UTEP to Play Final Non-Conference Game at No. 14 Arkansas
Nov. 8, 2010
Miners Play at Arkansas For the Second Time
Bowl-eligible for the first time in five years, UTEP (6-4, 3-4 C-USA) makes its second visit to the state of Arkansas -- and its first in 21 years -- to take on the 14th-ranked Razorbacks (7-2, 4-2 SEC) on Saturday at 5 p.m. MT. The game will be nationally televised on ESPNU. It is the Miners' final nonconference game of the 2010 season; they are 14-13 in non-conference contests under head coach Mike Price, including 3-0 this season. UTEP's record in non-conference road games during the Price era is 5-6.
UTEP is facing a team from the Natural State for the third occasion, including a 31-10 rout of Arkansas-Pine Bluff in the season opener on Sept. 4 in the Sun Bowl.
Capacity in Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium is 72,000 which, if filled to capacity on Saturday, would mark the eighth-largest crowd the Miners have played in front of all-time. UTEP is 0-22 when playing in front of crowds of 55,000 or more, including 0-1 under Price with last season's 64-7 setback at Texas. That game was played before a UTEP opponent record audience of 101,144.
UTEP is 1-6 versus schools currently in the Southeastern Conference, including 0-6 in road games. The Miners have scored just six touchdowns in the six games. The last time UTEP faced an SEC team was a 77-17 loss at Kentucky on Sept. 7, 2002. On Dec. 30, 1967, the Miners beat Mississippi, 14-7, in the Sun Bowl for their only victory over a school currently affiliated with the SEC.
The Miners are 4-46 all-time versus Associated Press top 25 opponents, including 1-29 on the road with a 31-27 triumph at no. 10 Arizona State on Nov. 2, 1974. Since then UTEP has dropped 24 straight road games to ranked teams.
The Razorbacks extended their winning streak to three games with a 41-20 triumph at no. 18 South Carolina last Saturday. Junior QB Ryan Mallett completed 21-of-30 passes for 303 yards, while Arkansas also had a 100-yard rusher (sophomore Knile Davis) and 100-yard receiver (sophomore Cobi Hamilton) en route to putting up 443 yards of offense.
Arkansas is 4-1 at home this season (3-1 in Fayetteville/1-0 in Little Rock) with the lone loss to defending national champion Alabama on Sept. 25. The Razorbacks' average margin of victory at home this season has been 28.5 points.
Mallett is fourth in the country in passing yards per game (305.8), ninth in passing efficiency (162.93) and 13th in total offense (301.6 ypg). Junior WR Joe Adams is fourth in the FBS in punt returns (19.2 avg.), and also averages 71.4 yards receiving per contest.
As a team, Arkansas rates second nationally in passing offense (353.9 ypg), fifth in punt returns (18.7 avg.), ninth in passing efficiency (161.40), 10th in total offense (482.4 ypg), 11th in pass defense (170.2 ypg) and sacks (2.9 avg.), tied for 14th in tackles for losses (7.4 avg.) and 18th in scoring offense (35.7 ppg).
Arkansas won the lone previous matchup between the schools, 39-7, on Sept. 30, 1989 in Little Rock. The Razorbacks, rated eighth in the nation at the time, piled up 620 yards of offense -- tied for the sixth-top total in school history -- including 366 rushing. After the Miners pulled within a touchdown (14-7) early in the second quarter on a two-yard run by quarterback Howard Gasser, Arkansas scored the game's final 25 points, including four field goals by Todd Wright. James Rouse rushed for 86 yards for the Razorbacks, and Tim Horton collected three catches for 88 yards. Gasser finished 12-of-29 passing for 145 yards for the Miners, who were held to 165 total offensive yards.
Razorback Coach Has UTEP Ties
Arkansas inside linebackers coach Reggie Johnson was a member of the Miner staff nearly a decade ago, coaching the defensive ends in 2001 and linebackers in 2002. Among the UTEP standouts that he coached were current Oakland Raider Thomas Howard.
Price Hasn't Coached Against Arkansas
In his 29th season as a collegiate head coach -- and with 333 games under his belt -- Mike Price will be coaching against Arkansas for the first time. In fact, Price has faced an SEC team only once previously in his career. His 1994 Washington State club dropped a 10-9 decision at Tennessee on its way to an 8-4 record and Alamo Bowl berth.
Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino is 1-0 when coaching against the Miners. His first Louisville team thumped UTEP, 42-14, on Sept. 20, 2003 at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.
Price, Petrino Go Way Back
Arkansas Coach Bobby Petrino was a member of Mike Price's staff at Weber State in 1984 (graduate assistant/quarterbacks coach) and again from 1987-88 (wide receivers coach). Price and Petrino will be on opposite sidelines for the fourth time on Saturday, with Price getting the better of the previous three matchups. Here's the breakdown:
Season Price Petrino Winner
November Non-Conference Games Not Unusual in Price Era
The Miners are playing a non-conference game in the month of November for the third time under coach Mike Price. UTEP beat Texas Southern at home in 2005 and also won at Louisiana-Lafayette in 2008.
Prior to Price's arrival, UTEP played a total of three non-conference games in November from 1982-2003. The rundown: versus Weber State in 1983 (40-34 win), versus Louisiana Tech in 1991 (21-17 loss) and at Tulsa in 1992 (48-39 loss).
Miners are Bowl-Eligible
UTEP is bowl-eligible for the first time in five years and has six or more victories for only the seventh time in the last 40 seasons. 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.
Mike Price is the fourth coach to lead UTEP to three or more seasons with a minimum of six victories, joining Mack Saxon (six), Mike Brumbelow (five) and Bobby Dobbs (four).
The Miners have played in 12 bowl games all-time and posted a 5-7 record with losses in their last four appearances (UTEP's last bowl win was in 1967). Conference USA's 2010 bowl tie-ins are as follows:
Bowl Date Location Opponent
UTEP's National/Conference Team Rankings
Here is a look at where UTEP rates statistically in the FBS and C-USA.
Category Stat FBS C-USA
UTEP's National/Conference Individual Rankings
Here is a look at where some of UTEP's top players statistically rate in the FBS and C-USA.
Player Category Stat FBS C-USA
UTEP Picks Up Elusive Sixth Win Against SMU
The Miners scored the game's first 14 points on their way to a 28-14 win over SMU last Saturday in the Sun Bowl, securing bowl eligibility for the first time since 2005.
UTEP ended a three-game losing streak while finishing 5-1 in the Sun Bowl this season. The 2010 Miners join the 1965, 1966, 1967, 1988, 2000, 2004 and 2005 squads as the only teams in school history to record five or more home victories since the stadium opened in 1963.
UTEP also improved to 11-4 versus Conference USA West Division teams in the Sun Bowl, including 3-0 against SMU.
The Miners set the tone for the game on fourth and five from their own 31-yard line on their initial drive, when punter Ian Campbell ran nine yards for a first down. That set up a 12-yard touchdown pass from Trevor Vittatoe to Evan Davis eight plays later.
Vittatoe also connected with Pierce Hunter (six yards) and Marlon McClure (13 yards) for scores as UTEP built a 21-7 lead at the midway point. After SMU pulled within 21-14 late in the third quarter, the Miners put the game away with a nine-play, 52-yard fourth quarter drive, capped by Leilyon Myers' two-yard plunge into the end zone.
The Miners finished with 319 yards of offense -- including only 64 in the second half when they held the ball for a total of 11 minutes. But the defense kept the Mustangs in check, limiting them to 359 yards of offense while registering two sacks and five tackles for losses. Seven of SMU's 10 drives produced less than 40 yards.
UTEP's last two regular season games are on the road against Arkansas and Tulsa, teams with a combined record of 13-5 including 8-1 at home. Next week's foe, the Golden Hurricane, has won each of its four home games by at least 13 points and has outscored its two C-USA home opponents (Tulane and Rice) by a 116-51 margin.
The Miners are 13-25 on the road under coach Mike Price, including 7-21 since 2006 and 2-11 in the month of November.
This year marks only the fifth time since 1965 that UTEP has concluded the regular season with back-to-back road games. This also happened in 1979 (0-2 record), 1985 (0-2), 1999 (1-1) and 2008 (0-2).
Price Can Tie Dobbs For Third-Most Wins Among UTEP Coaches
Mike Price carries a 40-42 record at UTEP into the Arkansas game and needs just one win to tie Bobby Dobbs for the third-top total among Miner head coaches. Mack Saxon is first with 66 wins, followed by Mike Brumbelow with 46 and Dobbs with 41.
Miners Have Allowed Fewest Points in C-USA West
Despite playing the maximum 10 games to this point, UTEP has allowed fewer points (216) than any other C-USA West Division team. Tulsa is second with 256 points allowed. The Miners are second in the league in points allowed behind UCF (165).
Miners are Championship-Caliber on Special Teams
A revamped special teams unit has paid major dividends for UTEP in 2010. The Miners have a new kicker (Dakota Warren) and punter (Ian Campbell), and both have performed more than capably. Warren has scored 65 points while connecting on 11-of-17 field goal attempts (8-of-10 from inside 40 yards) and all 32 of his PATs. The last time UTEP went through a season with a kicker who was perfect on PATs was 2005 (Reagan Schneider 41-for-41). Campbell has the second-best punting average in Conference USA at 44.1.
Where UTEP has really excelled, however, is in the returns area. The Miners are 11th in the FBS in punt return average (15.0) and 12th in kickoff return average (25.4). UTEP is one of seven teams listed in the nation's top 20 in both categories, along with Alabama, LSU, Nebraska, Oregon State, TCU and Utah.
Miners Shake Off Offensive Woes
Following a three-game stretch in which it averaged 277 yards and 14 points per game, UTEP scored 28 points last Saturday against SMU. The Miners compiled 319 yards of offense -- a misleading statistic considering that they ran a total of 20 plays in the second half (UTEP had 255 yards on 43 plays at the midway point).
The last time the Miners scored 28 points or more with 319 yards of offense or fewer -- without forcing a turnover -- was on Nov. 24, 1990 at San Diego State. UTEP had 307 yards of offense in a 58-31 loss to the Aztecs.
Offensive Line Producing Despite Injuries
The Miners are eighth in the nation in tackles for losses allowed (3.9) and tied for 22nd in sacks allowed (1.1) this season despite four starters (Eloy Atkinson, Tanner Cullumber, Rod Huntley, Will Osolinsky) missing games due to injuries. Against UAB earlier this year, the Miners were down to their fourth string center when Cullumber, Atkinson and Nathan McCage all went down.
Anthony McNac (nine games at left guard/one game at center) and Alex Solot (10 games at right tackle) are the only UTEP linemen to start every game this season. The injury bug continues to bite the Miners as Osolinsky (starter at left tackle in seven games) broke his leg against SMU and will be out for the rest of the season. Lance Evbuomwan, who has started three times in that spot this year and four games overall, will take his place in the lineup.
Red Zone Production a Mixed Bag
UTEP has scored 24 touchdowns in 37 road zone trips this season. The Miners are tied for 33rd nationally in red zone offense by scoring on 86.5 percent (32-of-37) of their opportunities. However, they have scored only 14 touchdowns in 24 red zone trips in C-USA play, a percentage (.583) that ranks third from the bottom of the league behind Tulane (.526) and Memphis (.556). The Miners took a step towards rectifying the problem against SMU last Saturday, scoring touchdowns on all four of their red zone trips. In the previous three games, they had only two TDs to show for seven trips inside the red zone.
Obscure Note of the Week
For the second straight year, UTEP has played two games where neither team committed a turnover. This happened against Buffalo and Tulane in 2009, and versus Rice and SMU this season. In 44 seasons from 1965-2008, this occurred just one time (1992 in the Colorado State and New Mexico games).
Second Half Possession Time Has Been Skewed
In three of the last four games, UTEP has had a major disadvantage in time of possession in the second half. Against UAB on Oct. 16, the Miners held the ball for seven minutes and 11 seconds after the break. Versus Tulane on Oct. 23, UTEP controlled the clock for 9:26 in the second half. And last Saturday against SMU, the Miners compiled 11:15 of possession after halftime. The Miners were outscored 52-24 in the second half of the three games, though they held their own against the Mustangs with each team scoring a touchdown over the final 30 minutes.
Miners Awfully Good on Third Down
UTEP ranks eighth nationally and third in Conference USA in third down conversion percentage.
FBS Third Down Conversion % Leaders
Vittatoe on the NCAA Career Lists
Trevor Vittatoe now has 11,943 career passing yards, the 15th-top total in NCAA history. He needs 486 yards to catch Texas Tech's Kliff Kingsbury (12,429) for 14th place on the list.
Vittatoe is tied for 18th on the NCAA FBS career passing touchdowns list (94) with BYU's Max Hall. Three players (Kingsbury, N.C. State's Philip Rivers and Notre Dame's Brady Quinn) are part of a tie for 15th place with 95 TD passes.
Vittatoe ranks 21st in NCAA annals with 11,822 yards of total offense, and is within striking distance of Kansas' Todd Reesing (20th, 11,840 yards) and Quinn (19th, 11,944 yards), Marshall's Byron Leftwich (18th, 12,084 yards) and Louisville's Chris Redman (17th, 12,129 yards).
Vittatoe on the C-USA Career Lists
Trevor Vittatoe ranks fourth on the all-time Conference USA passing list with 11,943 yards. He is 598 yards behind Louisville Chris Redman (12,541).
He is fourth on the C-USA career total offense list with 11,822 yards, 307 behind Redman (12,129).
Adams on the UTEP, C-USA Career Lists
Kris Adams has seven games with multiple touchdown receptions in his Miner career, tying the school record established by Lee Mays. He rates sixth in UTEP history with 2,330 receiving yards, needing 197 yards to tie Jeff Moturi for fifth place. Adams is also tied for third in school annals in TD catches (26), needing two to tie Mays for second place. He is tied for seventh in Miner annals in 100-yard games (eight).
Additionally, Adams is tied for 11th on the C-USA career touchdown receptions list.
Adams Regains Sophomore Form
Following a subpar 2009 season, Kris Adams' numbers (37-743-10) look a lot like they did in 2008, when he racked up 50 catches for 958 yards and 14 TDs. He has scored nine touchdowns over the last eight games. Adams (20.1 ypc) is one of just two players listed in the top-100 nationally in receiving with a yards per catch of 20.0 or better, joining Michigan's Junior Hemingway (20.5).
Adams' Streak Continues
Kris Adams has caught a pass in 34 consecutive games, tied for the eighth-longest active streak in the country.
Consecutive Games With a Reception
Adams & Vittatoe Among FBS Career Leaders
Through Nov. 6, senior WR Kris Adams was tied for seventh among active FBS players in touchdown catches (26), and 16th in receiving yards (2,330). Senior QB Trevor Vittatoe was second in pass attempts (1,569), completions (879), passing yards (11,943) and passing touchdowns (94); third in total offense (11,822 yards) and TDs responsible for (95); sixth in passing yards per game (259.6) and 11th in total offense per game (257.0).
Buckram on the UTEP Charts
Donald Buckram ranks seventh on UTEP's career rushing list with 2,398 yards -- 141 behind Paul Smith, who is in sixth place. He is also ninth in school history with 3,519 all-purpose yards, 46 behind Lee Mays. He is tied for sixth in school annals with 21 rushing touchdowns, needing two to tie Fred Wendt for fifth place. Buckram's nine rushing TDs are tied for the sixth-top figure in the Miner record book, and his next score will tie him for fifth place with Paul Smith.
Buckram has 951 receiving yards on his collegiate resume and, with 49 more, will become the first player in UTEP history to compile 2,000 yards rushing and 1,000 receiving.
Miners Still Awaiting First 100-Yard Rusher
While UTEP has rushed for over 100 yards as a team in eight of 10 games, the Miners haven't had an individual hit the century mark this season. Junior Joe Banyard came the closest with 94 yards versus Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Sept. 4.
This season marks only the fourth time since 1965 that UTEP has played 10 games without having a 100-yard rusher. This also happened in 1982, 1992 and 2006. The Miners didn't have a 100-yard back in 1992 and 2006, and in 1982 Kevin Ward finally broke through in the 12th and final game, rambling for 134 yards on 20 carries against Wyoming.
McClure Playing With a Purpose
Marlon McClure is only the seventh sophomore in school history to amass 1,000 all-purpose yards in a season, joining Chuck Hughes (1,198 yards in 1964), John Harvey (1,239 yards in 1986), Johnnie Lee Higgins, Jr. (1,010 yards in 2004), Howard Jackson (1,406 yards in 2002), Lee Mays (1,143 yards in 1999) and Marcus Thomas (1,296 yards in 2005).
McClure ranks 14th nationally in kickoff returns (28.2 avg.), and would rate 10th in punt returns (16.2 avg.) if he averaged 1.2 attempts per game (he averages 1.1). McClure has had two games with 200 all-purpose yards this season -- 216 versus Tulane on Oct. 23, and 215 at Houston on Sept. 10.
UTEP hasn't had a player with a kickoff or punt return for a touchdown since 2006. While McClure has yet to score a TD via a return in his Miner career, he did reach the end zone for the first time last week against SMU courtesy of a 13-yard pass from Trevor Vittatoe.
Jeune Making the Most of Opportunity
One of the Miners' feel-good stories this year is Wiston Jeune's emergence as a key player in the stop troops. Born into poverty in Haiti, he moved to Boston with his father at age 12 and played at Malden High School before beginning his collegiate career at Moorpark Community College. He came to UTEP for the 2009 season. Listed as the backup to Braxton Amy at strong safety entering 2010, he was thrust into a starting role when Amy sustained a torn achilles tendon in week two at Houston. Over the last five games Jeune has racked up 46 tackles, including 14 versus Tulane and 13 at Marshall.
Miners Vastly Improved on Defense
UTEP switched from a 3-3-5 defensive scheme to a 4-3 base this season, and the results have been tremendous. The Miners are yielding 373.0 yards and 21.6 points per game, significant improvements from 2009 when they surrendered 446.9 yards and 33.5 points per outing. It marks the fewest yards per contest given up 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.
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
Miners Have Been Explosive in C-USA Play
In 47 C-USA games since joining the league for the 2005 season, UTEP has scored 1,495 points (31.8 avg.) and totaled 20,318 yards of offense (432.3 avg.). The Miners are averaging 35.1 points (843 total) and 450.5 yards (10,812 total) in C-USA home games, and 28.3 points (652 total) and 413.3 yards (9,506 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.
UTEP Loses Amy For the Season
Defensive captain Braxton Amy sustained a torn achilles tendon at Houston on Sept. 10, ending his season. Amy recorded 229 tackles, 8.5 tackles for losses, 10 interceptions and 10 pass break-ups in 32 games for the Miners, including 23 starts.
A different Miner has worn Amy's #1 jersey each game since -- LB Anthony Morrow (NM State), WR Pierce Hunter (Memphis), DL Robert Soleyjacks (New Mexico), WR Kris Adams (Rice), DB DeShawn Grayson (UAB), QB/WR James Thomas II (Tulane) and DB Martel Strange (Marshall). Amy wore his own jersey for "Senior Night" at the Sun Bowl last Saturday.
Miners Spreading the Wealth on Offense Once Again
Eighteen different UTEP players have made receptions through 10 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 25 seniors, including 15 on the offensive side of the ball. The 25 seniors ties UTEP for the seventh-top total in the country behind Hawaii (31), Louisville (27), TCU (27), Army (26), Iowa (26) and Syracuse (26).
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.
29th Season For Price
UTEP's Mike Price is 169-164 in his 29th season as a collegiate head coach, including 40-42 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 169 victories behind Penn State's Joe Paterno (400), Ohio State's Jim Tressel (237), Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer (236), Texas' Mack Brown (218), Nevada's Chris Ault (214), South Carolina's Steve Spurrier (183), Notre Dame's Brian Kelly (175) and Arizona State's Dennis Erickson (172).
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: at Tulsa
The Miners will close out the regular season at Tulsa on Nov. 20. UTEP fell 77-35 to the Golden Hurricane in its last trip to H.A. Chapman Stadium on Oct. 18, 2008. The Miners beat Tulsa in El Paso, 28-24, last season. The Golden Hurricane holds a 10-8 edge in the series, including 5-4 in games played at Tulsa. The home team has won each of the last six matchups in the series.