Autrey Golden is now in sixth place on UTEP’s career kickoff return yardage list with 1,335 yards. Luther Johnson (1983-85 & 1987) is in fifth place with 1,366 yards. Golden’s career kickoff return average (29.67) would break Vernon Frazier’s school record of 29.42. Golden is on pace for 1,026 kickoff return yards this season, which would make him just the second Miner to reach the 1,000-yard mark. Cedric Johnson had a school-record 1,039 yards in 1995. Golden’s 32.1-yard average would also eclipse the school seasonal standard; Marlon McClure averaged 31.0 yards per attempt in 2010.

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.

Golden and the National Rankings

Autrey Golden ranks third nationally in kickoff return average (32.1), and tied for first in kickoff returns for TDs (two) with Texas State’s Brandon Smith and Stanford’s Ty Montgomery. Golden’s 29.7 career kickoff return average ranks third among active FBS players behind Miami (Fla.)’s Duke Johnson (32.4) and Kansas State’s Tyler Lockett (31.8). Golden is tied for second among active FBS players with four kickoff returns for TDs in his career. Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert has five. Golden is second among active FBS players in kickoff return yards per game (74.2) after North Texas’ Brelan Chancellor (77.4). Golden’s theatrics this season have helped the Miners garner a no. 6 national ranking in kickoff returns (28.7 avg.). Golden has earned a spot on Phil Steele’s 2013 Midseason All-American Team as a second team selection. Golden was also one of four Miners named to Steele’s 2013 Midseason All-Conference USA Team along with RB Aaron Jones, WR Jordan Leslie and OL Brander Craighead.

Third Quarter Has Been Productive for Miners

The Miners have outscored opponents 66-29 in the third period this season. In the other three quarters plus overtime, they have been outscored by a combined 197-121. UTEP has compiled 776 yards in the third quarter this season, including 447 passing. The Miners haven’t had more than 273 passing yards in any other period. It’s no coincidence that UTEP’s seven longest offensive plays in 2013 have all come in the third quarter, along with a 100-yard kickoff return by Autrey Golden against Tulsa.

Turnover Table

The Miners lost the turnover battle for the first time this season versus Tulsa on Oct. 12. UTEP has nine takeaways (seven fumbles/two interceptions) and six giveaways (two fumbles/four interceptions) on the year. UTEP rates 17th nationally in fumbles recovered. The Miners have scored 42 points off turnovers this season, while opponents have tallied 18.

Off Night in the Red Zone

UTEP had been very good in the red zone offensively this season up until the Tulsa game on Oct. 12. The Miners finished 1-for-4 in the zone with a field goal against the Golden Hurricane. UTEP’s fruitless three trips ended with two interceptions and a blocked field goal. In the first five games of the season, UTEP was 16-for-19 in red zone opportunities with 14 touchdowns and two field goals.

Defense Playing Well in Spurts

After the UTEP defense allowed 203 yards and 21 points to Tulsa in the first 16 minutes of the Oct. 12 game, the Miners bounced back to yield 227 yards and 13 points to the Golden Hurricane the rest of the way. It marked the second time in three C-USA games that the stop troops enjoyed a resurgence of sorts. Against UTSA on Sept. 21, UTEP surrendered 303 yards in the first half before battening down the hatches and limiting the Roadrunners to 82 yards over the final 30 minutes.

Why They’re Struggling

While the Miners have yielded 37.7 points and 458.3 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 six games this season, 13 Miners have made their first starts on defense, including cornerbacks Nick Gathrite, Ishmael Harrison (moved from wide receiver this season), Adrian James and Da’Carlos Renfro, 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 20 different players on defense this season.

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.

School Head Coach Years Played at School

Air Force Troy Calhoun 1985-88

East Carolina Ruffin McNeill 1976-80

Kent State Paul Haynes 1987-91

Miami (Ohio) Don Treadwell 1978-81

Northwestern Pat Fitzgerald 1993-96

Oklahoma State Mike Gundy 1986-89

Stanford David Shaw 1991-94