Miners To Close Out 2013 Season against Middle Tennessee
Nov. 25, 2013
Miners To Close Out 2013 Season against Middle Tennessee
UTEP (2-9, 1-6 C-USA West) will battle conference newcomer Middle Tennessee (7-4, 5-2 C-USA East) on Saturday at 1:45 p.m. MT (2:45 p.m. CT) in Johnny “Red” Floyd Stadium to cap off the 2013 season. This will mark the first trip to Murfreesboro, Tenn., for the Miners. UTEP will make its fifth trip to the state of Tennessee. The Miners are 0-4 lifetime in the Volunteer State -- suffering losses to Memphis on Oct. 1, 2005, (27-20) and Oct. 10, 2009, (35-20) while losing a pair to Tennessee on Oct. 4, 1986, (26-16) and Sept. 15, 1990, (56-0). Since 2000, UTEP has only one win in its final regualar-season contest. The Miners defeated Marshall, 52-21, in the Sun Bowl on Nov. 28 to close out the 2009 season.
This will mark the first meeting between the two programs.
Seniors Will Play Last Game in the Orange and Blue
12 seniors will don the Orange and Blue for the final time on Saturday afternoon. The senior class includes: OL Mike Amdall (Plano, Texas), DL Adam Ayala (Huntsville, Texas), DL Marcus Bagley (Mesquite, Texas), WR Peter Carreon (El Paso, Texas), OL Brander Craighead (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada), DL James Davidson (Huntsville, Texas), LB Michael Kelley (Los Angeles, Calif.), LB David Logston (Tempe, Arizona), LB Horace Miller (Baltimore, Md.), OL James Robinson (Richmond, Calif.), LB A.J. Ropati (Carson, Calif.) and TE Craig Wenrick (Flower Mound, Texas). Seniors TE Kevin Perry (Opelousas, La.) and DL Germard Reed (Lufkin, Texas) seasons were cut short due to injuires.
UTEP assistant head coach Spencer Leftwich graduated from Stephen F. Austin (1988) where he was a three-year starter at guard and a two-time All-Conference honoree. UTEP wide receivers coach Todd Whitten graduated from Stephen F. Austin (1987) where he played quarterback. Middle Tennessee defensive line coach Joe Cauthen was the defensive line coach at Stephen F. Austin during the 1997-98 seasons.
UTEP running backs coach Cornell Jackson and Middle Tennessee defensive tackles/tight ends coach Rick Mallory coached at the Univeristy of Washington. Jackson coached the linebackers (2002), the safeties (2003) and running backs (2004). Mallory was with the program from 1992-99 at the tight ends coach position.
Middle Tennessee graduate assistant coach Turner West played for the Memphis Tiger from 2006-09. He face the Miners twice (2006 & 2009) during his career at wide receiver.
UTEP nickelbacks/safeties coach Robert Rodriguez and Middle Tennessee recruiting coordinator/wide receivers coach Justin Watts spent time with the NFL’s Tennessee Titans in 2005.
About Middle Tennessee
The Blue Raiders won their fourth straight game, beating winless Southern Miss, 42-21 on Nov. 23 at M.M. Roberts Statium (Hattiesburg, Miss.).
Middle Tennessee tallied 418 yards of total offense and a pair of interception returns for touchdonws in the victory. T.T. Barber and Kevin Byard each notched a pick-six, while Shane Tucker ran for a career-best 103 yards and two touchdowns. Jeremiah Bryson pitched in with 80 yards on the gound.
The win gave head coach Rick Stockstill his 50th career win. Logan Kilgore completed 11-of-25 for 172 yards and a touchdown for the Blue Raiders. Kilgore became the school’s all-time leader with 51 career touchdown passes.
Orleans Darkwa ran for a season-best 139 yards on 17 carries (8.1 avg.) and a touchdown, and Ryan Grant caught eight passes for 104 yards and two scores as Tulane defeated UTEP, 45-3, on Nov. 23 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
The Green Wave (7-4, 5-2 C-USA) ended a two-game losing streak, while the Miners (2-9, 1-6 C-USA) did not score a touchdown for the first time this season.
Tulane got on the board quick with its first possession of the game. Darkwa ripped the UTEP defense with 42 yards rushing and ended the seven-play 72-yard drive with a 20-yard scamper to the end zone. The Miners’ lone score came on a 32-yards field goal by Jay Maddox in the second quarter.
The Green Wave put up 482 yards of total offense, including 277 yards on the ground. The Miners managed 232 yards of offense. Tulane converted on 10-of-14 third downs and won the possession battle (30:53).
Junior tight end Eric Tomlinson caught four passes for 71 yards, including a career-best 28-yard reception. Junior wide receiver Devin Patterson tied a season-best with three catches for a career-high 47 yards.
Seeking Win No. 2 in Conference
The Miners picked up their first conference win after thumping FIU 33-10 in the Sun Bowl on Nov. 16. The Miners avoided a winless conference season, but are now looking for their second victory. The last time UTEP won one conference game came in 2003 when it finished 1-7 in the WAC.
Miners Pound it Out Versus Panthers
UTEP ran 53 rushing plays and only seven pass plays against FIU Nov. 16. 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 2,039 rushing yards in 2013, its most in a season in 10 years (2,201 in 2003). The Miners reached over 2,000 yards rushing 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 on Nov. 16. 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 14th nationally in kickoff return average (27.9), and tied for second in kickoff returns for TDs (two). Golden is tied for second among active FBS players with four kickoff returns for touchdowns, and his 28.1 career kickoff return average is ranked ninth 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 1,604 yards. Ray Holt (1974-78) is in third place with 1,935 yards. Golden’s career kickoff return average (27.9) 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 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 Passes 2,000 Yards
Jordan Leslie now has 123 catches for 2,002 yards in his UTEP career. He is three 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 21st nationally in pass plays of 50 yards or more and leads Conference USA in that category. The Miners are tied for 14th in the country in 60-yard pass plays (four) and tied for 13th in 70-yard pass plays (two).
Eric Tomlinson’s Production
Tight end Eric Tomlinson has put together a nice season. He ranks second on the team with 26 receptions, while his yards (262) is ranked third. Tomlinson set career highs in catches (eight) and yards (75) against Colorado State on Sept. 28. He also put up solid numbers against Tulane wih 71 yards on four catches. Tomlinson has the most catches for a tight end since Jamar Hunt caught 31 passes for 367 yards in 2008.
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 15th 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 on Nov. 16 and eight stops against Tulane. That increased his seasonal total to a team-leading 73, 15 more than his closest pursuer (Dashone Smith/58 stops). The last freshman to lead the Miners in tackles was Robert Rodriguez in 2001. Cockrell has climbed up the Conference USA rankings tied for 19th in tackles (7.3avg/g).
Speaking Of Dashone Smith
Other freshman safety Dashone Smith established a career-high 10 tackles (seven solo) against Tulane. Smith ranks second on the sqaud in tackles, two ahead of linebacker Anthony Puente. Smith also has the Miners’ only two interceptions of the season. Both picks came against NM State on Sept. 14.
In Case You Missed It
Mike Ruggles had a 73-yard punt in the second quarter against FIU on Nov. 16. 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. Sophomore Garrett Simpson got snaps under center against Tulane. Simpson was inserted into the lineup in the fourth quarter. He completed 3-of-3 passes for 55 yards.
Why They’re Struggling
While the Miners have yielded 38.5 points and 453.7 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 11th in the nation in fewest penalties per game (4.1) and 12th in fewest penalty yards per game (35.6). 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.