Miners Face Tulane in Superdome
Nov. 19, 2013
Miners Face Tulane After Snapping Seven-Game Losing Streak
UTEP (2-8, 1-5 C-USA West) will battle bowl eligible Tulane (6-4, 4-2 C-USA West) on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. MT (2:30 p.m. CT) in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Miners snapped a seven-game losing streak by defeating FIU, 33-10, on Nov. 16 in the Sun Bowl on Senior Night. UTEP won its first home game of the season, along with notching its first conference win. The Miners are making their fifth trip to the Big Easy as they will play the first of two road games to end the 2013 season. The season will close out at Middle Tennessee on Thanksgiving weekend (Saturday, Nov. 30).
This will mark the ninth meeting between the two schools. UTEP holds a 5-3 lead. The Miners won the first game, 45-21, on Oct. 14, 2005 in New Orleans. The Miners have won the last two contests -- a 24-20 win on Oct. 20, 2012 in the Sun Bowl and a 44-7 drubbing on Oct. 15, 2011 in the Superdome. The Miners also recorded wins on Oct. 14, 2006 (34-20) and Oct. 11, 2008 (24-21). Tulane last beat UTEP in the Superdome on Nov. 7, 2009, a 45-38 shootout. The Green Wave also notched wins on Oct. 23, 2010 (34-24) and Nov. 10, 2007 (34-19).
The Last Meeting
Edwards had seven receptions for 82 yards, including scoring passes of 28 and 9 yards that helped give the Miners a 24-17 lead at halftime. Josh Bell also scored for UTEP on a 14-yard run.
Lamaison was 11 of 16 for 157 yards before leaving in the second quarter with a hamstring injury.
Ryan Griffin completed 28 of 44 passes for 363 yards and two touchdowns for Tulane. Justyn Shackleford had six catches for 130 yards, including a 31-yard touchdown. Ryan Grant added six receptions for 115 yards, including a 15-yard TD.
The Green Wave had 440 yards of offense, just 5 less than UTEP, but managed only a field goal on five second half possessions.
Tulane offensive coordinator Eric Price is the son of former UTEP head coach Mike Price. The younger Price was also a member of the Miner staff from 2004-07, serving as offensive coordinator.
UTEP WR Jordan Leslie and Tulane TE Matt Marfisi were teammates at Tomball (Texas) High School.
The Green Wave is coming off a bye week after dropping its last two games. Tulane fell to Florida Atlantic, 34-17, in Boca Raton on Nov. 2, and came up short to UTSA, 10-7, on Nov. 9 in San Antonio.
UTSA kicker Sean Ianno connected on a game-winning, 34-yard field goal with 14 seconds remaining to wash out the Green Wave. Tulane committed a season-high 14 penalties for 111 yards. Tulane running back Orleans Darkwa rushed for a game-high 103 yards and a score in the loss. The Green Wave had 348 yards of total offense, including 149 yards rushing and 24 first downs. UTSA netted 309 yards of total offense, including 126 on the ground.
UTEP pounded out a season-high 327 yards rushing in ending a seven-game losing streak and sending its 14 seniors out with a victory, 33-10 over FIU on Nov. 16 in the Sun Bowl.
The Miners came out determined to run the ball down the Panthers’ throats. UTEP’s first two scoring drives featured 16 rushing plays and one pass attempt. The Miners instated a 10-0 lead on a four-yard touchdown run by Autrey Golden and a 34-yard field goal by Jay Mattox.
The Panthers got on the board with 45 seconds left in the first period when Lamarq Caldwell threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to T.J. Lowder. Golden immediately put the Miners in scoring position with a 60-yard kickoff return. But Mattox missed a 38-yard field goal and the score remained 10-7.
Neither team was able to get anything going offensively until Sullivan broke free for a 35-yard run late in the first quarter, setting up a one-yard touchdown run by Jeffery on fourth down with 38 seconds remaining in the half. The Miners took the 17-7 lead into the locker room.
UTEP added a safety in the third quarter when Silas Spearman was tackled in the end zone. The Miners pushed the lead to 26-7 late in the third period when Mack Leftwich connected with Jordan Leslie for a 64-yard score. Jeffery picked up his second rushing touchdown of the night on a 54-yard scamper with 7:05 to play.
The Miners posted 407 yards of offense and enjoyed their best game of the season on defense, yielding 200 yards. FIU rushed for 95 yards and completed just 9-of-24 pass attempts.
Two in a Row?
After thumping FIU 33-10 in the Sun Bowl last Saturday, the Miners can dream about putting together their first conference winning streak in three years. The last time UTEP strung together consecutive league victories was versus Memphis and Rice in 2010.
Miners Pound it Out Versus Panthers
UTEP ran 53 rushing plays and only seven pass plays against FIU last Saturday. The seven passes were the fewest for UTEP in a game since the 1983 season finale versus Weber State (three). UTEP’s percentage of rushing plays (88.3 percent, 53-of-60) was its highest in a game since since the aforementioned Weber State contest (95.8 percent, 69-of-72), and the third highest figure in the modern era (since 1965). On Oct. 4, 1980 at Hawaii, sixty-two of the Miners’ 70 plays (88.6 percent) were of the rushing variety.
About that Rushing Total …
The Miners’ 327 rushing yards versus FIU were their most in a game since Oct. 22, 2011 versus Colorado State (340). The last time UTEP had more rushing yardage in a conference game was on Nov. 20, 1993 versus New Mexico (350). UTEP’s previous high for rushing yardage in a C-USA contest was 321 against Houston on Sept. 29, 2011. The Miners have eclipsed the 300-yard mark four times versus C-USA opponents since joining the league in 2005, including at SMU in 2007 (308) and versus Houston in 2009 (305).
Inside the Season’s Rushing Numbers
UTEP has compiled 1,987 rushing yards in 2013, already its most in a season in 10 years (2,201 in 2003). The Miners are 13 yards shy of rushing for 2,000 for only the second time in the last 20 seasons. UTEP has put together six games with 200+ yards rushing for the first time since 1994 (six). That ties the most in a season in the modern era.
Jeffery, Sullivan Spearhead Ground Game
With leading rusher Aaron Jones sidelined due to injury, Nathan Jeffery and Blaire Sullivan stepped up to combine for 234 of UTEP’s 327 rushing yards in the win over FIU. Jeffery finished with 130 yards on 25 carries and Sullivan ran eight times for 104 yards. Jeffery went over the century mark for the first time this season and the fifth time in his career. He is now tied for 11th place on the UTEP list of career 100-yard games. Jeffery also scored a rushing touchdown versus the Panthers for the first time since the opener against New Mexico. Sullivan, meanwhile, eclipsed his previous career high of 98 rushing yards at Southern Miss on Nov. 17, 2012. His 56-yard rush in the second quarter versus FIU was also a personal best.
Two of a Kind
UTEP had two 100-yard rushers against FIU for the first time in seven years. On Sept. 29, 2007 at SMU, Marcus Thomas rambled for 207 yards and Lorne Sam added 106. However, that was an overtime game. It had been over 10 years since UTEP had a pair of 100-yard runners in a regulation affair. On Oct. 25, 2003, Matt Austin ran for 112 yards and Howard Jackson chipped in with 100 at Hawaii.
Golden Wasn’t Too Shabby Either
He has electrified fans with his kickoff return exploits this season, but Autrey Golden took a bite out of the rushing attack as well versus FIU last Saturday. Golden ran eight times for 56 yards, a season-best and the second-top total of his career. He rushed for 69 yards versus NM State on Sept. 15, 2012. Most significantly, Golden registered the first rushing score of his Miner career against FIU after reaching the end zone four times on kickoff returns.
Golden and the National Rankings
Autrey Golden ranks 12th nationally in kickoff return average (28.1), and tied for first in kickoff returns for TDs (two). Golden is tied for second among active FBS players with four kickoff returns for touchdowns, and his 28.3 career kickoff return average is tied for sixth among current players.
Golden Moving Up on Kickoff Returns Chart
Autrey Golden is now in fourth place on UTEP’s career kickoff return yardage list with 1,582 yards. Ray Holt (1974-78) is in third place with 1,935 yards. Golden’s career kickoff return average (28.3) would rank second in school history behind Vernon Frazier’s 29.4 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.
Following a two-game stretch (Rice and Texas A&M) in which he was limited to a combined six catches for nine yards, Jordan Leslie has reached the end zone in back-to-back contests. He reeled in a 22-yard TD catch at North Texas and added a 64-yard grab versus FIU. Leslie has seven touchdown catches this season, a career high (he had six in 2012). The junior is ranked 33rd nationally in receiving touchdowns. With 15 career touchdown receptions, Leslie is tied for ninth place in school history. He is targeting Chuck Hughes (1964-66), Bob Wallace (1965-67), Volley Murphy (1967-68) and Reggie Barrett (19878-90), who are part of a four-way tie for fifth place with 19 TD catches apiece. Leslie can tie his career-long streak of games with a touchdown catch (three) if he can get into the end zone this week at Tulane.
Leslie Passes 2,000 Yards
Jordan Leslie now has 119 catches for 2,002 yards in his UTEP career. He is seven receptions away from tying Jimmy Carpenter (1995-98) for 10th place in school history. Leslie is the 10th Miner to accumulate 2,000 yards receiving, joining Johnnie Lee Higgins Jr. (3,218), Lee Mays (2,908), Chuck Hughes (2,882), Kris Adams (2,657), Reggie Barrett (2,558), Jeff Moturi (2,527), Ed Puishes (2,234), Bob Wallace (2,161) and Chris Francies (2,022).
The Miners have compiled six pass plays of 50 yards or more this season. Four have gone to Jordan Leslie and two have gone to Ian Hamilton. UTEP is tied for 17th nationally in pass plays of 50 yards or more and leads Conference USA in that category. The Miners are tied for 12th in the country in 60-yard pass plays (four) and tied for 11th in 70-yard pass plays (two).
O-Line Steps Up
A week after surrendering a season-high eight sacks to North Texas, the UTEP offensive line protected the quarterback versus FIU. The Panthers did not have a sack, marking the first time all season that the opponent failed to bring down the Miner signal-caller. The last time UTEP didn’t yield a sack in a game was versus UCF on Nov. 10, 2012. Granted, the Miners attempted only seven passes against the Panthers. However, the season-high 327 yards certainly attests to the O-line’s job of protecting the trenches.
Back on Track
Following a three-game stretch in which they failed to score more than seven points, the Miners put 33 on the board versus FIU. That gave UTEP five 30-point games in 2013, its most in a season since 2009 (six).
What a Day for the D
A UTEP defense which has seen its share of struggles turned in its best performance of the season against FIU. The Panthers were held to just 200 yards, the fewest by a Miner opponent since SMU had 190 on Oct. 7, 2006. It was also the second-fewest yards by a foe in a C-USA game. FIU had 11 first downs, fewest by the opposition since SMU had seven in the aforementioned outing. The Panthers finished with 95 yards rushing, marking the second time this year that UTEP kept a team under the century mark (NM State had 99). The Miners had allowed 200+ yards rushing in their previous six games, and had given up 100 or more in nine consecutive C-USA games dating back to 2012.
FIU Couldn’t Score Either
The Miners put an emphatic stop to a streak of seven straight games in which they allowed 30 points or more versus FIU. The Panthers tallied 10 points as five of their 13 offensive drives went three and out and four others generated under 20 yards. It tied for the third-fewest points by an opponent in a Conference USA game. Marshall scored three on Oct. 22, 2005, and Tulane scored seven on Oct. 15, 2011.
Defensive lineman James Davidson is tied 12th in the Conference USA rankings with four sacks. His season total also marks a career-best. He sacked Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel twice during the Nov. 2 contest at Kyle Field. Davidson is one of three players to sack the Heisman Trophy winner twice in one game. Auburn’s Dee Ford did so this season, while Ole Miss’ Mike Hilton accomplished it last season. Davidson has 8.5 career sacks. He needs four sacks to tied for ninth all-time in school annals.
Freshman Leads the Way
Safety Devin Cockrell recorded double-digit tackles (10) for the fourth time this season versus FIU last Saturday. That increased his seasonal total to a team-leading 65, 14 more than his closest pursuer (Anthony Puente/51 stops). The last freshman to lead the Miners in tackles was Robert Rodriguez in 2001. Cockrell has climbed up the Conference USA rankings sitting at No. 13 in tackles (7.2avg/g).
In Case You Missed It
Mike Ruggles had a 73-yard punt in the second quarter against FIU last Saturday. That tied for the 10th-longest in school history. It was also the longest by a UTEP player since Bryce Benekos had a 74-yard boot versus Colorado on Dec. 29, 2004. Ruggles has had a solid freshman year for the Miners, averaging 41.3 yards on 42 attempts.
Mack’s The Man
Mack Leftwich took over as UTEP’s starting quarterback for the North Texas game on Nov. 9. His first career completion was a six-yard pass to senior tight end Kevin Perry in the first quarter. His first touchdown pass was a 22-yard score to junior wide receiver Jordan Leslie in the third quarter. Leftwich threw a career-long 64-yard touchdown pass to Leslie in the third quarter against FIU. Both of the quarterback’s passing TDs this season have gone to Leslie.
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.
Why They’re Struggling
While the Miners have yielded 37.9 points and 450.9 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 10 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 seventh in the nation in fewest penalties per game (3.90) and 10th in fewest penalty yards per game (34.50). UTEP checks in second in C-USA in penalties per game and 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 eight 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: at Middle Tennessee
The Last Meeting
October 20, 2012
UTEP will close out the 2013 season at Middle Tennessee on Nov. 30. It will mark the first-ever meeting between the two programs. The Blue Raiders are in their first season as a C-USA member.