MINERS
UTEP Takes on Red-Hot Tulsa in Regular Season Finale

Trevor Vittatoe

Trevor Vittatoe

Nov. 14, 2010

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Miners Wrap Up Regular Season at Tulsa

UTEP (6-5, 3-4 C-USA) closes out the 2010 regular season on Saturday at Tulsa (7-3, 4-2 C-USA). The Miners are playing for the 12th straight week since opening the regular season on Sept. 4 versus Arkansas-Pine Bluff. The last time UTEP concluded the regular season earlier than this date was in 1994, when the Miners wrapped up a 3-7-1 campaign with a 25-21 loss at New Mexico on Nov. 19. UTEP also played its final regular season game on Nov. 20 in 1999.

The Miners take their last shot at winning a Conference USA road game. UTEP is 0-3 away from home in league play and has dropped 10 consecutive conference road games dating back to a 40-37 double overtime triumph at Southern Miss on Oct. 4, 2008. The Miners are 1-13 in their last 14 C-USA road games. UTEP is in jeopardy of going winless on the road in conference play in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 2001-02.

Last year UTEP snapped a 20-game losing streak in regular season finales with a 52-21 rout of Marshall in the Sun Bowl. The Miners haven't won consecutive regular season finales since 1982-83.

Scouting Tulsa

The Golden Hurricane is on a roll, winning four straight games and six of its last seven overall to surge into a tie for first place in C-USA's West Division. Tulsa is 4-0 at home this season with an average margin of victory of 26.3 points.

Tulsa ranks third nationally in turnover margin with 26 takeaways and only 13 giveaways. The Golden Hurricane is also 10th in the country in total offense (486.5 ypg), 11th in scoring offense (38.9 ppg), 17th in net punting (38.8 avg.), 15th in rushing offense (218.6 ypg), 22nd in rushing defense (122.8 ypg), 24th in passing offense (267.9 ypg) and 25th in punt returns (11.5 avg.). Individually, junior WR Damaris Johnson is second in all-purpose yardage (180.1 avg.) and 20th in kickoff returns (27.4 avg.), freshman DB Marco Nelson is tied for fourth in interceptions (0.6 per game), junior QB G.J. Kinne is 10th in total offense (307.8 ypg) and sophomore DB Dexter McCoil is tied for 17th in interceptions (0.4 per game).

Tulsa is averaging 43.2 points in C-USA action. The Golden Hurricane pinned 64 points on Rice, 52 on Tulane, 49 on East Carolina and 48 on Memphis.

Kinne completed 20-of-31 passes for 154 yards and rushed 31 times for 190 yards in Tulsa's 28-25 triumph at Houston last Saturday. The game wasn't as close as the final score indicated, as the Golden Hurricane went up 28-10 late in the third quarter before the Cougars scored a pair of late touchdowns.

Series History

The Golden Hurricane holds a 10-8 advantage in the series, including a 5-4 edge in games played at Tulsa. The home team has won each of the last six matchups in the series after the visiting team prevailed in nine of the first 12 meetings.

Delving Deeper into the Tulsa Series

UTEP and Tulsa have combined to average 62 points per game in their 18 meetings, making it one of just eight series (minimum three meetings) to produce at least 60 ppg on average since 1950. The others are Houston (76), Southern Miss (68), Rice (68), Boise State (66), Louisiana Tech (65), Nevada (62) and San Jose State (61).

The Miner/Golden Hurricane combo (828 ypg) is also one of nine series to produce at least 800 yards per contest on average since 1950. The others are Houston (1,018), Texas Tech (870), Tulane (865), Southern Miss (863), Louisiana Tech (871), UAB (846), Marshall (814) and Nevada (812).

When UTEP and Tulsa last squared off in Tulsa, the two squads combined for 112 points, making it the highest-scoring game (both teams) in Miner history.

The Last Meeting

Donald Buckram rushed for 165 yards and two fourth-quarter touchdowns -- including the game-winner with 29 seconds remaining -- as UTEP stormed back from an 11-point deficit in the final period to beat Tulsa, 28-24, on Oct. 21, 2009 in the Sun Bowl.

The Miners trailed 24-13 with 12:37 to play before their defense forced three-and-outs on three straight possessions by the Golden Hurricane.

UTEP quarterback Trevor Vittatoe capitalized by engineering scoring drives of 61 and 54 yards, and UTEP secured its biggest fourth quarter comeback win since 2007 at SMU. No play was bigger than a fourth-and-three at the Tulsa 12-yard line midway through the final period, which Vittatoe converted by throwing a four-yard pass to Buckram - setting up the touchdown that sliced the Golden Hurricane's lead to three points.

UTEP got off to a great start, scoring the game's first 13 points, then allowed 24 unanswered to the Golden Hurricane before finishing strong. Vittatoe shrugged off a rough first half in which he threw two interceptions in Hurricane territory to complete 17-of-38 attempts for 271 yards.

Tulsa hadn't allowed a rushing touchdown all season before yielding two to Buckram in the final frame.

UTEP-Tulsa Player Ties

The Miners do not have any players from Oklahoma on their roster, while Tulsa features 25 Texas natives. Tulsa junior QB G.J. Kinne and UTEP freshman DL Marcus Bagley are from Mesquite. Golden Hurricane freshman RB Ja'Terian Douglas and Miner senior OL Rod Huntley are natives of Arlington. TU junior TE Michael Britton and UTEP senior QB Trevor Vittatoe call Bedford home. Golden Hurricane freshman LB Donnell Hawkins and UTEP senior RB Donald Buckram are from Copperas Cove and graduated from Copperas Cove HS. TU junior LB Curnelius Arnick and UTEP freshman DB Adrian James hail from Dallas. Golden Hurricane sophomore DB Brian Moore and Miner junior OL Nathan McCage are from Spring. TU senior DB Charles Davis & junior DB Chris Ford and UTEP senior WR Kris Adams call Fort Worth home. Golden Hurricane sophomore DB Lowell Rose and Miner senior WR Evan Davis & senior TE Elijah Goldtrap are natives of Los Angeles, Calif.

UTEP-Tulsa Coaching Ties

Tulsa defensive coordinator Paul Randolph and UTEP associate head coach/co-offensive coordinator Bob Connelly served together on the staff at Alabama for three years (2003-05). The Crimson Tide appeared in two bowl games (2004 Music City & 2006 Cotton) in that time frame.

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
New Orleans 12/18 New Orleans, La. Sun Belt
Beef O'Brady's 12/21 St. Petersburg, Fla. Big East
Hawai'i 12/24 Honolulu, Hawaii WAC
Military Bowl 12/29 Washington, D.C. ACC
Armed Forces 12/30 Dallas, Texas Mountain West
Liberty 12/31 Memphis, Tenn. SEC

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
Rushing offense 142.8 ypg 77 7
Passing offense 228.9 ypg 57 8
Total offense 371.7 ypg 67 9
Scoring offense 26.0 ppg 72 9
Rushing defense 177.8 ypg 87 8
Pass efficiency defense 125.8 62 6
Total defense 391.6 77 5
Scoring defense 24.9 ppg 58 2
Net punting 36.4 ypg 59 5
Punt returns 14.2 avg. 12 2
Kickoff returns 25.7 avg. 7 2
Turnover margin -0.36 85 6
Pass defense 213.7 ypg 60 6
Passing efficiency 123.0 84 10
Sacks 1.1 avg. 112 12
Tackles for losses 3.6 avg. 118 11
Sacks allowed 1.2 avg. 25 4

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
K. Adams Receiving 81.0 T27 3
M. McClure All-purpose 117.6 57 6
M. McClure Kickoff returns 29.1 7 2
T. Nixon Interceptions 0.3 T46 T5
T. Vittatoe Passing efficiency 125.1 72 9
T. Vittatoe Total offense 231.2 48 6
D. Warren Field goals 1.0 T58 T6

UTEP Falls at Arkansas, 58-21

Ryan Mallett threw for a school-record five touchdowns and ran for another as no. 14 Arkansas beat UTEP, 58-21, last Saturday.

Knile Davis added a career-best 182 yards rushing on just 11 carries for the Razorbacks, including a 70-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. Arkansas ran for 326 yards on its way to a season-high 577 total yards.

Mallett finished 19-of-26 passing for 215 yards.

The Miners took a 14-7 lead in the first quarter after Marlon McClure's 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. The Razorbacks then took control, scoring 45 unanswered points to take a 52-14 lead.

Davis started the onslaught with his long touchdown run. Mallett followed with five straight touchdown throws for the Razorbacks, two to tight end D.J. Williams.

Leilyon Myers put UTEP ahead 7-0 in the first quarter, breaking through the middle of the Arkansas defense for a 51-yard touchdown run. The Miners gained 355 yards in the loss but were plagued by three turnovers.

Price Can Tie Dobbs For Third-Most Wins Among UTEP Coaches

Mike Price carries a 40-43 record at UTEP into the Tulsa 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 Second-Fewest Points in C-USA West

Despite playing the maximum 11 games to this point, UTEP has allowed the second-fewest points among C-USA West Division teams with 274. SMU has surrendered 271 points in 10 games.

The Miners are fourth in the league in points allowed behind UCF (196), Southern Miss (256) and SMU.

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 68 points while connecting on 11-of-18 field goal attempts (8-of-10 from inside 40 yards) and all 35 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 43.7.

Where UTEP has really excelled, however, is in the returns area. The Miners are seventh in the FBS in kickoff return average (25.7), and 12th in punt return average (14.2). 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.

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 (1.2) 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 (10 games at left guard/one game at center) and Alex Solot (11 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 on Nov. 6 and is out for the rest of the season. Lance Evbuomwan, who has started five games this season, has taken his place in the lineup.

Red Zone Production a Mixed Bag

UTEP has scored 24 touchdowns in 38 road zone trips this season. The Miners are tied for 48th nationally in red zone offense by scoring on 84 percent (32-of-38) 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 on Nov. 6, scoring touchdowns on all four of their red zone trips. In the previous three C-USA games, they had only two TDs to show for seven trips inside the red zone.

Second Half Possession Time Has Been Skewed

In four of the last five 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. Against SMU on Nov. 6, the Miners compiled 11:15 of possession after halftime. And last week at Arkansas, UTEP put up 8:12 of possession in the second half. The Miners were outscored 75-31 in the second half of the three games.

Miners Awfully Good on Third Down

UTEP is tied for 14th nationally and tied for third in Conference USA in third down conversion percentage.

FBS Third Down Conversion % Leaders
1. Stanford 79-136 .581
2. Nevada 73-128 .570
3. Houston 76-137 .555
4. Auburn 64-120 .533
TCU 73-137 .533
6. Northern Illinois 71-134 .530
7. South Carolina 66-126 .524
8. UCF 68-132 .515
9. Wisconsin 56-109 .514
10. Arizona 70-137 .511
11. Navy 69-136 .507
Northwestern 78-154 .507
13. Air Force 79-157 .503
14. UTEP 76-152 .500
Tulsa 73-146 .500
Florida State 65-130 .500

Adams & Vittatoe Among FBS Career Leaders

Through Nov. 13, senior WR Kris Adams was tied for fourth among active FBS players in touchdown catches (27), and 12th in receiving yards (2,478). Senior QB Trevor Vittatoe was second in pass attempts (1,590), passing yards (12,094) and passing touchdowns (94); third in completions (892), total offense (11,980 yards) and TDs responsible for (95); sixth in passing yards per game (257.3) and 11th in total offense per game (254.9).

Vittatoe on the NCAA Career Lists

Trevor Vittatoe has 12,094 career passing yards, the 15th-top total in NCAA history. He needs 335 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 19th in NCAA annals with 11,980 yards of total offense after passing Kansas' Todd Reesing and Quinn last week at Arkansas. He is within striking distance of Marshall's Byron Leftwich (18th, 12,084 yards), Louisville's Chris Redman (17th, 12,129 yards), Florida's Tim Tebow (16th, 12,232 yards) and Kingsbury (15th, 12,263 yards).

Vittatoe on the C-USA Career Lists

Trevor Vittatoe ranks fourth on the all-time Conference USA passing list with 12,094 yards. He is 447 yards behind Louisville's Chris Redman (12,541).

He is fourth on the C-USA career total offense list with 11,980 yards, 149 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 2,478 receiving yards, needing 49 yards to tie Jeff Moturi for fifth place. Adams is also third in school annals in TD catches (27), needing one to tie Mays for second place. He is seventh in Miner annals in 100-yard games (nine).

Additionally, Adams is tied for eighth on the C-USA career touchdown receptions list.

Adams Regains Sophomore Form

Following a subpar 2009 season, Kris Adams' numbers (42-891-11) look a lot like they did in 2008, when he racked up 50 catches for 958 yards and 14 TDs. He has scored 10 touchdowns over the last nine games. Adams (21.2 ypc) is one of just three players listed in the top-100 nationally in receiving with a yards per catch of 20.0 or better, joining Georgia's Kris Durham (20.1) and Michigan's Junior Hemingway (20.0).

Adams' Streak Continues

Kris Adams has caught a pass in 35 consecutive games, tied for the eighth-longest active streak in the country.

Consecutive Games With a Reception
Player (School, Year) Games
Scotty McKnight (Colorado, Sr.) 47
Dwayne Harris (East Carolina, Sr.) 41
Titus Young (Boise State, Sr.) 39
Tyron Carrier (Houston, Jr.) 37
Greg Salas (Hawaii, Sr.) 37
Jock Sanders (West Virginia, Sr.) 37
Damaris Johnson (Tulsa, Jr.) 36
Kris Adams (UTEP, Sr.) 35
Ryan Broyles (Oklahoma, Jr.) 35
Kito Poblah (Central Michigan, Sr.) 35
Kendall Wright (Baylor, Jr.) 35

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 nine of 11 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 11 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 seventh nationally in kickoff returns (29.1 avg.), and would rate 15th in punt returns (14.7 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.

McClure has scored a touchdown in each of the Miners' last two games. He had a 13-yard TD reception against SMU and registered UTEP's first kickoff return for a score in four years at Arkansas with a 100-yard runback.

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 six games Jeune has racked up 54 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 391.5 yards and 24.9 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 2005 (373.4), and the fewest points per game allowed since 1991 (21.0). In fact, only five times since 1970 has UTEP given up fewer points per game -- in 1971 (19.7 ppg), 1979 (24.2 ppg), 1987 (21.8 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 other occurrences came in 1965 (8), 1966 (8), 1967 (5), 1969 (4), 1970 (5), 1971 (4), 1976 (5), 1990 (4) and 1997 (4).

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), DB Martel Strange (Marshall) and WR Evan Davis (Arkansas). Amy wore his own jersey for "Senior Night" versus SMU on Nov. 6.

Miners Spreading the Wealth on Offense Once Again

Eighteen different UTEP players have made receptions through 11 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

UTEP's captains for the 2010 season are senior RB Donald Buckram (offense), senior DB Braxton Amy (defense) and junior WR Donavon Kemp (special teams).

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).

Watching Buckram

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 169-165 in his 29th season as a collegiate head coach, including 40-43 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 (238), Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer (237), Texas' Mack Brown (218), Nevada's Chris Ault (215), South Carolina's Steve Spurrier (184), Notre Dame's Brian Kelly (176) 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).