UTEP-Marshall Game Notes
UTEP (5-5, 3-3 C-USA) makes its first visit to Huntington, W. Va. on Saturday to face Marshall (4-6, 3-3 C-USA) in the Miners’ final road game of the 2006 season ... kickoff is slated for 2:30 p.m. MST (4:30 p.m. EST) at Joan C. Edwards Stadium (38,019 capacity) ... at 2,860 miles round-trip, it represents UTEP’s longest travel itinerary of the season ... UTEP traveled 2,298 miles round-trip to UAB last week, defeating the Blazers 36-17 in a nationally televised (ESPN2) game to snap a three-game losing streak ... the Miners are 2-3 on the road this season and 8-7 on the road under third-year head coach Mike Price ... with a victory at Marshall this weekend, UTEP would post a .500 or better road mark in three consecutive seasons for the first time since 1969-71 ... UTEP would also record three road victories three years in a row for the first time in school history ... the Miners are also attempting to win their final road game of a season for the first time since 1991, when they prevailed at Hawaii 41-24 ... UTEP is 3-4 in Conference USA road games since joining the league for the 2005 season ... Marshall is 3-1 at home with wins over Hofstra (54-31), Memphis (41-27) and Tulane (42-21), and a loss to UCF (23-22) ... the Thundering Herd are coming off a 33-20 defeat at East Carolina last week which snapped a three-game winning streak.
UTEP leads the series 1-0 after beating Marshall, 31-3, on Homecoming last year in the Sun Bowl.
The Last Meeting
UTEP limited Marshall to 340 yards of offense in a 31-3 victory over the Thundering Herd on Oct. 22, 2005 ... a capacity crowd of 51,500 witnessed the Miners’ 100th game in the Sun Bowl ... it was the second-largest audience for a UTEP Homecoming game ... the Miners won their seventh straight game in the stadium, tying the school record ... Jordan Palmer completed 17 of 25 passes for 215 yards and three touchdowns to lead UTEP ... 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 ... 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, and also caught two passes for 37 yards ... Aaron Givens was UTEP’s leading receiver with four catches for 54 yards ... Jeremy Jones led the defense with 17 tackles.
Through the games of Nov. 11, UTEP ranked first nationally in punt returns (26.3 avg.) ... the Miners were fifth in passing offense (296.2 ypg), 14th in passing efficiency (151.51), 21st in turnover margin (0.70), 31st in scoring offense (28.8 ppg), 42nd in total offense (364.1 ypg) and tied for 44th in sacks allowed (1.7 avg.) ... individually, Troy Collavo was 11th in tackles (10.1 avg.) ... Quintin Demps was fifth in interceptions (0.7 avg.) ... Johnnie Lee Higgins, Jr. was second in receiving yards per game (110.3 avg.), third in all-purpose yardage (162.3 avg.), ninth in receptions per game (6.7 avg.) and 14th in scoring (8.4 ppg) ... Jordan Palmer was sixth in total offense (287.1 ypg) and 14th in passing efficiency (152.19) ... Reagan Schneider was 15th in field goals (1.4 avg.) and tied for 39th in scoring (7.2 ppg).
Close, But No Cigar
Johnnie Lee Higgins, Jr. would lead the nation in punt returns if he were averaging 1.2 attempts per game ... Higgins is averaging 0.9 punt returns per contest ... he is averaging 26.3 yards per return ... the national leader for punt returns is California’s DeSean Jackson (20.7 avg.).
NCAA Career Statistics
Quintin Demps ranks tied sixth among all active NCAA Division I-A players for interceptions (12) ... Johnnie Lee Higgins, Jr. is tied for third in receiving touchdowns (30), fourth in receiving yards (3,002) and all-purpose yards (4,495), and eighth in scoring touchdowns (34) ... Jordan Palmer is second in passing touchdowns (85) behind Notre Dame’s Brady Quinn (87), and fourth in passing yards (10,383), total offense (10,403) and touchdowns responsible for (91) ... Reagan Schneider is 10th in extra points made (133), 13th in scoring (277 points) and tied for 13th in field goals made (48).
UTEP leads Conference USA in passing offense and punt returns ... the Miners are second in scoring offense, and third in turnover margin and passing efficiency ... individual C-USA leaders for the Miners are Troy Collavo (tackles), Quintin Demps (interceptions), Johnnie Lee Higgins, Jr. (all-purpose yards, receiving yards) and Jordan Palmer (total offense).
The Miners kept their bowl hopes alive and secured Mike Price’s 150th career coaching victory with a 36-17 win at UAB on Nov. 10 ... Price improved to 150-135 in a 25-year coaching career that started at Weber State in 1981 and has continued at Washington State and UTEP ... Johnnie Lee Higgins, Jr. caught nine passes for 173 yards to become the Miners’ all-time receiving leader with 3,002 yards ... he moved ahead of Lee Mays, the previous record-holder, who had 2,908 yards from 1998-01 ... Higgins, who scored three touchdowns (two receiving, one rushing), is also UTEP's all-time leader with 30 TD catches -- two ahead of Mays ... Jordan Palmer completed 24 of 38 passes for 447 yards and four scores ... the 447 passing yards eclipsed his previous personal best of 431 set at Memphis last season ... the Blazers started their second drive of the game at midfield and capitalized, scoring on an eight-yard pass from Chris Williams to Corey White with 6:35 remaining in the first quarter ... the Miners made the score 7-3 on a 44-yard field goal by Reagan Schneider with 1:07 to go in the opening period ... UTEP took the lead for the first time, 9-7, on a 33-yard touchdown pass from Palmer to Daniel Robinson with 7:58 left in the second quarter. But Schneider’s extra point attempt hit the uprights ... the Blazers drove to the UTEP three-yard line on the next series ... the Miner defense held, but Swayze Waters booted a 19-yard field goal with 4:38 to go in the half to give UAB a 10-9 lead ... the Miners took a 16-10 advantage into the locker room when Higgins, Jr. scored on an eight-yard touchdown run in the final minute and a half ... the lead grew to 22-10 when Donald Buckram scored on an 80-yard pass play from Palmer the longest reception by a UTEP player in 2006 early in the third quarter. Buckram became the first Miner freshman to score a touchdown this season ... White scored his second touchdown of the night on a nine-yard run with 13:51 remaining in the fourth quarter, drawing UAB closer at 22-17 ... but the Miners answered with two touchdown passes from Palmer to Higgins in the final period -- one for 79 yards with 7:51 left, and another for four yards with 2:45 remaining ... Palmer became only the second UTEP quarterback to throw two passes of 70 yards or more in the same game. Brooks Dawson also achieved this feat in 1967, completing passes of 86 and 83 yards to Volley Murphy and Paul White, respectively, at New Mexico ... Buckram had 94 yards receiving for the Miners, and Joe West added 91 ... Sam Hunt completed 12 of 21 passes for 223 yards for UAB in relief of the injured starter Williams, and Willie Edwards had six catches for 130 yards.
Postgame Notes vs. UAB
The Miners had over 400 yards of offense (456) for the first time in six games, and the third time this season ... the 456 yards were the most by UTEP in a road game in 2006 ... the Miners compiled only nine yards rushing on 23 carries -- the fewest rushing yards by UTEP in a victory since Oct. 26, 1968 at BYU (-29 yards rushing in a 31-25 win) ... Palmer went over 10,000 yards passing for his career late in the first quarter on a pass to Higgins, Jr. ... right tackle Tyler Ribitzki, who missed the previous game against Rice with a knee injury, returned to the starting lineup ... safety Quintin Demps recorded his seventh interception of the season, tying the third-top total in school history, in the fourth quarter ... UTEP averted its first four-game losing streak under Price. The Miners have dropped three straight games twice under Price, including the final three contests of the 2005 season ... the Miners have now beaten two of the teams that handed them losses in last year’s 8-4 season, SMU on Oct. 7 and UAB. UTEP will get a crack at a third win on Nov. 25 when Memphis comes to El Paso for the final home game of the year. Memphis dealt UTEP a 27-20 setback a year ago at the Liberty Bowl.
A Great Run ...
UTEP has won 21 games in three years for only the third time since 1960 ... the Miners are 21-13 under coach Mike Price ... UTEP went 21-9 from 1965-67, and 21-15 from 1986-88 ... the Miners went 23-7 from 1948-50 and 23-7 from 1954-56, tying their most victories in a three-year span since the inception of the program in 1914 ... before Price came to UTEP, the Miners posted three straight two-win seasons ... UTEP still has a shot at earning a third consecutive bowl bid, something that hasn’t been accomplished in school history ... the Miners garnered back-to-back bowl berths in 1949-50, 1954-55 and 2004-05 ... UTEP has won 13 games at home since 2004, which ties the second-most victories for the Miners over three seasons in the Sun Bowl ... the Miners went 17-3 in the stadium from 1965-67, and 14-5 from 1966-68 ... UTEP was 13-4 in the Sun Bowl from 1986-88 ... UTEP is 8-7 on the road under Price ... in the three years prior to his arrival (2001-03), the Miners posted a 1-18 mark away from home.
Higgins is New Career Receiving Leader
Johnnie Lee Higgins, Jr. is now UTEP’s all-time leader for touchdown receptions (30) and receiving yardage (3,002) ... he ranks second in school annals in receptions (175), 25 behind the record-holder Lee Mays (200) ... Higgins is also second in all-purpose yards (4,495), tied for third in 100-yard receiving games (10) and seventh in kickoff return yards (1,035) ... Higgins has had over 100 yards receiving in three of the last four games, averaging 120.0 during that span ... Higgins is the fifth Miner to compile 1,000 yards receiving in a season, joining Reggie Barrett (1989), Chuck Hughes (1965), Lee Mays (2000) and Ed Puishes (1970), who all achieved this feat once previously ... Higgins’ 1,103 yards receiving in 2006 stand as the second-top seasonal total in school history behind the 1,519 accumulated by Hughes in 1965 ... his 67 catches this year stand third on the Miner seasonal lists behind Hughes (80 in 1965) and Mays (70 in 2000) ... Higgins is second in the country in receiving (110.3 ypg) behind New Mexico State’s Chris Williams (111.4 ypg) ... with two more touchdown catches, Higgins will be tied for 20th place on the all-time NCAA career list.
The Higgins, Jr. Notebook
Johnnie Lee Higgins, Jr. has caught 21 passes on third down this season, with 20 resulting in first downs ... Higgins has had two games with three touchdown receptions in his career, versus Houston in 2005 and New Mexico State earlier this season ... Higgins now has six career multi-touchdown receiving games, including three in 2006 ... Higgins recorded the first 200-yard game by a Miner receiver in 19 years against New Mexico State on Sept. 30 ... he finished with 223 yards on seven catches (31.9 avg.) ... the yardage total ranks fifth-best in school annals ... it marked the most receiving yards by a UTEP player since Bob Wallace had 233 yards on 10 receptions versus New Mexico State on Nov. 4, 1967 in the Sun Bowl ... Higgins is the fifth Miner to have a 200-yard receiving game, joining Arnie Adkison (once in 1987), Chuck Hughes (twice in 1965), Volley Murphy (once in 1967) and Wallace (once in 1967).
Palmer Goes Over 10,000 Yards Passing
Jordan Palmer threw for a career-high 447 yards last week at UAB ... his previous personal best was 431 yards passing at Memphis in 2005 ... Palmer’s 447 yards passing versus the Blazers mark the fourth-best game total in school history, and most by a Miner player since Sammy Garza threw for 458 yards against Northern Michigan 20 years ago ... Palmer now has 10,383 career passing yards ... Palmer is the fourth active NCAA Division I-A quarterback to throw for over 10,000 yards, joining Houston’s Kevin Kolb (12,154 yards entering the week), Notre Dame’s Brady Quinn (11,122) and Florida’s Chris Leak (10,428) ... Palmer has a chance to finish his career as one of the top-30 all-time passers in the history of the NCAA ... currently in 30th place is Northwestern’s Brett Basanez (10,580 yards, 197 ahead of Palmer) ... others within reach are Arizona State’s Andrew Walter (29th, 10,617 yards), Fresno State’s Kevin Sweeney (28th, 10,623 yards), USC’s Matt Leinart (27th, 10,693 yards) and Marshall’s Chad Pennington (26th, 10,698 yards) ... Palmer is tied with Walter and Toledo’s Bruce Gradkowski for 17th on the all-time NCAA passing touchdowns list with 85 ... Miami’s Ken Dorsey is in 16th place with 86 touchdown passes ... four players (Quinn, Pacific’s Troy Kopp, Western Michigan’s Tim Lester, Louisiana Tech’s Luke McCown) are tied for 12th place with 87 touchdown passes ... two players (Tennessee’s Peyton Manning, Marshall’s Byron Leftwich) are tied for 10th place with 89 TD tosses.
Palmer is Efficient as Well
Jordan Palmer’s passing efficiency rating this season (152.19) would be a school record ... Rocky Perez holds the current mark with 147.14 in 2000 ... Palmer has steadily improved his passing efficiency rating from 136.48 in 2004 to 140.54 in 2005 and 152.19 this year ... after leading the nation in interceptions last season (19), Palmer has thrown only 11 picks in 10 games this year -- including seven in the last nine contests ... Palmer has a 20-7 touchdown/interception ratio since the season opener at San Diego State ... Palmer is on pace to establish a school season standard for completion percentage at 65.6 ... Jay Stuckey owns the current record with a 64.4 percent success rate in 1999 ... Palmer is the only player in school history to have three seasons with 20+ touchdown passes (26 in 2004, 29 in 2005, 23 in 2006) ... Palmer is 106 yards away from becoming the first player in school history to amass 3,000 yards passing in two seasons ... he threw for a UTEP record 3,503 yards in 2005.
The Palmer Notebook
Jordan Palmer has completed 794 of 1,341 passes in his career for 10,383 yards and 85 touchdowns all school records ... Palmer is also UTEP’s all-time leader for 300-yard passing games (14), total offense (10,403 yards) and touchdowns responsible for (91) ... Palmer has thrown for over 400 yards three times in his career 431 at Memphis in 2005, 414 versus New Mexico State earlier this year and 447 at UAB last week ... Palmer joins Sammy Garza as the only UTEP quarterbacks to have three 400-yard passing games ... Garza achieved this feat on three occasions in 1986.
Schneider Field Goal Streak at 11
Reagan Schneider has nailed his last 11 field goal attempts dating back to the New Mexico State game on Sept. 30 ... overall Schneider has made 14 of his last 15 field goal tries -- including from 44 and 46 yards once and 49 yards twice -- after missing his first attempt of the season from 36 yards out at San Diego State ... Schneider is second in school history with 276 career points behind John Harvey (306) ... Schneider is UTEP’s all-time leader for kicking scoring, field goals (48) and PATs (133) ... he has made 76.2 percent (48-63) of his field goals and 97 percent (133-137) of his PATs as a Miner, figures that would both rate second in school annals ... since 2004, Schneider is 20-26 (.769) on field goal attempts of 40 yards or more, including 5-6 (.833) from that distance in 2006.
Two Miners Make Semifinalist For Postseason Awards
Johnnie Lee Higgins, Jr. is one of 14 semifinalists for the 13th annual Biletnikoff Award, presented to the nation’s top receiver ... the winner will be announced on Dec. 7 ... Higgins (110.3 ypg) is one of five players in the country averaging over 100 yards receiving per game ... UTEP’s Reagan Schneider is one of 20 semifinalists for the 15th annual Lou Groza Award, presented to the nation’s top place-kicker ... Schneider is the only Conference USA player on the list, as well as the only player from a school in the state of Texas ... Schneider is 14-for-16 on field goals and 30-for-33 on extra point attempts this season.
A Strange Combination
UTEP has 28 seniors on its 2006 roster ... on the other hand, 21 freshmen have seen action for the Miners this season ... true freshmen who have hit the field include RB Donald Buckram, DB Cornelius Brown, WR Brandon Jordan, OL Anthony McNac, WR Tufick Shadrawy, LB Aaron Sims, DB Melvin Stephenson II, QB James Thomas II and RB Jason Williams ... redshirt freshmen who have played include OL Mike Aguayo, DB Braxton Amy, DB Da’Mon Cromartie-Smith, LB Landon Goodwell, OL Colby Meek, DL Chris Moore, WR Jeff Moturi, DL Dane O’Neill, OL Cameron Raschke, DL Steve Riddick, LB Brian Wilkins and QB Kyle Wright ... a total of 65 players have appeared in games for UTEP this season ... of that group 21 are freshmen, five are sophomores, 13 are juniors and 26 are seniors.
QB/WR Lorne Sam suffered a sprained knee against Tulane on Oct. 14 and could return this week ... TE Casey Mauch (concussion) is also nearing a return ... LB Jeremy Jones broke his right leg in practice on Sept. 16 and is out for the remainder of the season ... Jones is expected to receive a medical hardship and return to the Miners as a fifth-year senior for the 2007 season.
After ranking 108th among 117 NCAA Division I-A schools in 2005 with a turnover margin of -10, UTEP is +7 in that department in 2006 (16 giveaways/23 takeaways) ... the Miners are tied for 21st in the country in turnover margin ... UTEP forced a season-high five turnovers against Tulane on Oct. 14 ... UTEP is tied for 20th nationally with 23 turnovers forced, and tied with East Carolina for first in Conference USA in that department ... UTEP scored 21 points off three San Diego State turnovers in the season opener ... in the nine games since, the Miners have forced 20 turnovers but managed just two touchdowns (against Tulane and UAB) and four field goals for a total of 26 points.
Collavo Leads Stop Troops
Troy Collavo was credited with 21 tackles (six solos/15 assists) versus Rice on Nov. 4 ... it smashed Collavo’s previous high for stops, 14, established in the 2005 GMAC Bowl against Toledo ... Collavo became the first Miner defender to have a 20-tackle game since Barron Wortham also picked up 21 stops at Air Force on Oct. 26, 1991 ... Collavo’s 21 tackles tied the most by a UTEP player in a game in the last 30 years ... in fact, since 1975 only four Miners, including Collavo, have been credited with 20 tackles in a game ... Hal Barnett had 20 stops versus Colorado State in 1975 ... Raymond Morris had 20 stops against BYU in 1983 ... and Wortham put together a pair of 20-tackle performances in 1991 versus Colorado State and Air Force ... Collavo has put together his second straight 100-tackle season ... he had 112 stops in 2005 and is currently at 101 on the year.
Demps Making Plays
Quintin Demps is one of four players in the nation with seven interceptions or more ... San Jose State DB Dwight Lowery, California DB Daymeion Hughes and Idaho DB Stanley Franks all have eight picks ... Demps has had two multi-interception games this season (at San Diego State, versus SMU) ... his seven interceptions already tie for the third-top seasonal total in school history ... it is also the most picks by a Miner since Charlie West had a record 11 in 1966 ... Demps has 12 career interceptions, putting him in seventh place on the UTEP list ... Demps had a 91-yard kickoff return for a touchdown versus New Mexico State on Sept. 30, just another in a long line of game-changing plays that he has made for the Miners ... Demps saved the day more than once in the season opener at San Diego State ... he stopped two Aztec drives with interceptions, none more important than his pick of Darren Mougey midway through the fourth quarter with the Miners clinging to a 27-24 lead ... five plays later, UTEP scored again to wrap up the eventual 34-27 victory ... Demps’ interception of Houston QB Kevin Kolb in the second overtime clinched UTEP’s 44-41 win over the Cougars in 2005... in 2004, Demps forced a fumble in the second overtime versus Rice, securing the Miners’ 35-28 victory over the Owls.
UTEP has averaged 27.8 yards rushing in five road games this season, with a high of 40 at Tulsa on Oct. 27 ... UTEP has gone 11 straight games without having a 100-yard rusher dating back to 2005 ... since 1950, UTEP has gone only three full seasons without having a player rush for 100 yards in a game (1958, 1963, 1992) ... the Miner defense has allowed less than 400 yards on five occasions in 2006, with four of those games coming on the road (at San Diego State, at New Mexico, at Tulsa, at UAB) ... UTEP has scored 30 points or more in 22 of 34 games since Mike Price took over as head coach in 2004, posting an 18-4 mark in those contests ... Price is second among all UTEP coaches with 22 games scoring 30+ points behind Bobby Dobbs (25) ... senior WR Chris Marrow ranks 10th in school history with 109 career receptions ... UTEP is 3-1 when scoring first this season, 2-4 when opponents score first ... the Miners have had winning streaks of three games or more in each of their first three seasons under Price. The last time UTEP had a three-game winning streak in three consecutive years was 1965-67 ... UTEP has overcome a fourth quarter deficit to win four times under Price, most recently on Oct. 7 against SMU. All four comeback victories took place in the Sun Bowl ... UTEP is 14-6 under Price when leading heading into the second quarter ... the Miners are 18-4 under Price when leading at halftime and 17-3 when enjoying an edge entering the fourth quarter ... UTEP is fourth in the country in punt return defense (3.2 yards per return).