Game 12: UTEP's Bowl Eligibility Hinges at UCF
Nov. 21, 2011
UTEP (5-6, 2-5 C-USA) closes out its 2011 campaign at UCF (4-7, 2-5 C-USA) on Friday. Kickoff is slated for 5 p.m. (mountain). The game will be nationally televised on CBS Sports Network with Dave Ryan (play-by-play), Doug Chapman (analyst) and Kaylee Hartung (sideline) calling the action.
What's at Stake
With a win on Friday at UCF, UTEP would:
· Secure bowl eligibility in back-to-back years for the first time since 2004-05
· Win 2 of its last 3 regular season games for only the fifth time in 41 years
· Win its regular season finale for the second time in 23 years (beat Marshall 52-21 on Nov. 28, 2009)
· Win a game in the Eastern time zone for the first time in school history (0-16-1 record, tie came versus West Virginia 13-13 on Nov. 12, 1949)
· Win a conference road game in the month of November for the first time since Nov. 10, 2006 (36-17 victory at UAB)
· Post two conference road wins for the first time since 2004 (the Miners won two league games away from El Paso in 2005, but one was a neutral site matchup against Tulane in Ruston, La.)
· Win its final road game of the season for the first time since Nov. 9, 1991 (41-24 victory at Hawaii)
· Post three road wins in a season for the first time since 2005 and only the seventh time since 1965 (1970, 1987, 1988, 2000, 2004, 2005)
· Have six wins in consecutive seasons for just the third time since 1970 (also happened in 1987-88 and 2004-05)
The series is tied 1-1 with each of the teams garnering a home victory. UCF won the only matchup in Orlando, a 36-20 victory on Nov. 24, 2007.
The Last Meeting
Trevor Vittatoe threw for 263 yards and three touchdowns to lead UTEP to a 58-13 trouncing of UCF on Sept. 27, 2008 in the Sun Bowl.
Jose Martinez kicked a 64-yard field goal -- the second-longest in NCAA history -- without the aid of a tee for the Miners.
Cornelius Brown, who had two interceptions and blocked a punt, led the UTEP defense as it forced UCF into six turnovers, including two fumbles recovered for touchdowns.
Vittatoe's second-quarter scoring pass to Jamar Hunt gave UTEP a 17-point lead, and Martinez' 64-yarder gave the Miners a 27-7 lead at halftime.
Rob Calabrese threw for 167 yards and a touchdown for the Knights.
UCF is 4-7 and 2-5 in C-USA action and looks to snap a three-game losing skid heading into its season finale on Friday. The Knights are 4-1 at home in 2011 having lost to Tulsa on Nov. 3. UTEP's offense will be put to the test as the Knights hold national top-20 rankings in total defense (11th; 302.3 ypg.), scoring defense (12th; 18.7 ppg.), pass efficiency defense (13th; 111.3) and rushing defense (19th; 112.7 ypg). UCF is the nation's leader in kickoff returns, averaging 27.5 yards per return. The Knights have allowed 33 points in five home games, with 24 coming versus the Golden Hurricane.
G.J. Kinne threw three touchdown passes as Tulsa piled up 500 total yards in breezing past UTEP 57-28.
Kinne completed 19 of 25 passes for 283 yards and touchdowns to Trey Watts, Bryan Burnham and Jordan James. Ja'Terian Douglas ran 14 times for 109 yards and a score. Alex Singleton and Kinne also rushed for TDs.
UCF OL Theo Goins is from Houston, Texas as are four UTEP players (DB Antwon Blake, TE Katrae Ford, WR Mark Jackson and WR Jordan Leslie). UCF's running backs coach Danny Barrett also faced the Miners as an assistant at Buffalo when the Bulls took on the Miners twice during the 2008 and 2009 seasons.
Price Can Lead Miners to Fourth Bowl
A victory over UCF on Friday would propel the Miners to a bowl game for the fourth time in eight seasons under coach Mike Price. No other UTEP coach has led the team to four bowls, and only three coaches have enjoyed four seasons with six or more wins -- Mack Saxon (six), Mike Brumbelow (five) and Bobby Dobbs (four).
Price Can Tie Brumbelow For Second-Most Wins in UTEP History
Mike Price carries a 45-51 record as UTEP's head coach into the Friday matchup with UCF. 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 victories.
Friday Night Lights
The Miners are 2-3 under Mike Price when playing on Friday night (all C-USA contests). In its last Friday league game, UTEP lost at Houston, 54-24, on Sept. 10, 2010. Overall UTEP sports an all-time record of 6-7 in league matchups on Fridays.
On the Road Again
The Miners are 2-3 in road contests in 2011 including 1-2 in C-USA games. UTEP's game at UCF marks the second time under Mike Price that the Miners will end the season at UCF (2007), and the second time the Miners will end a campaign on the Friday following Thanksgiving (at East Carolina; 2008).
Miners, Knights Square Off For First Time in Three Years
UTEP is 1-1 all-time against UCF with a 36-20 loss in Orlando on Nov. 24, 2007, and a 58-13 victory in El Paso on Sept. 27, 2008. UCF carries a 4-1 home record into its regular season finale just like it did in the 2007 matchup. The following UTEP players appeared in the last Miners-Knights game in 2008, all in a reserve capacity: DB Antwon Blake, RB Vernon Frazier, LB Jamie Irving (redshirting the 2011 season), WR Donavon Kemp, DL Bernard Obi and LB Royzell Smith. There is actually one player on this year's team who played in the '07 matchup at Bright House Networks Stadium -- LB Isaiah Carter, who redshirted in 2009. Carter had one solo tackle in the '07 game.
UTEP in the National Ranks
The Miners rank in the top-50 nationally in net punting (third; 41.8 avg.), kickoff returns (third; 27.2 avg.), and punt returns (38th; 10.1 avg.).
Individually, Ian Campbell ranks third in the nation in punting (46.4 avg.), Vernon Frazier is sixth in kickoff returns (30.9 avg.) and Dakota Warren is tied for tied for 30th in field goals (1.3 avg.).
The Miners have been a more efficient offensive team at home this season than on the road, despite the fact that their scoring average in the Sun Bowl (27.8 ppg) is nearly identical to on the road (27.6 ppg). UTEP is averaging 232.7 yards passing at home with a .615 completion percentage; those numbers are 212.4 and .509 away from El Paso. The Miners are averaging 186.5 yards rushing and 5.7 yards per carry at home (134.8 ypg and 4.1 ypc on the road). UTEP has done a better job taking care of the football on the road, however, with a -3 turnover margin (nine takeaways/12 giveaways) compared to -6 (eight takeaways/14 giveaways) in home contests.
Miners Rank Among National Leaders in Big Plays
UTEP has had nine plays of 50 yards or more from scrimmage this season (six rushing/three passing), a total that ties for 12th nationally. Houston is the FBS leader with 19 such "big plays." The Miners are sixth in the FBS in 60+ yard plays (seven) and tied for second in 70+ yard plays (four; Georgia Tech is first with six).
Offensive Opportunities Do Not Necessarily Equate to Wins
UTEP ran 88 offensive plays in last week's 57-28 loss to Tulsa, tied for the fourth-most in the Mike Price era. UTEP ran 95 plays against UAB in 2005, 94 versus East Carolina in 2007 and 90 against Rice in 2007. The Miners also ran 88 plays versus SMU in 2007. UTEP was 1-4 in the aforementioned five games with a 48-45 overtime win over SMU in '07.
Miners Controlled the Clock Against TU
For the second time this season, UTEP had over 35 minutes of possession time last week. The Miners held the ball for 35:38 against Tulsa after racking up 35:58 in possession time at USF on Sept. 24. UTEP has played eight games under Mike Price where it compiled 35 minutes or more of possession time -- including versus NM State in 2004 (36:35), SMU (38:02) & Tulane (36:27) in 2005, East Carolina in 2007 (36:12) and Texas (36:41) & SMU (36:40) in 2008. The Miners are 4-4 in the aforementioned eight games, but 1-4 in their last five contests where they have controlled the clock for 35:00 or more. The Miners are 3-1 when trailing the time of possession line this season and 2-5 when winning it.
Miners Capitalize in the Red Zone
After going 2-of-5 in the red zone against East Carolina (11/12) , the Miners capitalized against Tulsa, scoring four times on five trips inside the 20-yard line. UTEP scored 26 points in the red, the most so far in 2011, besting the previous high of 23 against Rice (11/5).
More on Miners in the Red
The Miners have scored touchdowns on 20 of 39 (51%) trips to the red zone in 2011. Of the 20 touchdowns, 17 have come on the ground. The Miners have just three passing TDs in the red zone which accounts for the fewest in the Mike Price era. In 2009 the Miners recorded six touchdowns passes when in the red zone.
Penalty Count Was More Than Usual
UTEP was whistled for six penalties for 66 yards against Tulsa, all coming in the first half. Both totals were season-highs for the Miners in a conference game. The previous high totals were five penalties for 37 yards versus Southern Miss on Oct. 29. In seven C-USA contests this season, UTEP has been assessed only 25 penalties for 216 yards. With 53 penalties this season, the Miners have a chance to finish a year with fewer than 60 for the first time since 1996 (54).
Golden Hurricane Scored 14 Points Off Turnovers
The Tulsa game got out of hand quickly in the third quarter when the Golden Hurricane scored 21 points to expand a 29-15 lead to 50-15. Fourteen of the points came off UTEP interceptions. UTEP has a turnover margin of -9 (26-17) on the year, and opponents have scored 101 points off turnovers (9.2 per game) to the Miners' 43 (3.9 avg.).
UTEP has had a decided disadvantage in points off turnovers this season. The Miners are tied for 70th nationally in fumbles lost (10), tied for 115th in interceptions thrown (16), tied for 111th in turnovers lost (26) and tied for 110th in turnover margin (-0.82).
Good Year For the Ground Game
The Miners are averaging 163 yards rushing per game, their top figure of the Mike Price era and second-best effort in the last 13 years (UTEP averaged 169.3 yards rushing during the 2003 campaign). UTEP's 4.76 yards per carry ranks fifth in the single-season record book and is the second-best average since 1950 (the Miners averaged 4.98 yards per carry in 1988). UTEP is 4-2 this season when compiling 100+ yards rushing and 1-4 when it is held under the century mark. UTEP has averaged 213.6 yards rushing in its five victories and 120.8 in its six losses.
Banyard Heads Up Ground Game
Joe Banyard is UTEP's leading rusher this season with 113 carries for 781 yards. He eclipsed the 90-yard mark for the eighth time in his career and for the fifth time this season last week against Tulsa, gaining 91 yards on 20 attempts. His career-best 240 yards came versus Houston on Sept. 29. He has been the Miners' leading rusher seven times in 11 games.
Myers Racks Up the Rushing TDs
Leilyon Myers has excelled as the Miners' short-yardage back this season, leading the squad in scoring (72 points) with 12 rushing touchdowns. The rushing touchdown count is tied for the fifth-most in school history.
Myers is Money
Leilyon Myers may not be the flashiest runner on the team, but he is the go-to-guy when UTEP needs to move the chains. Myers paces the squad with 35 "money rushes," including eight on third down and seven on fourth down. Two of Myers' 12 rushing TDs have been money rushes.
Not Your Average Freshman
Jordan Leslie became the third UTEP wideout to register a 100-yard receiving game last week against Tulsa when he reeled in seven catches for 119 yards. The others are Donavon Kemp (114 yards versus Stony Brook) and Mike Edwards (187 at Rice). Leslie is the first Miner freshman to post a 100-yard game since Johnnie Lee Higgins, Jr. versus Louisiana Tech on Oct. 11, 2003 (126 yards). Leslie has been UTEP's leading receiver in four games this season.
Miners Are Tough to Beat When They Generate a Pass Rush
UTEP's 22 sacks this season are tied for the fourth-most in the Mike Price era behind the 2004 (42), 2005 (29) and 2008 (23) squads. The Miners have registered 16 sacks in their five wins this season and only six in their six losses.
Difficult Day for the Defense
For the fourth time in the Mike Price era, an opponent did not punt as Tulsa compiled 500 yards on 60 plays (8.3 avg.) last week against UTEP. The other teams who haven't punted versus the Miners since 2004 were Southern Miss & East Carolina in 2008 and Houston in 2010. Conversely, UTEP did not punt against Rice and UAB in 2005.
Campbell, Frazier Stand Out on Special Teams
Ian Campbell ranks third nationally in punting (46.4 avg.) behind Florida State's Shawn Powell (47.6) and Idaho's Bobby Cowan (46.9). UTEP is third nationally in net punting (41.8 avg.) behind the Seminoles (42.5) and the Ducks (41.9). RB Vernon Frazier is sixth in the country in kickoff returns with a 30.9-yard average. Frazier has had a kickoff return of 40 yards or more in six of 11 games. With 802 kickoff return yards in 2011, Frazier has the third-most in a season in UTEP annals behind Cedric Johnson (1,039 in 1995) and Marlon McClure (930 in 2010). As a team, the Miners rate third in the FBS in kickoff return average (27.21) behind UCF (27.5) and TCU (27.29).
Miners Stifle Opponents on the Punt
UTEP's special teams have held opponents to just 91 punt return yards this season, the fewest since the 2006 campaign when the Miners held opponents to just 73 yards in returns. Opponents are averaging just 5.1 yards in punt return yardage.
More on Special Teams
Antwon Blake's blocked punt against Tulsa was the Miners' second of the season after registering another against Tulane (10/15). The Miners have three blocked kicks this season, tying their second-top total of the Mike Price era. They had five in 2004 and also had three in 2007. Blake has two blocked kicks this season, most by a Miner player since Cornelius Brown had two in 2008.
Campbell Named Ray Guy Award Semifinalist
Ian Campbell was named one of 10 semifinalists for the Ray Guy Award.Campbell ranks third nationally in punting with an average of 46.4 yards per punt, kicking 42 times for a total of 1948 yards. The Duarte, Calif. native has 16 punts covering 50-plus yards and has averaged at least 50+ yards per punt in three games (54.8 vs. Stony Brook, 54.7 vs. Colorado State & 50.6 vs. Houston). Campbell has had as many punts fair caught (five) as have gone for touchbacks (five) and registered 15 punts inside the 20-yard line.
Springer Named Academic All-District
Jeremy Springer was named to the 2011 Capital One Academic All-District® 7 team. He has registered a team-leading 65 tackles so far in 2011. Springer has been credited with five tackles for losses, an interception returned for four yards, three pass break-ups and two quarterback hurries. A 2008 Conference USA Academic Medalist (minimum 3.75 GPA), Springer is a four-time member of the Conference USA Commissioner's Honor Roll (minimum 3.0 GPA).