GAME 11: UTEP to Honor 22 Seniors in Home Finale
Nov. 14, 2011
UTEP (5-5, 2-4 C-USA) closes out its 2011 home slate against Tulsa (7-3, 6-0 C-USA) on Saturday in the Sun Bowl. Kickoff is slated for 1 p.m. (mountain). The game will be nationally televised on CBS Sports Network with Dave Ryan (play-by-play), Rich Rodriguez (analyst) and Kaylee Hartung (sideline) calling the action.
With a win over the Golden Hurricane, the Miners would be bowl-eligible in back-to-back seasons for the first time since the 2004 and 2005 campaigns and the second time under head coach Mike Price. The contest also marks the final home appearance for 22 seniors.
Tulsa leads the series 11-8, including a 5-4 edge in games played in El Paso. The Miners, however, have won four of the last five games played between the schools in the Sun City and are 3-0 versus Tulsa at home under coach Mike Price. The last time Tulsa defeated the Miners in the Sun Bowl was on Nov. 1, 2003 by a 56-28 count. The home team has won each of the last seven games in the series after the visiting team prevailed in nine of the first 12 meetings.
"Senior Day" in the Sun Bowl
Twenty-two UTEP seniors will be honored at the Miners' final home game of the season on Saturday. UTEP's 2011 senior class includes RB Joe Banyard, DB Antwon Blake, LS Matt Camilli, WR Russell Carr, LB Isaiah Carter, DL Jamie Fehoko, RB Vernon Frazier, LB Greg Holleman, WR Donavon Kemp, DL Yahchaaroah Lightbourne, WR Julio Lopez, K Kevin Lopez, OL Nathan McCage, RB Leilyon Myers, DB Travaun Nixon, DL Bernard Obi, WR Monroe Ross, K Mike Scott, LB Royzell Smith, QB Tate Smith, LB Jeremy Springer and WR Cliff Tucker.
Miners Closing in on Bowl Eligibility
A victory over Tulsa on Saturday would make UTEP bowl eligible for the second straight season. The Miners finished 6-7 a year ago following a 52-24 loss to BYU in the New Mexico Bowl. UTEP has won six games or more in consecutive seasons just twice since 1970 -- in 1987 (7-4) & 1988 (10-3), and in 2004 (8-4) & 2005 (8-4). Mike Price can become the first coach to lead UTEP to four bowl games. Price can also join Mack Saxon (six times), Mike Brumbelow (five) and Bobby Dobbs (four) as the only coaches to lead UTEP to four or more six-win campaigns.
The Last Meeting
G.J. Kinne threw for 325 yards and two touchdowns and Tulsa beat UTEP 31-28 on Nov. 20, 2010 in Tulsa, Okla. Alex Singleton bulled in from one-yard out with 4:00 left in the third quarter to put Tulsa ahead 31-28, capping a 36-yard drive set up by a 62-yard kickoff return by Damaris Johnson, who finished with six catches for 146 yards. UTEP's Joe Banyard had 155 yards rushing and three touchdowns in the game.
Tulsa is 6-0 in C-USA action and 7-3 overall coming into Saturday's game against the Miners. Tulsa has won all but one C-USA game by 17 points or more this season. The Golden Hurricane has won 11 consecutive games against C-USA opponents dating back to the 2010 campaign. Tulsa's offense will be hard to handle, with top-50 national rankings in total offense (19th; 461.6 ypg.), rushing offense (21st; 209.4 ypg.), scoring offense (29th; 33.6 ppg.) and passing efficiency (38th; 142.3 avg.). Tulsa QB G.J. Kinne ranks 25th nationally in passing efficiency (150.7) and 27th in total offense (272.8 ypg.). On defense, LB Curnelius Arnick is tied for fourth in tackles (12.0 avg.) and DBs Milton Howell and Dexter McCoil are tied for 15th nationally in interceptions (.40 avg.).
UTEP DL Cooper Brock and Tulsa LB Donnell Hawkins attended Copperas Cove High School in Copperas Cove, Texas. UTEP OL Brander Craighead and Tulsa OT Tyler Holmes are from Ottawa, Ontario, Canda. UTEP K/P Steven Valadez and Tulsa RB Ja'Terian Douglas and LB DeAundre Brown are from Arlington, Texas. UTEP K Dakota Warren hails from Austin, Texas as do Tulsa WR Conner Floyd and TE Charlie Copa. Tulsa LB Curnelius Arnick is from Dallas, Texas as are six players from UTEP (QB Jay Hall, DB C.J. Haley, DB Adrian James, LB David Logston, DB Cameron Richards-Lee and WR Malcolm Trail). UTEP DL Roy Robertson and Tulsa LB Zik Asiegbu are from Grand Prairie, Texas. Tulsa TE Matt Hesterberg is from Houston, Texas as are four UTEP players (DB Antwon Blake, TE Katrae Ford, WR Mark Jackson and WR Jordan Leslie). UTEP DL Justin Cordova and Tulsa DE Rashad Robinson hail form McKinney, Texas. Tulsa WR Gary Owens is from Mesquite, Texas as are three UTEP players (DL Marcus Bagley, WR Davian Harper and WR Devin Patterson). UTEP OL Nathan McCage and Tulsa DB Darrell Williams are from Spring, Texas. UTEP DB Robert Spencer and Tulsa DB Bradley White are from Tyler, Texas.
UTEP-Tulsa Coaching Ties
Tulsa's assistant head coach Scott Downing was an assistant coach at Purdue when the Boilermakers faced UTEP head coach Mike Price's Washington State Cougars in the Sun Bowl in 2001. Also on Price's staff was co-offensive coordinators Aaron Price and Bob Connelly. Tulsa defensive coordinator Brent Guy and UTEP defensive coordinator Andre Patterson worked together at UNLV in 2009.
UTEP and Tulsa Have Waged Epic Battles
Since Mike Price came aboard as UTEP's head coach for the 2004 season, the Miners and the Golden Hurricane have squared off seven times with five of the games being decided by four points or less. UTEP beat Tulsa 41-38 in 2005, 48-47 in 2007 and 28-24 in 2009, and lost 37-35 in 2004 and 31-28 in 2010. All three victories came at home and both losses came at H.A. Chapman Stadium. In the aforementioned seven games, UTEP has averaged 419.7 yards of offense and Tulsa has averaged 489.1. In the Sun Bowl, however, the Miners have collected 483.7 ypg to the Golden Hurricane's 494.3 ypg.
Expect Lots Of Yards, Lots Of Points
UTEP and Tulsa have combined to average 61 points per game in their 19 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 (78), Rice (67), Southern Miss (63), 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 (1,051), Louisiana Tech (871), Texas Tech (870), UAB (846), Tulane (842), Southern Miss (825), Marshall (814) and Nevada (812). In 2008 the Miners and Tulsa combined for 112 points, which remains the highest-scoring game (both teams) in UTEP history.
No Lights Required
UTEP will be playing its third day game of the season on Saturday. The Miners are 1-1 in day games this year, including a 44-7 win at Tulane on Oct. 15 and a 41-37 loss at Rice on Nov. 5. UTEP's record in day games under coach Mike Price is 8-19, but 2-1 in the Sun Bowl (beat SMU 57-27 in 2004, lost to UAB 38-33 in 2009, beat Marshall 52-21 in 2009).
UTEP Seeks Rare November Winning Streak
The Miners, who are 10-19 in November games under coach Mike Price, are in pursuit of back-to-back November victories for the first time since 2008, when they beat Louisiana-Lafayette (37-24) and SMU (36-10). UTEP has posted November winning streaks in just seven seasons since 1970 (1974, 1986, 1988, 2000, 2004, 2005, 2007). Despite their November struggles, the Miners have reeled off four straight November home wins, topping SMU in 2008, Marshall in 2009 (52-21), SMU in 2010 (28-14) and East Carolina last week (22-17).
Price Can Tie Brumbelow For Second-Most Wins in UTEP History
Mike Price carries a 45-50 record as UTEP's head coach into the Saturday matchup with Tulsa. His next win will tie Mike Brumbelow (46) for second on the Miners' all-time coaching victories list. Mack Saxon is the leader with 66 wins.
Miners Can Finish Strong
UTEP has won at least two of its final three regular season games just four times over the last 40 seasons (1986, 1988, 2000, 2004). The Miners put themselves in position to buck the trend with last Saturday's 22-17 triumph over East Carolina.
The Last Time Out
Joe Banyard ran for a 77-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter to give UTEP a 22-17 win over East Carolina last Saturday in the Sun Bowl.
Banyard finished the game with 140 rushing yards and the Miners accumulated 241 rushing yards as a team. Sophomore Carson Meger, who came in for the injured Nick Lamaison, passed for 155 yards. UTEP had a total of 429 yards of offense on the night.
East Carolina's Dominique Davis was 18 for 34 passing and threw for 133 yards with one touchdown. Torrance Hunt was the Pirates' leading rusher with 54 yards while Michael Dobson ran for 43 yards and a touchdown.
Miners Complete the Cycle
With UTEP's 22-17 victory over the Pirates, the Miners have defeated every team in Conference USA since joining the league in 2005.
Finding A Way To Win
UTEP scored 22 points vs. East Carolina but emerged victorious with a big assist from its defense. The Miners are now 2-2 in 2011 when being held to fewer than 23 points. UTEP was 3-21 in the situation during the first seven years of the Mike Price era.
Small Margin for Error
Since the start of the 2010 season the Miners have registered two conference victories when being held to 23 points or fewer, which matches the number by all UTEP teams from the midway point of the 1998 season through the 2009 campaign.
Price Has Won The Most Too
Thanks to the triumph against East Carolina, head coach Mike Price now has the most wins in games decided by eight points or less in program history. Mack Saxon previously held the standard, with a mark of 18-15-10 in 43 such contests.
Miners Have Dented the Scoreboard Early
UTEP has put a touchdown on the board in the first three minutes in four of the last six games (Houston, Tulane, Colorado State, Rice). UTEP's first points against Rice on Nov. 5 came at the 13:57 mark of the first quarter, making it the quickest score of the Mike Price era.
UTEP Has Featured Quick-Strike Offense in 2011
Of UTEP's 32 touchdown drives this season, 18 have been less than two minutes in duration. The Miners have been particularly impatient over the last five games, with 13 of their 16 TD drives during that span lasting fewer than two minutes.
We Run, We Win
UTEP is 4-1 this season when it compiles 100+ yards rushing and 1-4 when it is held under the century mark. The Miners are also 4-1 when they have more rushes than passes. UTEP has averaged 213.6 yards rushing in its five victories and 112.4 in its five losses.
Miners Have Rushed For 200+ Yards Four Times
UTEP compiled 271 rushing yards against Houston, 266 at Tulane, 340 versus Colorado State and 241 against East Carolina. That makes this the second UTEP team under coach Mike Price to post four 200-yard rushing games (the Miners also achieved the feat in 2007). While the Miners have rushed for 200+ yards four times in a season on 18 occasions, only eight times have they done so five or more times (1982, 1984, 1985, 1988, 1993, 1994, 1998, 2003). The school record for 200-yard games is six, shared by the 1982, 1984, 1988 and 1994 squads.
Miners Explosive in the Running Game
The Miners have been explosive in the running game in 2011, posting six rushes of 50 yards or more to eclipse the five total in the previous seven years under Mike Price. Joe Banyard has recorded five of UTEP's six rushes over 50 yards (77 vs. East Carolina; 72 vs. Tulane; 68 vs. Houston; 60 vs. NM State; 50 vs. Houston). Vernon Frazier registered a season-best 83-yard run against Colorado State (10/22). Only five players from 2004-10 had runs for 50-yards or better (Leilyon Myers, 51 in 2010; Donald Buckram, 52 in 2009; Vernon Frazier, 55 in 2008; Marcus Thomas, 59 in 2007; Howard Jackson, 55 in 2005).
Banyard Goes Over the Century Mark Again
Senior Joe Banyard picked up the third 100-yard rushing game of his career against East Carolina last week, rambling for 140 yards on 18 carries. His game-clinching 77-yard TD run in the fourth quarter was the longest of his career and tied for the 10th-longest by a UTEP player. Banyard leads UTEP with 690 rushing yards and has been the Miners' leading rusher a team-high six times in 2011.
Meger Rallies UTEP to Win in Reserve
Backup quarterback Carson Meger came on in relief of the injured Nick Lamaison and engineered the Miners' come-from-behind victory over East Carolina. The sophomore completed 18-of-27 passes for 155 yards in a little over three quarters of work. In the 23 drives that Meger has started this season (including one at SMU and 13 at USF), the Miners have scored six touchdowns and kicked two field goals. Meger has completed 66.7 percent (46-of-69) of his passes this season and has averaged one interception for every 23 attempts.
Defense Turns in Dominating Effort
The Miners allowed only 254 yards to East Carolina, a season-low and the fourth-fewest surrendered in a conference game in the Mike Price era. UTEP yielded 190 yards to SMU in 2006, 201 to the Mustangs in 2008 and 227 at Rice in 2009. The Pirates had 34 pass attempts and only 133 yards through the air. The last time the Miners allowed fewer yards passing with 34 pass attempts or more was against Fresno State on Oct. 9, 2004 (126 yards/36 attempts).
Plenty Of Close Calls With Price
Forty of the 95 games (42 percent) during the Mike Price era have been decided by eight points of fewer, including five during the 2011 season. UTEP is 19-21 in the situation under Price, including 3-2 this year. Of the 13 other head coaches in program history with at least 30 career games on the sideline for, only David Lee had a higher percentage of contests of that nature. Twenty-three of the 53 games (43 percent) during Lee's time in the Sun City concluded with eight points or less separating the two teams. Lee's charges were just 6-16-1 in those games, though.
Defense Gets into the Scoring Act
UTEP registered its first defensive touchdown of the season against East Carolina last week when junior DB Darren Woodard returned an interception 44 yards for a score in the second quarter. The last time the Miners scored a defensive TD was versus Houston on Oct. 3, 2009, when LB Roddray Walker reached the end zone off a 70-yard fumble recovery.
Miners Turn it Around in Fourth Quarter
UTEP, which has been much maligned in the fourth quarter this season, came up big over the final 15 minutes versus East Carolina. The Miners rallied from a 17-16 deficit to win 22-17, improving to 10-38 under coach Mike Price when trailing entering the final period. UTEP has been outscored 67-39 in the fourth quarter this season, but won the fourth quarter against ECU (6-0). The Miners have gone 23 straight games without scoring more than seven points in the fourth quarter since putting 10 on the board in the final period of the 2009 finale versus Marshall.
Miners Have Shown Discipline in Conference Play
In six Conference USA games this season, UTEP has been whistled for 19 penalties totaling 150 yards. In four non-conference games, the Miners have had 28 penalties for 266 yards. UTEP had one penalty for 10 yards at Tulane on Oct. 15, its lowest total in a conference game since Oct. 14, 1989 versus New Mexico (0). The Miners rank in the top-30 nationally in both fewest penalties per game (tied for 22nd, 4.7) and fewest penalty yards per game (28th, 41.6).
Keeping `Em Under 20
UTEP has held opponents under 20 points in nine of 23 games since Andre Patterson took over as defensive coordinator for the 2010 season. That's particularly impressive when you consider that the Miners kept foes under 20 points nine times in the previous 59 games prior to his arrival.
The Pass Rush is Back
UTEP has 22 sacks this season, already eight more than it logged during the entire 2010 campaign. The 22 sacks are tied for the fourth-most in the Mike Price era behind the 2004 (42), 2005 (29) and 2008 (23) squads. The Miners are tied for 46th nationally in sacks (2.1 avg.) led by sophomore DL Horace Miller, who has a team-leading four.
Nixon Returns to Bolster Defense
It has been a frustrating season for safety TraVaun Nixon, UTEP's top defensive player. He has missed four games due to injuries, but still leads the team in interceptions (four) and is fifth in tackles (44). After missing back-to-back contests versus Colorado State and Southern Miss, Nixon has made up for lost time in the last two games. He led the Miners in tackles versus both Rice (11) and East Carolina (eight), and clinched the 22-17 win over the Pirates with the eighth pick of his Miner career late in the fourth quarter. Including two years at Ventura JC, Nixon has had 17 interceptions in his college career.
Campbell Drops to Second in Nation in Punting
Junior Ian Campbell had a rare off night against East Carolina, punting two times for 66 yards (33.0 avg.). In the process his season average dropped from 47.61 yards to 46.84 and he fell from first in the nation in punting to second. Campbell is now chasing Idaho's Bobby Cowan, the national leader with a 47.00 average. Campbell is attempting to become the fourth Miner to lead the country in punting, joining Owen Price (1940), Fred Wendt (1946) and Ed Bunn (1992). Price owns the school record with a 48.0 average in 1940. UTEP is third in the country in net punting (41.92 avg.) behind Oregon (44.33) and Florida State (42.56). The Miners have allowed 5.4 yards per punt return this season to rate 33rd in the FBS.
Frazier Climbing Kickoff Return List
Vernon Frazier has 709 kickoff return yards this season, a figure which already ranks fifth in school history. Within striking distance are Luther Johnson and Cedric Johnson, who rate third and fourth with 725 and 710 yards in 1985 and 1996 respectively. Frazier ranks third in the country in kickoff return average (32.23) behind Kansas State's Tyler Lockett (35.19) and Rutgers' Jeremy Deering (33.13). He has had a kickoff return of 40 yards or more in six of 10 games. As a team, UTEP leads the nation in kickoff return average with a sparkling 27.62 yards per attempt.
UTEP in the National Ranks
The Miners rank first nationally in kickoff returns (27.6 avg.). The Miners also rank in the top-50 nationally in net punting (third; 41.9 avg.), punt returns (43rd; 9.8 avg.), pass efficiency defense (121.9 avg.) and sacks (tied for 46th; 2.10 avg.).
Individually, Ian Campbell ranks second in the nation in punting (46.8 avg.), Vernon Frazier is third in kickoff returns (32.3 avg.), Nick Lamaison is 47th in passing efficiency (136.3 avg.) and Dakota Warren is tied for tied for 30th in field goals (1.3 avg.).