Miners to Face No. 12 Texas A&M
Oct. 28, 2013
Miners to Face First Ranked Opponent Since ‘12 Opener
UTEP (1-6, 0-4 C-USA) continues a three-game road swing, battling Texas A&M (6-2, 3-2 SEC) on Saturday at 7 p.m. MT (8 p.m. CT) at Kyle Field. The game will be nationally televised on ESPN2. Texas A&M is rated 12th in this week’s Associated Press poll and 14th in the USA Today coaches poll. It marks the Miners’ third visit to College Station all-time and their first since 2000. UTEP is 1-30 all-time versus ranked opponents on the road with a 31-27 victory at no. 14 Arizona State on Nov. 2, 1974. The Miners have dropped 26 consecutive road games to ranked teams since then. Overall UTEP is 1-14 in its last 15 games versus ranked foes with a 58-41 upset of no. 12 Houston -- coached by Kevin Sumlin -- on Oct. 3, 2009 in the Sun Bowl. This is UTEP’s first game versus a ranked team since the 2012 season opener against no. 4 Oklahoma in the Sun Bowl, and its first game on the road versus a ranked squad since Sept. 24, 2011 at no. 18 USF.
This is the third meeting between the Miners and the Aggies. Texas A&M won both previous matchups in College Station in 1984 (20-17) and 2000 (45-17).
The Last Meeting
Texas A&M scored 31 unanswered second-half points to roll to a 45-17 win over UTEP on Sept. 16, 2000 in College Station. Ahead 17-14 at the break, UTEP became the first non-conference opponent to lead the Aggies at halftime at Kyle Field since 1992. The key to the lead came in the second quarter when the UTEP offense controlled the ball for 10:32, leading to 10 unanswered points. UTEP got on the board first using a 10-play, 58-yard drive culminated by Rocky Perez’s six-yard touchdown pass to Joey Knapp. Texas A&M answered five minutes later with Robert Ferguson’s six-yard touchdown reception from Mark Farris to tie the game, 7-7. The Miners then went three-and-out on their next possession and the Aggies capitalized. Texas A&M charged 61 yards on three plays, capped by Joe Weber’s 16-yard scoring run. UTEP answered with a nine-play, 80-yard drive, keyed by Brian Natkin’s 21-yard reception on third and 13 from the UTEP 15-yard line. Perez then connected with Lee Mays for a 35-yard scoring strike to tie the game, 14-14. On the ensuing possession, the UTEP defense stalled Texas A&M at the Miner 26-yard line, forcing the Aggies to attempt a field goal. Miner cornerback Crance Clemons blocked Terance Kitchens’ 43-yard field goal attempt to maintain the stalemate at 14-14. The Miners then put together a 16-play, 54-yard time-consuming drive that resulted in a Ricky Bishop 37-yard field goal with 15 seconds to play in the half. A&M outscored UTEP 31-0 in the second half, as Ja’Mar Toombs rushed for three touchdowns.
Five members of UTEP’s coaching staff were involved with the last Miner-Aggie game in 2000. Sean Kugler was offensive line coach at the time, Patrick Higgins was offensive coordinator, Brian Natkin was a senior tight end, Robert Rodriguez was a freshman running back (redshirted that year) and Nate Poss was Director of Football Operations.
UTEP QB Jameill Showers played for the Aggies for two seasons (2011-12), completing 31-of-49 passes for 359 yards and two touchdowns in 11 games. UTEP DL Adam Ayala, UTEP DL James Davidson and Texas A&M DL Kirby Ennis all graduated from Huntsville (Texas) High School. UTEP LB Trey Brown, UTEP OL Chris Thomas, UTEP WR Jaquan White and Texas A&M DL Daeshon Hall are all products of Lancaster (Texas) High School. UTEP DL Dewan Edmonson, Texas A&M DB Tavares Garner and Texas A&M WR Kyrion Parker all hail from Manvel (Texas) High School. UTEP TE Katrae Ford and Texas A&M DL Hardreck Walker both played their prep ball at Westfield High School in Houston. UTEP DB Dashone Smith, Texas A&M QB Conner McQueen and Texas A&M LB A.J. Hilliard all graduated from Klein Oak High School in Klein, Texas.
Texas A&M Special Teams Coordinator/Tight Ends Coach Jeff Banks was a member of Mike Price’s staff at UTEP from 2004-12, serving as running backs coach and special teams coordinator. Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin will be coaching against UTEP for the fifth time on Saturday after posting a 3-1 mark versus the Miners while at Houston (2008-11). Aggie Defensive Coordinator Mark Snyder was the head coach at Marshall from 2005-09, and went 1-2 against UTEP during that span.
About Texas A&M
The Aggies cruised to a 65-28 win over Vanderbilt last Saturday at Kyle Field, as reigning Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel completed 29-of-42 passes for 426 yards. Mike Evans also had a big day for the Aggies, reeling in seven catches for 155 yards. Texas A&M scored 35 points in the third quarter. The Aggies have jumped on teams at the start of both halves in 2013. They have outscored opponents 115-55 in the first period and 111-55 in the third. Manziel has thrown for 2,594 yards and 22 touchdowns, and rushed for 497 yards and six scores this season. Evans averages 137.6 yards receiving per outing. The Aggies collect 48.0 points and 584.9 yards of offense per contest. Texas A&M rates third nationally in total offense, fourth in scoring offense and fifth in passing offense (377 ypg). Manziel completes 73 percent of his passes, third-best in the FBS, and also rates third nationally in total offense (386.4 ypg). Evans is second in the country in receiving. The Texas A&M defense has picked off 11 passes on the year, with Nate Askew, Deshazor Everett and Tommy Sanders accounting for two picks apiece.
UTEP vs. the SEC
The Miners are 1-7 against SEC opponents since the formation of the league for the 1932 season. The lone victory came in the 1967 Sun Bowl, when the Miners topped Mississippi 14-7. UTEP is 1-1 against Ole Miss, 0-2 versus Tennessee, 0-1 against Alabama, 0-1 versus Arkansas, 0-1 against Kentucky and 0-1 versus LSU. UTEP is 0-7 all-time in road games versus SEC competition. The Miners have been outscored by a combined 339-74 in the seven road games.
UTEP vs. the BCS
The Miners are 0-17 all-time in road games versus BCS conference teams (lost 35-3 at Texas Tech in 1998, lost 47-28 at Oregon in 1999, lost 40-7 at Kansas State in 1999, lost 34-21 at Arizona in 1999, lost 55-14 at Oklahoma in 2000, lost 45-17 at Texas A&M in 2000, lost 56-7 at Alabama in 2001, lost 77-17 at Kentucky in 2002, lost 68-0 at Oklahoma in 2002, lost 42-7 at Arizona in 2003, lost 41-9 at Arizona State in 2004, lost 45-31 at Texas Tech in 2007, lost 64-7 at Texas in 2009, lost 58-21 at Arkansas in 2010, lost 52-24 at USF in 2011, lost 28-10 at Ole Miss in 2012, lost 37-26 at Wisconsin in 2012).
Taylor McHargue threw for a career-high four touchdowns as Rice extended its winning streak to five games with a 45-7 victory over UTEP on Oct. 26 in Houston. McHargue completed 8-of-19 passes for 259 yards, including a 72-yard touchdown strike to Jordan Taylor in the third quarter. Taylor also set a career high with 185 yards on four catches and tied his career best with three receiving TDs. Rice’s Charles Ross rambled for 152 yards and a touchdown. Ian Hamilton posted a career high in receiving yards (108) for the Miners and caught his first career touchdown pass. With the score 10-0 in the Owls’ favor, Hamilton got the Miners on the board when he caught a 50-yard touchdown pass from Blaire Sullivan in the second quarter. But the Owls answered with a four-play, 45-yard drive that ended with a 17-yard touchdown pass from McHargue to Dennis Parks. Freshman Aaron Jones picked up his third 100-yard game of the season as he shattered his career best with 186 yards on 29 carries. He sprinted 81 yards to the Rice three-yard line with the score 17-7, but coughed up the ball at the one. Rice took the ball 99 yards on 11 plays to extend the lead to 24-7 and never looked back.
Sullivan came on in relief of starter Jameill Showers, who injured his shoulder on a sack in the second quarter, and threw his first touchdown pass in a year. Rice racked up 524 yards of total offense, including 265 on the ground. The Miners gained 364 yards of total offense, including 248 rushing. Leading the MIners defense was freshman Devin Cockrell, who posted a career high 13 tackles which 11 of those stops were unassisted.
On to November
After completing their first winless October since 2001, the Miners hope better times are ahead as they will play five games in November for the first time since 2008 and only the ninth time in school history (also happened in 1919, 1920, 1929, 1941, 1946, 1952 and 2003). UTEP is playing a non-conference game in November for the first time since falling 58-21 at no. 14 Arkansas on Nov. 13, 2010.
Banner Day for Jones
Aaron Jones compiled a career-high 186 yards rushing in UTEP’s loss at Rice on Oct. 26. He had an 81-yard sprint in the second quarter, the eighth-longest rushing play in school history and the longest since Vernon Frazier had an 83-yard run versus Colorado State on Oct. 22, 2011. It was also the longest run by a UTEP freshman, eclipsing the 75-yard scamper by Kevin Ward versus Colorado State on Oct. 24, 1981.
Jones is Number One
Aaron Jones’ 186 rushing yards at Rice on Oct. 26 were the most by an FBS freshman this year. Overall the total is tied for 30th among all players. The 186 yards rank no. 21 in the UTEP record book and no. 3 among freshmen. John Harvey rushed for 232 yards at Colorado State on Sept. 14, 1985, and Elzie Johnson ran for 203 yards versus Tulsa on Nov. 16, 1996.
Jones Has Fourth-Longest Run by an FBS Player in 2013
Aaron Jones’ 81-yard run in the second quarter at Rice was the fourth-longest rushing play by an FBS player this season, and the longest by a freshman. Army’s Terry Baggett had a 96-yard run versus Eastern Michigan on Oct. 12, Arkansas State’s Michael Gordon had a 91-yard run against Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Aug. 31, and Arizona’s Daniel Jenkins had a 91-yard run versus Northern Arizona on Aug. 30. The previous longest rushing play by a freshman was an 80-yard run by Alabama’s Derrick Henry against Arkansas on Oct. 19.
Jones Takes Over National Freshman Rushing Lead
Aaron Jones is the new FBS freshman leader in rushing yards per game (106.1), with Arkansas’ Alex Collins rating second (99.6 ypg). Jones is 20th in the nation in rushing average. He ranks no. 2 among FBS freshmen in total rushing yards (743) behind Collins (797), who has played in one more game. Jones is 29th among all FBS players in rushing yards.
Tracking Jones in C-USA
Aaron Jones ranks no. 2 in Conference USA in rushing average (106.1 ypg) behind Rice’s Charles Ross (116.2 ypg). Southern Miss’ Derrick Nix is the only player to lead C-USA in rushing as a freshman; he collected 107.3 yards per game in 1998.
Jones Closing in on UTEP Freshman Rushing Record
Aaron Jones (743 rushing yards) needs just 35 yards to break John Harvey’s UTEP freshman rushing record (777 yards in 1985). He is on pace for 1,274 yards in 2013, which would mark the fifth-most in a season by a Miner player. Donald Buckram ran for 1,594 yards in 2009, Fred Wendt had 1,546 in 1948, and Toraino Singleton compiled 1,358 and 1,277 in 1995 and 1994 respectively. Jones’ 106.1 yards per game would rate sixth in the record book.
Jones and the Century Mark
Aaron Jones has put together three 100-yard rushing games this season, most by a UTEP freshman since John Harvey (the school’s all-time leading rusher) compiled four in 1985. Jones has led the Miners in rushing in six of seven games, including four straight. He has averaged 122.8 ypg over the last four outings.
The Most He’s Had
Aaron Jones carried the ball a career-high 29 times in UTEP’s game at Rice on Oct. 26. That put him on the cusp of becoming the first Miner freshman to rush 30 times in a game since John Harvey had 30 attempts versus New Mexico on Nov. 2, 1985.
Ground Game Playing a Major Role in Offensive Success
The Miners have put together three straight 200-yard rushing games for the first time since the 2011 season, when they racked up 321 versus Houston, 266 at Tulane and 340 against Colorado State. UTEP hasn’t had four 200-yard rushing games in a row since 2003. The Miners have five 200-yard rushing games for the first time since 2003 (five). They last time they had six or more in a campaign was in 1994 (six).
Rushing Offense is Best Since 1984
UTEP is averaging 211 rushing yards per game. It’s the best figure since 1984 (217.5 ypg), and marks the first time since 1988 (201.2) that the Miners have averaged over 200 yards on the ground. UTEP’s 4.54 yards per carry is its best since 1988 (4.98), and would rank seventh-best in school history if the season ended today. UTEP ranks no. 26 nationally in rushing yards per game, and no. 2 in Conference USA behind Rice (234.3 ypg).
Ground Game Playing a Major Role in Offensive Success
The Miners have put together back-to-back 200-yard rushing games for the second time this season and have four 200-yard games on the year. That ties the most in any season since 2004. The Miners had five 200-yard rushing games in 2003. UTEP’s ground game has been particularly volatile in the second half this season. The Miners have rushed for 769 of their 1,229 yards (62.6 percent) in the third and fourth quarters of games.
With Jameill Showers out for the Texas A&M matchup after suffering a shoulder injury at Rice on Oct. 26, Blaire Sullivan could be running the UTEP offense indefinitely. He saw his first extensive action since Nov. 17 of last season versus the Owls, completing 6-of-9 passes for 112 yards and rushing six times for 21 yards. Sullivan threw a 50-yard touchdown pass to Ian Hamilton in the second quarter. He also had a 51-yard pass against Rice a year ago. In nine career games, Sullivan has thrown for 402 yards and rushed for 261.
Showers the Passer
Jameill Showers’ 128.40 passing efficiency rating this season would rank just outside of the all-time UTEP top 10 (Trevor Vittatoe ranks 10th currently with a 130.07 rating in 2009). Showers’ TD/interception ratio of 2.75 (11-4) would rank fourth-best by a UTEP quarterback with a minimum of 100 pass attempts. Rocky Perez had a 4.33 ratio (26/6) in 2000. Trevor Vittatoe had a 3.67 ratio (33/9) in 2008 and a 3.57 ratio (25/7) in 2007.
Showers the Rusher
Jameill Showers is UTEP’s second-leading rusher with 192 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). Showers ran for a career-high 74 yards versus Tulsa on Oct. 12. His 20-yard run in the second quarter tied a career long. He also had a 20-yard run against South Carolina State while at Texas A&M on Sept. 22, 2012.
A Responsible Guy
Jameill Showers is tied for 43rd nationally in points responsible for (92), having thrown for 11 touchdowns and a two-point conversion and rushing for four TDs this season. He ranks third in the statistical category among Conference USA players behind East Carolina’s Shane Carden (126 points) and Marshall’s Rakeem Cato (108 points).
Hamilton Breaks Out
While Jordan Leslie stole the headlines in the first six games of the season, Ian Hamilton showed that he can also be a star receiver for the Miners at Rice on Oct. 26. He snared four catches for 108 yards, including a 50-yard grab in the second quarter. While the 50-yard reception fell three shy of his career high (53 at Colorado State on Sept. 28), the 108 yards shattered his previous personal best of 81 yards at NM State on Sept. 14. In fact, 250 of Hamilton’s 315 yards this season (79 percent) have come in road games. He has averaged 19.2 yards per catch on the road and 9.3 at home.
Leslie Now Eighth in 100-Yard Games
Jordan Leslie has eight career 100-yard receiving games, tied for the eighth-most in school history with Bob Wallace (1965-67). Ed Puishes (1969-71), Lee Mays (1998-01), Jeff Moturi (2006-09) and Kris Adams (2007-10) are in a four-way tie for fourth place with ten 100-yard games. Leslie has gone over the century mark in four of the last six games. Leslie is one of eight players in school history with two 70-yard catches. The others are Johnnie Lee Higgins (four), Kris Adams (three), Donald Buckram (three), Jeff Moturi (three), Bubba Garcia (two), Howard Jackson (two) and Lee Mays (two). Leslie had a 75-yard reception at Colorado State on Sept. 28 and a 71-yard catch versus Tulsa on Oct. 12.
Leslie Knocking on Receiving List’s Door
Jordan Leslie has 1,892 career receiving yards and needs just 42 more to tie Brian Natkin (1,934 yards) for 10th place in school history. Natkin is currently the Miners’ tight ends coach. Leslie’s 17.36 yards per reception (1,892 yards/109 catches) would tie for sixth in the UTEP record book. He has 13 touchdown receptions, putting him one away from tying David Karns (1966-68) and Cedric Johnson (1993-96) for ninth place in school annals.
The Miners have compiled five pass plays of 50 yards or more this season. Three have gone to Jordan Leslie and two have gone to Ian Hamilton. UTEP is tied for 11th nationally in pass plays of 50 yards or more and leads Conference USA in that category. Rice and UTSA are tied for second with four each. The Miners are tied for seventh in the country in 70-yard pass plays (two) and are tops in C-USA in that area as well.
Big Play Offense in General
UTEP is tied for ninth in the FBS in plays of 40+ yards from scrimmage (13), tied for 10th in plays of 50+ yards (eight), and tied for seventh in plays of 60+ yards (five). The Miners lead C-USA in all three categories. Last year UTEP had fourteen plays of 40+ yards, eight plays of 50+ yards and five plays of 60+ yards.
Golden Moving Up on Kickoff Returns Chart
Autrey Golden is now in fifth place on UTEP’s career kickoff return yardage list with 1,368 yards. Marlon McClure (2009-10) is in fourth place with 1,571 yards. Golden’s career kickoff return average (29.11) would rank second in school history behind Vernon Frazier’s 29.42 from 2008-11.
Golden Sets the Standard
Autrey Golden is the only player in school history with four kickoff returns for touchdowns. He is the only player to record two kickoff returns for scores in separate seasons. And he is one of just two Miners to register a pair of 100-yard kickoff returns, joining Quintin Demps who achieved the feat in 2007. Golden had 100-yard kickoff returns against UTSA and Tulsa this season.
Golden and the National Rankings
Autrey Golden ranks seventh nationally in kickoff return average (30.3), and tied for first in kickoff returns for TDs (two) with Texas State’s Brandon Smith and Stanford’s Ty Montgomery. Golden’s 29.1 career kickoff return average ranks fourth among active FBS players behind Miami (Fla.)’s Duke Johnson (31.8), Kansas State’s Tyler Lockett (31.4) and Purdue’s Raheem Mostert (29.2). Golden is tied for second among active FBS players with four kickoff returns for TDs in his career. Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert has five. Golden is second among active FBS players in kickoff return yards per game (72.0) after North Texas’ Brelan Chancellor (77.4).
Third Quarter Has Been Productive for Miners
The Miners have outscored opponents 66-36 in the third period this season. In the other three quarters plus overtime, they have been outscored by a combined 235-128. UTEP has compiled 846 yards in the third quarter this season, including 498 passing. The Miners haven’t had more than 319 passing yards in any other period. Seven of UTEP’s nine longest offensive plays in 2013 have come in the third quarter, along with a 100-yard kickoff return by Autrey Golden against Tulsa.
The Miners didn’t lose the turnover battle in any of the first five games, but they have now done so in back-to-back contests. UTEP is now even in turnover margin for the year with nine takeaways (seven fumbles/two interceptions) and nine giveaways (four fumbles/five interceptions). In the last two games the Miners have one takeaway and five giveaways. The Miners have scored 42 points off turnovers this season, while opponents have tallied 39. Rice outscored UTEP 21-0 in points off turnovers on Oct. 26.
Quite a Day
Junior safety Wesley Miller had five pass break-ups at Rice on Oct. 26, tying the most by an FBS player in a game this year. The others to achieve the feat are Ohio’s Devin Bass, Northwestern’s Collin Ellis, San Jose State’s Dasheon Frierson, UNLV’s Tajh Hasson, North Carolina State’s Hakim Jones, Utah State’s Nevin Lawson and San Diego State’s J.J. Whitaker. The last FBS player to compile more than five pass break-ups in a contest was Minnesota’s Michael Carter versus Purdue on Oct. 27, 2012 (seven). Miller had six pass break-ups in his career entering the game.
Why They’re Struggling
While the Miners have yielded 38.7 points and 467.7 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 seven 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, joining Air Force’s Troy Calhoun, East Carolina’s Ruffin McNeill, Kent State’s Paul Haynes, Miami (Ohio)’s Don Treadwell, Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald, Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy, Stanford’s David Shaw, Texas Tech’s Kliff Kingsbury, Tulsa’s Bill Blankenship, Utah State’s Matt Wells and Virginia Tech’s Frank Beamer.
Two years after completing an eight-year run with the U.S. Army, Michael Kelley is a 27-year old linebacker hoping to make the most of his senior year with the Miners. He earned a scholarship this season and has made four appearances for UTEP. The native of Los Angeles registered his first career tackle against Tulsa on Oct. 12 (tallied two tackles on the night). Kelley was nominated for the 2013 Armed Forces Merit Award presented by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA). His 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 turned two years old on Oct. 14.
Up Next: at North Texas
The Miners return to conference play for their last four games of the season, starting on Nov. 9 when they face the Mean Green in Denton. UTEP will meet North Texas for the first time since 1980. The Mean Green leads the overall series 13-5-3.