Other Rookies Making an Impact
Fellow true freshman Darrin Laufasa joined Aaron Jones in putting together a big rushing night at NM State. The fullback gained 74 yards on nine carries, including long scoring runs of 17 and 45 yards in the fourth quarter. The Miners ate up 10:47 of possession time in the third and fourth periods, largely due to Laufasa’s contributions. All of his carries and yards came over the final 30 minutes. He also made two tackles on Aggie kickoff returns. UTEP also received a pair of second-half interceptions from redshirt freshman DB Dashone Smith at NMSU, including one in the end zone in the third quarter. Smith is the first UTEP freshman with two picks in a game since D.J. Walkeralso had two at Hawaii in 1999. The Miners’ leading tackler is true freshman Devin Cockrell, who has been credited with 15 stops in two games. Freshmen are also handling the kicking and punting chores, with Jay Mattoxa perfect 11-for-11 on PATs and wide receiver Brandon Mossbeing pulled from redshirt status to punt twice for 104 yards (52.0 avg.) at NMSU. All in all, 12 freshmen have seen action for UTEP already in 2013 -- Cockrell, OL Jerome Daniels, DL Silas Firstley, LB Cooper Foster, DB Leon Hayes, Jones, Laufasa, Mattox, Moss, P Mike Ruggles, Smith and DL Nick Usher.
Leslie’s Back on Track
Following an uncharacteristic performance in the season opener where he totaled five catches for 12 yards, Jordan Leslie looked a lot more like himself in last week’s win at NM State. He picked up seven catches for 103 yards, with five good for first down yardage. Leslie is now tied for 11th place in school history with five 100-yard games. He has 1,518 yards in a Miner uniform, leaving him 416 shy of cracking UTEP’s all-time top 10 receiving list.
Look at What Hamilton Has Done
After the Miners lost Michael Edwards (51-820-8 in 2012) from last season’s squad, the question was who would compliment Jordan Leslie as a playmaker in the 2013 passing game. Junior Ian Hamilton has provided the answer, supplying 10 catches for a team-leading 123 yards (61.5 avg.) through two games. He entered the season with a career-high 23 yards at Tulsa in 2011. He nearly doubled that output in the opener against New Mexico (42 yards), then added 81 yards -- all in the first half -- at NM State.
For the second time in two games, Texas A&M transfer Jameill Showers established career-highs for pass attempts (28), completions (18) and yardage (253) at NM State. In the season opener, he rushed for a personal best 44 yards. He has directed the Miners on 11 touchdown drives in the first two games. Showers threw for 200 yards in the first half of the NMSU victory before the Miners opted for a run-heavy attack (244 yards) over the final 30 minutes. Showers has completed 68.8 percent of his passes (33-of-48) in the first two games, and while it’s early, that figure would rank first in school history. Jordan Palmer owns the current standard with a .657 completion percentage in 2006. Showers also has two rushing touchdowns this season, which already ties the most by a UTEP quarterback in a season since 2009. Blaire Sullivan also scampered to the end zone twice in 2012 and James Thomas did so as well in 2009.
Smash Mouth Football
Sean Kugler’s overall philosophy of bringing toughness and physicality to the game has certainly been in evidence early this season. The Miners have racked up 30 rushing first downs in two games. Last year it took them five games to reach that number. UTEP had 16 rushing first downs at NM State last Saturday, its most in a game since Sept. 29, 2011 versus Houston (16). The last time the Miners had more than 16 rushing first downs in a game was on Sept. 29, 2007 at SMU (19), a game that went to overtime. For the season, the Miners have 30 rushing first downs and 18 passing first downs. They haven’t had more rushing first downs than passing in a season since 2003.
About That Epic Drive ...
The Miners put the exclamation point on last week’s 42-21 win at NM State with a 14-play, 88-yard touchdown drive consuming 8:12 in the fourth quarter. Thirteen of the 14 plays were of the rushing variety, with Autrey Golden and Darrin Laufasa carrying the ball four times each, Aaron Jonesthree times, and Josh Belland Jameill Showersonce apiece. The Miners rushed for 78 yards on their 13 carries (6.0 avg.). The last time UTEP had a scoring drive longer than eight minutes and 12 seconds was versus Boise State in the Humanitarian Bowl on Dec. 28, 2000 (18 plays, 54 yards, 8:24 in the third quarter, capped by Ricky Bishop’s 43-yard field goal).
Miners Rule the Time of Possession Line
UTEP compiled an astounding 41:53 of possession time in last week’s win at NM State. That’s a school record and it marks only the third time that the Miners have had more than 40 minutes of possession in a game. They controlled the clock for 41:23 versus Valdosta State in 1995 and 41:03 at BYU in 1984. UTEP entered the week rated 10th nationally in possession time (34:58 avg.) behind Florida, Bowling Green, Virginia, Texas State, Arkansas, Rice, Mississippi State, Iowa and Navy.
Defense Getting it Done on Third Down
Miner opponents have converted just 4-of-16 third down opportunities this season. That 25 percent success rate ranks sixth in the country behind Florida, Michigan State, Kentucky, Colorado and Louisville. Last week, NMSU finished 1-for-6 on third down. The last UTEP opponent that converted one third down opportunity or fewer in a game was SMU on Nov. 14, 2009 (1-for-6). On the flip side, UTEP is 20th in the FBS in third down conversion offense with a .536 (15-for-28) percentage.
UTEP Winning the Turnover Battle
The Miners are tied for 11th in the nation in turnover margin (1.5). UTEP has five takeaways and two giveaways on the year and has won the turnover battle in both games. The Miners didn’t commit their first turnover of the 2013 campaign until early in the third quarter of game two, when Jameill Showersthrew a ball that was picked off by NM State’s Kawe Johnson. UTEP forced four turnovers (two interceptions, two fumbles) versus the Aggies, its top game total since Sept. 29, 2012 at East Carolina (four). UTEP has converted its five takeaways into four touchdowns this season.
Learning on the Fly
Not only did new defensive coordinator Scott Stoker have a month to install his 4-2-5 scheme -- he was hired after spring ball -- but he is working with personnel who by and large are seeing their first action in the Orange and Blue. In the first two games, 10 players have made their first starts for the Miners on the defensive side of the ball. That includes cornerback Nick Gathrite, weak safety Demarcus Kizzie and end Roy Robertson-Harris, who were all inserted into the lineup for the first time last week at NM State.
The End Zone is His Home
With a couple more touchdowns in the season opener -- one of the rushing and one of the receiving variety -- Nathan Jeffery has now reached the end zone nine times in his last six games dating back to the 2012 season. During that span he has accounted for eight rushing touchdowns. He now has rushed for 1,137 yards and nine TDs in a UTEP uniform.
Autrey Golden ranked 11th nationally in kickoff returns last season (28.3 avg.) and is averaging 24.3 yards per attempt this season. He has compiled 18 kickoff returns of 25 yards or more in 14 college games. He has 968 kickoff return yards in a Miner uniform and is just 44 away from tying Ricki Lopez (1989-90) for 10th place on the UTEP career list.