UTEP idle last week, returns to action on Saturday at Rice (5-2, 3-0 C-USA).
Miners Come Off Bye Week, Begin Stretch of 5 Road Games in 6 Weeks
UTEP (1-5, 0-3 C-USA), idle last week, returns to action on Saturday at Rice (5-2, 3-0 C-USA). The Miners will be on the road for five of their remaining six regular season games. UTEP’s lone home game during that span comes on Nov. 16 versus FIU. The Miners are playing three straight road games -- including facing Texas A&M in College Station on Nov. 2 and North Texas in Denton on Nov. 9 -- for the first time since September of 2011. UTEP is 4-3 in C-USA games (2-3 home/2-0 away) when coming off a bye week since joining the league in 2005. This includes wins over Houston in 2005 (44-41 in double OT), at Tulane in 2005 (45-21), Tulsa in 2009 (28-24), and at Tulane in 2011 (44-7), and losses to Houston in 2007 (34-31), Rice in 2008 (49-44) and UCF in 2012 (31-24). The Miners have lost their last seven games in the city of Houston dating back to a 38-31 triumph at Rice on Oct. 29, 2005. This includes four losses to Houston and three losses to Rice.
The Owls have won six of the last seven games between the Texas rivals to take a 10-6 lead in the series ledger. Rice’s last six wins over the Miners have come by a total of 33 points (5.5 avg.); the closest outcome during that span was nine points in last year’s 33-24 decision in the Sun Bowl. Rice Coach David Bailiff is 5-1 against the Miners. The Owls are 6-2 versus the Miners in Houston with victories in the last three meetings at Rice Stadium. The last four games in Houston have all been decided by eight points or fewer, with the Miners prevailing 38-31 in 2005 and Rice upending the Miners in 2007 (56-48), 2009 (30-29) and 2011 (41-37). Overall eight of the last nine games between UTEP and Rice, and nine of the last 11, have been determined by eight points or less. UTEP has averaged 36.9 points and Rice has averaged 37.6 in eight meetings between the schools as Conference USA members. In the four games at Houston during that span, the averages jump to 38.0 ppg (UTEP) and 39.5 ppg (Rice).
The Last Meeting
Charles Ross ran for 154 yards and two touchdowns and Rice became bowl-eligible with a 33-24 win over UTEP on Nov. 24, 2012 in the Sun Bowl. Ross scored on a nine-yard run to give Rice a 26-21 lead in the fourth quarter and after UTEP answered with a field goal, Jeremy Eddington returned a kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown. Eddington also ran for another score for the Owls, who won their fourth in a row to get to 6-6. Taylor McHargue completed 21-of-30 passes for 207 yards. Nick Lamaison, one of 17 seniors who played their last game for UTEP, threw for 249 yards with a pair of touchdown passes. Two UTEP receivers went over 100 yards as Jordan Leslie had three catches for 168 yards, and Michael Edwards had five receptions for 121 yards. Nathan Jeffery led the Miners with 95 yards rushing. The Miners led 21-17 late in the third quarter before Rice closed the game by outscoring UTEP 16-3. It was the final game for the Miners’ Mike Price, who retired after 31 years as a college head coach.
UTEP players from the Greater Houston area are RB Josh Bell (Sugar Land/Kempner HS), OL Kyle Brown (Conroe/Conroe HS), RB LaQuintus Dowell (Humble/Humble HS), DL Dewan Edmonson (Manvel/Manvel HS), TE Katrae Ford (Houston/Westfield HS), RB Autrey Golden (Willis/Willis HS), OL Christian Harper (Galena Park/North Shore HS), DB Demarcus Kizzie (Willis/Willis HS), WR Jordan Leslie (Houston/Tomball HS), DL Brian Madunezim (Houston/Nimitz HS) and TE Kevin Perry (Houston/Westbury Christian HS).
UTEP OL Wayne Frazier and Rice DL Dylan Klare attended Refugio High School. UTEP QB Blaire Sullivan and Rice LB Nick Elder went to Central Catholic High School in San Antonio. UTEP RB Josh Bell and Rice DB Julius White are products of Kemper High School in Sugar Land. UTEP DL Cooper Brock and Rice RB Brandon Hamilton graduated from Copperas Cove High School. UTEP OL John De La Rosa and Rice WR Derek Brown attended Bay City High School. UTEP LB Cooper Foster and Rice QB Taylor McHargue graduated from Vista Ridge High School in Cedar Park. UTEP WR Jordan Leslie and Rice OL Connor Patterson hail from Tomball High School. UTEP DB Traun Roberson and Rice LB Alex Lyons attended DeSoto High School. UTEP’s Assistant AD for Football Operations, Nate Poss, is a graduate of Rice University and played for the Owls from 1973-76. Rice safeties coach Larry Hoefer had two separate stints as an assistant coach at UTEP, including serving as defensive coordinator during the WAC championship 2000 season.
Rice entered the week on a four-game winning streak as the Owls racked up a season-high 409 yards on the ground in a 45-19 win over NM State last Saturday at Aggie Memorial Stadium. In their final non-conference game of the season, the Owls jumped out to an early lead and never looked back to complete the sweep of a three-game road swing. Charles Ross racked up a career-high 167 yards and a score on 26 carries, good for 6.4 yards per tote. Taylor McHargue added 90 yards and three touchdowns on the ground to accompany his 89 passing yards on 8-of-14 attempts. Rice ranks 16th nationally and first in Conference USA in rushing offense (229.9 per game). Leading the Owls’ offense is McHargue who rates eighth in C-USA in total offense (200.0 per game). Ross averages 109 rushing yards per contest and, like McHargue, has five rushing TDs on the year. Rice is the C-USA leader in red zone offense, converting 23-of-24 opportunities into scores (19 TDs/four field goals). The Owls have blocked three kicks this season to rank among the national leaders.
Cody Green threw for two touchdowns and ran for another, and Tulsa snapped a three-game losing streak with a 34-20 win at UTEP on Oct. 12. Green completed 14-of-17 passes for 226 yards as the Golden Hurricane kept the Miners winless at home this season. Trey Watts rushed for 142 yards for Tulsa, and Thomas Roberson had 105 yards receiving. Jordan Leslie picked up his third consecutive 100-yard receiving game for the Miners, collecting 102 yards on four catches. Jameill Showers completed 21-of-30 passes for 166 yards, and Aaron Jones once again led the Miners in rushing (90 yards) before leaving the game in the third quarter with an injury. Tulsa built a 21-3 lead early in the second quarter. The Miners scored the next 10 points, highlighted by Autrey Golden’s 100-yard kickoff return to open the second half. Carl Salazar hit two field goals to push the Golden Hurricane’s lead to 27-13. Showers connected with Leslie for a 71-yard touchdown pass to once again make it at one possession game (27-20) with 1:13 remaining in the third quarter. The Miners, however, couldn’t get the defensive stop that they needed. Tulsa drove 68 yards on 11 plays, and on fourth and one at the two-yard line Green plunged into the end zone on the quarterback keeper. The Miners marched to the TU 28-yard line on their next possession, but the drive stalled with 3:22 to play as Showers’ pass to Jim Jones fell incomplete. UTEP collected 388 yards of offense to Tulsa’s 430. The Miner defense settled down after giving up 203 yards in the first quarter, but UTEP was erratic offensively as three drives fizzled out inside the red zone.
Miners Play First of Four C-USA Road Games
After playing their first three conference games at home for the first time since 1953, the Miners will be on the road for four of their last five league contests. UTEP is 2-6 in C-USA road openers (lost 27-20 at Memphis in 2005, lost 34-17 at Houston in 2006, won 48-45 in OT at SMU in 2007, won 40-37 in double OT at Southern Miss in 2008, lost 35-20 at Memphis in 2009, lost 54-24 at Houston in 2010, lost 28-17 at SMU in 2011, lost 28-18 at East Carolina in 2012). UTEP’s all-time Conference USA road record is 7-25. UTEP has lost 17 of its last 19 C-USA road games. The Miners won their last C-USA road game at Southern Miss on Nov. 17, 2012 (34-33), and haven’t strung together consecutive league road victories since 2005.
UTEP Seeking First C-USA Win
The Miners are 0-3 in Conference USA play for the second straight year. UTEP hasn’t started 0-4 in league play since 1996 when it finished 0-8 in the WAC.
Miners Putting Up Points
Despite a subpar offensive performance the last time out against Tulsa, the Miners have scored 35 points or more in four of their first six games for the first time since the WAC championship season of 2000. UTEP also achieved the feat in 1967 and 1988. UTEP is the only Conference USA school to tally 35 points or more in four games this season (East Carolina has achieved the feat three times).
Ground Game Playing a Major Role in Offensive Success
The Miners have put together back-to-back 200-yard rushing games for the second time this season and have four 200-yard games on the year. That ties the most in any season since 2004. The Miners had five 200-yard rushing games in 2003. UTEP’s ground game has been particularly volatile in the second half this season. The Miners have rushed for 769 of their 1,229 yards (62.6 percent) in the third and fourth quarters of games.
Rushing Offense is Best Since 1984
UTEP is averaging 204.8 rushing yards per game. It’s the best figure since 1984 (217.5 ypg), and marks the first time since 1988 (201.2) that the Miners have averaged over 200 yards on the ground. UTEP’s 4.55 yards per carry is its best since 1988 (4.98), and would rank seventh-best in school history if the season ended today.