Miners Return to Sun Bowl for Final Home Game of the Season
Nov. 11, 2013
Miners Face FIU in Final Home Game of Season
UTEP (1-8, 0-5 C-USA West) will play the final home contest of the 2013 season, battling FIU (1-8, 1-4 C-USA East) on Saturday at 6:05 p.m. MT (8:05 p.m. ET) in the Sun Bowl. This will be the first meeting between the programs as this is FIU’s inaugural season in Conference USA. The Miners need a victory to avoid going winless in the stadium for the first time since 1992 (0-5), and only the fifth time overall (1964, 1973, 1980, 1992). UTEP is 0-4 at home and FIU is 1-3 on the road. The Miners are also trying to snap a seven-game losing streak, their longest since dropping nine in a row over the course of the 2007 and 2008 seasons. UTEP will play two games on the road - at Tulane (Nov. 23) and at Middle Tennessee (Nov. 30) - to close out the season.
This will mark the first meeting between the two programs.
Current FIU defensive line coach and assistant head coach Andre Patterson spent three seasons under former head coach Mike Price at UTEP (2010-12). He also worked with Price at Weber State (1988) and Washington State (1992-93). Prior to joining the UTEP staff, Patterson coached at UNLV for two seasons (2008-09). He also had NFL stops in New England (1997), Minnesota (1998-99), Dallas (2000-02), Cleveland (2003-04) and Denver (2005-06).
Current FIU linebackers coach Tom Williams spent 2012 at UTEP as a defensive secondary coach, primarily working with the Miners’ safeties. Williams has 20 years of coaching experience and was head coach at Yale from 2009-11.
Seniors to be Honored
14 seniors will be honored during Saturday night’s game. The senior class includes: OL Mike Amdall (Plano, Texas), DL Adam Ayala (Huntsville, Texas), DL Marcus Bagley (Mesquite, Texas), WR Peter Carreon (El Paso, Texas), OL Brander Craighead (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada), DL James Davidson (Huntsville, Texas), LB Michael Kelley (Los Angeles, Calif.), LB David Logston (Tempe, Arizona), LB Horace Miller (Baltimore, Md.), TE Kevin Perry (Opelousas, La.), DL Germard Reed (Lufkin, Texas), OL James Robinson (Richmond, Calif.), LB A.J. Ropati (Carson, Calif.) and TE Craig Wenrick (Flower Mound, Texas). Saturday’s game also marks Military Night and Heroes (Teacher Appreciation) Night.
The Panthers fell to Middle Tennessee, 48-0, on Nov. 9 at Johnny “Red” Floyd Stadium in Murfreesboro, Tenn. FIU turned the ball over three times as the Blue Raiders capitalized with 17 points off the miscues. Middle Tennessee outgained the Panthers 556-233 in total offense. Middle Tennessee scored on the opening possession, going 81 yards on eight plays that ended with a 48-yard touchdown by Shane Tucker. With the score 17-0 in favor of the Blue Raiders, the Panthers were able to get into scoring position, but lost the ball when Kevin Byard forced a fumble on running back Silas Spearman. Middle Tennessee took advantage and put together a nine-play, 73-yard drive ending with a Logan Kilgore four-yard touchdown run and a 24-0 halftime lead.
The FIU football program kicked off in 2002 and won its inaugural game on Aug. 29 against Saint Peter’s College (New Jersey), 27-3. The Panthers played in Division I-AA till 2004 as an independent. The program entered FBS status in 2005 as a member of the Sun Belt Conference till 2012. The Panthers finished 5-6 that year. FIU has had two winning seasons since the program’s inception (7-6 in 2010, 8-5 in 2011). In December of 2010, the Panthers won the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, 34-32, over Toledo and in December 2011 fell to Marshall, 20-10, at the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl.
Brandin Byrd ran for a career-high 202 yards on 18 carries and two touchdowns as North Texas defeated UTEP 41-7 on Nov. 9 at Apogee Stadium in Denton.
The Mean Green (7-3, 5-1 Conference USA) handed the Miners (1-8, 0-5) their seventh straight loss.
With the score 21-0 in favor of North Texas in the third quarter, Byrd put a dagger into the UTEP defense when he found an open field and sprinted 82 yards for his second touchdown of the day. The Miners finally got on the board in the same quarter when freshman Mack Leftwich found junior Jordan Leslie in the back of the end zone for a 22-yard score off a tipped pass that Leslie was able to haul in.
Leftwich, son of current UTEP assistant coach and former North Texas offensive line coach Spencer Leftwich, was pulled from redshirt status mid-week and made his first career start under center for the Orange and Blue.
He completed his first three passes and ended the day 14-of-20 for 128 yards, an interception and a score.
The native of Wexford, Pa. was poised in his first start, but was sacked eight times by the no. 1 ranked scoring defense in the conference. Leslie led the Miners with five receptions for 41 yards, including his sixth score of the season (ties his career high for a season).
North Texas racked up 471 yards of offense, including 317 yards on the ground. The Miners were held to 184 yards of total offense.
UTEP Seeking First C-USA Win
The Miners are 0-5 in Conference USA play. UTEP last started 0-5 in league play in 1996 when it finished 0-8 in the WAC.
Jones Sets New UTEP Freshman Rushing Record
Aaron Jones broke John Harvey’s UTEP freshman rushing record (777 yards in 1985) against Texas A&M on Nov. 2 in the second quarter on a six-yard run. He now has 811 yards (5.2 average per carry) nine games into the season. He is on pace for 1,081 yards in 2013, which would mark the 10th-most in a season by a Miner player.
Jones’ National Rankings
Aaron Jones ranks 40th in the FBS in rushing (90.1 ypg). He ranks 36th in yards (811) and 38th in attempts per game (17.2). He rates second in FBS freshman in yards per game behind Arkansas’ Alex Collins (94.6 yards per game) and is second in yards behind Collins (946 yards).
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’ Big Day
Aaron Jones’ 186 rushing yards at Rice on Oct. 26 were the second-most by an FBS freshman this year. San Jose State’s Jarrod Lawson rushed for 187 yards at UNLV on Nov. 2. 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 eighth-longest rushing play by an FBS player this season, and the longest by a freshman. The previous longest rushing play by a freshman was an 80-yard run by Alabama’s Derrick Henry against Arkansas on Oct. 19.
Tracking Jones in C-USA
Aaron Jones ranks no. 5 in Conference USA in rushing average (90.1 ypg). Rice’s Charles Ross ranks first (114.0 ypg). Jones is ranked third in the conference in yards rushing (811), behind La Tech’s Kenneth Dixon (905) and Tulsa’s Trey Watts (857).
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 seven of nine games, including five straight at one point - 94 yards at Colorado State (Sept. 28), 121 vs. La Tech (Oct. 5), 90 vs. Tulsa (Oct. 12), 186 at Rice (Oct. 26) and 62 at Texas A&M (Nov. 2).
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.
Mack Gets the Nod
Freshman quarterback Mack Leftwich started his first career game under center on Nov. 9 at North Texas. Leftwich, son of UTEP assistant coach and offensive line coach Spencer Leftwich, was pulled from his redshirt status mid-week prior to the game against the Mean Green. Leftwich was the first freshman QB to start a game for the Miners since Blaire Sullivan started against UCF on Nov. 10, 2012.
Inside Mack’s Numbers
Mack Leftwich completed the first three passes of his UTEP career. His first career completion was a six-yard pass to senior tight end Kevin Perry that came in the first quarter. His first touchdown pass was a 22-yard score to junior wide receiver Jordan Leslie in the third quarter.
How Mack Stacks Up
Mack Leftwich finished 14-of-20 passing for 128 yards with an interception and a touchdown at North Texas. Other notable UTEP freshman quarterbacks’ first games include Trevor Vittatoe (6-of-21, 59 yards versus New Mexico on Sept. 1, 2007), Jordan Palmer (6-of-21, 91 yards, 1 INT, 1 TD versus Cal Poly on Sept.6, 2003), Rocky Perez (22-of-34, 257 yards, 1 INT, 2 TDs at SMU on Nov. 8, 1997), John Rayborn (9-of-25, 78 yards, 1 INT, 1 TD at Arizona State on Sept. 9, 1995) and Sammy Garza (4-of-15, 76 yards, 1 INT versus Idaho on Sept. 10, 1983).
Leftwich Joins Other Freshman in the Nation
Mack Leftwich is one of 37 freshmen quarterbacks who have started a game in 2013. Leftwich is one of 21 true freshmen to start. Other true freshmen include Nate Romine (Air Force), Jeremy Johnson (Auburn), Jared Goff (California), Sefo Liufau (Colorado), Tim Boyle (Connecticut), Brogan Roback (Eastern Michigan), Greg Hankerson (Florida Atlantic), Ikaika Woolsey (Hawai’i), John O’Korn (Houston), King Davis III (NM State), Christian Hackenberg (Penn State), Danny Etling (Purdue), Nick Mullens (Southern Miss), P.J. Walker (Temple), Joshua Dobbs (Tennessee), Tyler Jones (Texas State), Davis Webb (Texas Tech), Darell Garretson (Utah State), Patton Robinette (Vanderbilt), and Todd Porter (Western Kentucky).
Mack Leftwich became the third quarterback to start for the Miners this season at North Texas. Sophomore Blaire Sullivan made a start at Texas A&M on Nov. 2 and junior Jameill Showers started the first seven games. Three UTEP quarterbacks also started games in 2012 - Nick Lamaison, Carson Meger and Sullivan. Leftwich led North Allegheny High School in Wexford, Pa. to a 16-0 season and the 4A state title in 2012, throwing for 45 TDs with only four interceptions. He was tabbed the Pennsylvania Player of the Year, was an All-State selection and was named a North Xtra All-Star by the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.
Receivers Break Out
While Jordan Leslie stole the headlines in the first six games of the season, Malcolm Trail, Devin Patterson and Ian Hamilton have shown that they can also make an impact for the Miners of late. Trail captured three catches for 31 yards, including a 29 yard reception that put UTEP at the Aggie four-yard line and turned into the Miners’ only touchdown against Texas A&M on Nov. 2. Also making an impact against the Aggies was Patterson, who caught a season best 32-yard reception, falling just short of his career high 34 against SMU (10/6/12). Hamilton snared four catches for 108 yards, including a 50-yard grab in the second quarter against Rice on Oct. 26. 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, 279 of Hamilton’s 344 yards this season (81 percent) have come in road games. He has averaged 18.6 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 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 1,938 career receiving yards and needs just 84 more to tie Chris Francies (2,022 yards) for ninth place in school history. He moved into the top-10 at North Texas last week, passing current Miner tight ends coach Brian Natkin (1,934 yards). With 118 receptions, Leslie is eight away from tying Jimmy Carpenter (1995-98) for 10th place in school annals. His 14 touchdown receptions are tied with David Karns (1966-68) and Cedric Johnson (1993-96) for ninth place in school history. His score at North Texas (Nov. 9) gave him six TD catches on the season, tying his career high (also had six in 2012). After picking up three consecutive 100-yard games from Sept. 28-Oct. 12, Leslie has been limited to 11 receptions for 50 yards (16.7 ypg) over the last three contests. Leslie’s drop in production corresponds with the loss of Jameill Showers to a shoulder injury.
Leslie One of the Top Pass Catchers in C-USA
Jordan Leslie has four 100-yard receiving performances this season, tying him with East Carolina’s Justin Hardy for the league lead. Leslie ranks seventh in C-USA in receiving yards per game (59.4) and ninth in receptions per game (4.1). His 130 yards at Colorado State on Sept. 28 marked the 10th-best single-game performance by a C-USA player this season.
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 20th nationally in pass plays of 50 yards or more and is tied with UTSA for first in Conference USA in that category. The Miners are tied for 10th 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 19th in the FBS in plays of 40+ yards from scrimmage (13), tied for 17th in plays of 50+ yards (eight), and tied for 13th in plays of 60+ yards (five). The Miners are second in C-USA in plays of 40+ yards (13) behind Marshall (17), second in 50+ yard plays (eight) behind Marshall (nine), and first in 60+ yard plays (five). Last year UTEP had fourteen plays of 40+ yards, eight plays of 50+ yards and five plays of 60+ yards.
Big Plays Have Been Lacking of Late
The combination of Jameill Showers going down with a shoulder injury and the level of competition stepping up has resulted in UTEP struggling offensively over the last three games. During that stretch the Miners have averaged 7.0 points and 248.7 yards of offense (105.0 passing). In the first six games of the season, with Showers at the controls, UTEP averaged 31.2 points, 414.7 yards and 209.8 yards passing. The Miner offense also produced 23 plays of 20+ yards in the first six games (17 passing, six rushing). Since then UTEP has had seven plays of 20+ yards, with five of the passing and two of the rushing variety. UTEP has scored seven points or less in three straight games for the first time since the final four contests of the 1980 season.
Golden Moving Up on Kickoff Returns Chart
Autrey Golden is now in fifth place on UTEP’s career kickoff return yardage list with 1,522 yards. Marlon McClure (2009-10) is in fourth place with 1,571 yards. Golden’s career kickoff return average (27.67) 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. The sophomore is the only C-USA player with a 100-yard return this season.
Golden and the National Rankings
Autrey Golden ranks 21st nationally in kickoff return average (26.9), and tied for first in kickoff returns for TDs (two) with Texas State’s Brandon Smith and Stanford’s Ty Montgomery. Golden is tied for second among active FBS players with four kickoff returns for touchdowns, and his 27.7 career kickoff return average ranks 11th among current players.
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 (twice) 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 41.0 points and 478.8 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 nine games this season, 14 Miners have made their first starts on defense, including cornerbacks Nick Gathrite, Ishmael Harrison (moved from wide receiver this season), Adrian James, Da’Carlos Renfro and Quinton Tezeno, 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 21 different players on defense this season.
The Miners rank 10th in the nation in both penalties per game (4.0) and penalty yards per game (34.7). UTEP is second in C-USA in penalties per game and third in penalty yards per game.
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 seven 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.
Seventeen Division I schools have at least one Canadian on their 2013 roster, including UTEP in starting left tackle Brander Craighead. The other programs, with a combined 31 Canadian products, are Michigan State (4), Iowa (3), UNLV (3), Virginia (3), Boston College (2), Buffalo (2), Connecticut (2), Eastern Michigan (2), Rice (2), Arizona State (1), Mississippi State (1), North Carolina (1), Northern Illinois (1), Penn State (1), Utah State (1) and Virginia Tech (1). Craighead is in his third year as a starter. He was selected by the Calgary Stampeders with the seventh pick in the first round of the 2013 CFL Draft. Under CFL rules, the Stampeders can redshirt Craighead this season while he completes his college eligiblity.
Up Next: vs Tulane
UTEP will travel to the Big Easy to take on Tulane on Nov. 23 at the SuperDome in their next to last game of the season. The Miners last played in New Orleans on Oct. 15, 2011 where they won 44-7 over the Green Wave.