the modern era of football, narrowly eclipsed by the 878 yards accumulated versus Colorado State (241), Wyoming (318) and Air Force (319) in November of 1984. However, this marks the first time that UTEP has rushed for 266 yards or more in three straight games since 1965.
Long Plays Have Been Key in Running Game
The Miners have certainly enjoyed a resurgence of sorts in the running game. After totaling just 346 yards rushing in the first four games of the season, the Miners were just four shy of that number last week, picking up 340 yards against Colorado State. The Miners have racked up 877 yards in the last three games. Included in the ground attack are rushes of 83, 72 and 68-yards -- all three resulting in touchdowns. In fact, three of the Miners' four longest plays this campaign have come via on the run.
Frazier Turns in Breakout Night Against Rams
Vernon Frazier rushed for a career-high 167 yards versus Colorado State last week. His previous best was 89 yards against Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Sept. 4, 2010. Frazier's 83-yard scoring run in the third quarter tied for the fifth-longest rushing play in school history. It was also the longest rush by a UTEP player since Willie Fuller versus Utah in 1988 (90 yards). Frazier has scored a TD in back-to-back games for the first time in his Miner career. He led UTEP in rushing for the second time versus CSU, the first coming on Sept. 27, 2008 against UCF when he ran for 73 yards.
Frazier Has More Than One Purpose
Besides igniting the UTEP ground game, Vernon Frazier is also sixth in the FBS in kickoff returns (31.7 avg.) for a Miner team that is third in the category (28.3 avg.). Frazier has had a kickoff return of 40 yards or more in five of seven games this season (50 versus Stony Brook, 43 at SMU, 48 at NM State, 67 at USF, 42 versus Colorado State). He had 243 all-purpose yards versus Colorado State, the second-most by a UTEP player in 2011 behind Joe Banyard's 256 against Houston on Sept. 29. With a team-high 906 all-purpose yards in 2011, Frazier is on pace for 1,553 which would mark the seventh-best seasonal figure in Miner annals.
Myers Also Put Up Personal-Best Numbers
Leilyon Myers joined Vernon Frazier in enjoying the best game of his UTEP career against Colorado State. Myers rushed 15 times for 81 yards, eclipsing his previous best of 71 yards rushing at Arkansas on Nov. 13, 2010. Myers has flourished as the Miners' short-yardage back, scoring 12 touchdowns in only 20 games in El Paso.
Run Game Has Been Lethal
The Miners' 340 yards rushing against Colorado State were their most in a game since Sept. 16, 1995 versus Valdosta State (346), and their most versus an FBS opponent since Nov. 20, 1993 against New Mexico (350). Only seven times since 1965 has UTEP run for more than 340 yards in a game. Here's a look at the Miners' top rushing performances in the modern era of football.
Date Opponent Rushing Yards
Nov. 20, 1982 Wyoming 404
Sept. 4, 1976 Texas-Arlington 384
Nov. 7, 1970 Wyoming 373
Nov. 19, 1983 Weber State 358
Nov. 20, 1993 New Mexico 350
Aug. 31, 1991 New Mexico 349
Sept. 16, 1995 Valdosta State 346
Oct. 22, 2011 Colorado State 340
Miners Brought the Pressure Against CSU
UTEP registered seven sacks against Colorado State, its best game total since the 2005 opener at NM State (eight). Leading the way was Greg Watkins, who duplicated his career-high with two sacks. Watkins is tied with Horace Miller and Germard Reed for the team lead with three sacks apiece. As a team, the Miners have 19 sacks, five more than they enjoyed the entire 2010 campaign (14). The last time UTEP had more than 19 sacks in a season was in 2008 (23), and this year's squad is on pace to post 30 sacks for the first time since 2004 when it had 42.
Defense Has Been Even Better than Stats Indicate
UTEP ranks 63rd nationally in scoring defense, surrendering 26.7 points per game, but the stop troops has been on the field for only 152 of the 187 points allowed this season (opponents have scored 35 points directly off turnovers, with three TDs coming via the fumble recovery and two via the interception). So the defense is allowing only 21.7 points per contest, a figure that would tie for 34th in the FBS.
Holding `Em Under 20
UTEP has held opponents under 20 points in eight of 20 games since Andre Patterson took over as defensive coordinator for the 2010 season. That's particularly impressive when you consider that the Miners kept foes under 20 points eight times in the previous 57 games prior to his arrival.
Defense Turned in Season-Best Effort
The stop troops yielded a season-low 255 yards and 10 points to Colorado State (the Rams scored another touchdown off a 45-yard interception return). UTEP has allowed less than 300 yards in a game 17 times since Mike Price's arrival in 2004, including on six occasions under defensive coordinator Andre Patterson's watch since 2010.
Date Opponent Yards Allowed
Sept. 11, 2004 Weber State 112
Nov. 12, 2005 Texas Southern 146
Oct. 7, 2006 SMU 190
Nov. 15, 2008 SMU 201
Oct. 2, 2004 NM State 226
Nov. 21, 2009 at Rice 227
Oct. 2, 2010 at New Mexico 237
Oct. 22, 2011 Colorado State 255
Sept. 17, 2011 at NM State 258
Sept. 4, 2010 Arkansas-Pine Bluff 278
Nov. 27, 2004 at Tulsa 283
Sept. 22, 2007 Texas Southern 284
Sept. 19, 2009 at NM State 284
Sept. 24, 2005 New Mexico 285
Sept. 25, 2010 Memphis 288
Sept. 23, 2006 at New Mexico 289
Sept. 18, 2010 NM State 296
Miners Have Been Particularly Disciplined in Conference Play
In three Conference USA games this season, UTEP has been whistled for six penalties totaling 54 yards. In four non-conference games, the Miners have had 28 penalties for 266 yards. UTEP had one penalty for 10 yards in its last conference game at Tulane (Oct. 15). The last time the Miners had so few penalties in a league affair was on Oct. 14, 1989 versus New Mexico (0).
Campbell Leads the Nation in Punting -- With an Asterisk
Ian Campbell's 48.0-yard punting average should lead the nation, but you won't find him atop the NCAA stats. That's because he's averaging 3.57 punts per game and the NCAA cutoff is 3.6. Three other Miners -- Owen Price (1940), Fred Wendt (1946) and Ed Bunn (1992) -- have led the country in punting. Campbell's current average would tie Price's 48.00 in 1940 for the top seasonal figure in school history. Campbell's exploits, coupled with the Miners ranking 25th in the FBS in punt return defense (4.6 yards per return), put UTEP second nationally in net punting (43.0 avg.) behind Oregon (45.1).
Miners are Good When They Go For It
UTEP was 4-for-4 on fourth down conversions over the last two games, making the Miners 10-for-14 in the category for the year. The .714 percentage ranks second in Conference USA and 14th nationally. East Carolina is the league leader, having converted on 7-of-9 fourth down chances for a .778 percentage. UTEP converted only six fourth downs all of last season, and the last time the Miners had more than 10 in a campaign was in 2003 (13-for-27).
Miners in Gift-Giving Mode
UTEP has been a little too careless with the football to coach Mike Price's liking this season. The Miners have 18 giveaways to tie for 107th nationally among FBS schools. Only East Carolina (23) and Tulsa (22) have coughed up the football more times among C-USA schools. UTEP is tied for 63rd in the country in turnovers gained (12), and the Miners' turnover margin of -0.86 is tied for 104th in the nation and rates ninth in C-USA.
UTEP's Defensive Success Buoyed By Red Zone Efficiency
UTEP is tied for fifth in the FBS in red zone efficiency defense. Opponents have scored 16 times on 24 trips to the red zone (65.4 percent), but with only 10 touchdowns. Southern Miss leads C-USA in red zone defense (17-for-26, .696), a shade ahead of the second-place Miners.
Obscure Note of the Week
UTEP's receiving leader (in terms of yardage) has had only one catch in each of the last two games. On Oct. 15 at Tulane, Craig Wenrick reeled in a 66-yard reception from Nick Lamaison - the longest catch by a tight end in school history. Last week versus Colorado State, Nathan Jeffery's 36 receiving yards came off a Lamaison pass in the first quarter. The last time the Miners played consecutive games where their receiving leader had a single catch was early in the 1982 season, when Kevin May (one reception for nine yards) and Delbert Allen (one reception for 59 yards) were the leaders at Washington and versus SMU, respectively.
These Stats Aren't for Winners, Unless You're UTEP
Who would have thought that a Mike Price-style offense would register three wins with less than 10 pass completions. But that's exactly what has happened this season, as the Miners completed nine passes against NM State, eight versus Tulane and nine against Colorado State - all victories. In the first seven seasons of the Price regime (2004-10), the Miners played only three games where they completed fewer than 10 passes - versus New Mexico in 2007 (eight completions in a 10-6 win), at Texas in 2009 (nine completions in a 64-7 loss), and at Tulsa in 2010 (nine completions in a 31-28 loss). This year marks the first time since 1971 that the Miners have completed fewer than 10 pass attempts in back-to-back games and won both contests. Prior to this season, the Miners were 1-3 under Price when registering fewer than 125 passing yards. They are 3-0 in the circumstance in 2011.
UTEP Defense Stellar in the Red
UTEP's defense held Colorado State to a field goal on three trips to the red zone. In fact, the Miners have allowed just 10 points in the red zone (all in the first quarter) on five opponent trips in the last two contests. UTEP gave up 78 points to opponents in 19 trips to the red zone by the opposition in the first five games.
Who's Watching the Clock
The Miners have proven that time is not a factor in getting a victory. UTEP registered just 24:02 in time of possession - 11:56 less than Colorado State (35:58) - last week. In fact, the Miners have held the ball less than their opponents in three of their four victories this year. The Miners are 1-3 when they control the time of possession and 3-0 when the opponent controls the clock this season.
Miners Have Gotten Off to Fast Starts in Both Halves
UTEP has scored 63 percent of its regulation points (125 of 198) in the first and third quarters this season. The third quarter has been UTEP's most productive from an offensive standpoint with 66 points. On the other hand, the defense has gotten stronger as the games have worn on, as UTEP has allowed only 80 of its 187 opponent points (43 percent) after halftime.
First Time for Everything
In the modern era (post 1965) the Miners have registered 147 games with 30 or more points. The Miners have recorded 52 games alone during the Mike Price era, so it wasn't a surprise to see them do it against Colorado State. The manner of which they did it though, was unique. UTEP registered four TDs and a field goal against Colorado State, with each of those scoring plays being longer than 30 yards. It marked the first time in the modern era that the Miners relied upon scoring plays of 30-plus yards in a game which they had at least 30 points. The Miners had a 36-yard pass and runs of 83, 48 and 33-yards and a 36-yard field goal against the Rams.