EL PASO, Texas - 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.
El Pasoan Heads Up Rushing Attack
Aaron Jones has accounted for 45.3 percent (557-of-1,229) of the Miners' rushing yardage in 2013. He ranks 37th nationally, averaging 92.8 yards per game, and second in the country among freshmen (Arkansas' Alex Collins averages 99.6 ypg). Jones has two 100-yard rushing games, most by a UTEP freshman since John Harvey -- the school's all-time leading rusher -- compiled four in 1985. Jones is on pace to run for 1,114 yards this year, which would be a Miner freshman record and the 10th-top seasonal total in the UTEP record book.
Jones Handles the Workload Just Fine
Aaron Jones has a team-leading 99 carries this year, and was on pace for a season-high 28 rushing attempts the last time out versus Tulsa before leaving the game early in the third quarter. Despite playing just a little over a half versus the Golden Hurricane, he still has put up the majority of his production after halftime in 2013. He has compiled 373 of his 557 yards (67 percent) in the second half and overtime. He also averages 4.1 yards per carry (45 carries total) in the first half and 6.9 yards per carry (54 carries total) after halftime. Jones has averaged 7.3 yards per carry in the third quarter and 6.7 in the fourth quarter this season.
Showers Has Been Solid All-Around
With half a season in the books, Jameill Showers is on pace to pass for 2,518 yards and rush for 382 in 2013. Showers would be the eighth UTEP player to throw for 2,500 yards in a season, joining Trevor Vittatoe (four times), Jordan Palmer (three times), Sammy Garza (once), Howard Gasser (once), Pat Hegarty (once), Rocky Perez (once) and Billy Stevens (once). None of the aforementioned players rushed for as many as 100 yards in the year that they passed for 2,500 (Vittatoe came the closest to doing so with 98 yards rushing in 2010). If Showers ends the year with 382 yards rushing, it would be the most by a UTEP quarterback since Shawn Gray compiled 478 in 1994.
Showers the Passer
Jameill Showers' 129.76 passing efficiency rating this season would rank just outside of the all-time UTEP top 10 (Trevor Vittatoe ranks 10th currently with a 130.07 rating in 2009). Showers' TD/interception ratio of 2.75 (11-4), if it holds up over the remaining six games, would rank fourth-best by a UTEP quarterback with a minimum of 100 pass attempts. Rocky Perez had a 4.33 ratio (26/6) in 2000. Trevor Vittatoe had a 3.67 ratio (33/9) in 2008 and a 3.57 ratio (25/7) in 2007.
Showers the Rusher
Jameill Showers is UTEP's second-leading rusher with 191 yards. He has four rushing TDs this season, most by a UTEP quarterback since Orlando Cruz had five in 2003. The last Miner signal-caller with more than five rushing scores in a season was Rocky Perez in 2000 (six). Showers ran for a career-high 74 yards versus Tulsa on Oct. 12. His 20-yard run in the second quarter tied a career long. He also had a 20-yard run against South Carolina State while at Texas A&M on Sept. 22, 2012.
A Responsible Guy
Jameill Showers is tied for 28th nationally in points responsible for (92), having thrown for 11 touchdowns and a two-point conversion and rushing for four TDs this season. He ranks second in the statistical category among Conference USA players behind East Carolina's Shane Carden (126 points). At his current pace, Showers would be responsible for 30 touchdowns this season, making him one of just three UTEP quarterbacks to reach that number. Trevor Vittatoe was responsible for 34 touchdowns in 2008, Rocky Perez was responsible for 32 in 2000, and Jordan Palmer was responsible for 31 in 2005.
Jameill Showers has already completed a couple of 70-yard passes this season, both to Jordan Leslie (75 yards at Colorado State and 71 yards versus Tulsa). He is the sixth Miner signal-caller to achieve the feat, joining Trevor Vittatoe in 2009 (five), Jordan Palmer in 2006 (four), Vittatoe in 2007 (three), Orlando Cruz in 2003 (two), Brooks Dawson in 1967 (two), Palmer in 2004 (two), Billy Stevens in 1965 (two) and Vittatoe in 2008 (two).
And on the Other End ...
Jordan Leslie is one of eight players in school history with two 70-yard catches. The others are Johnnie Lee Higgins (four), Kris Adams (three), Donald Buckram (three), Jeff Moturi (three), Bubba Garcia (two), Howard Jackson (two) and Lee Mays (two). Leslie had a 75-yard reception at Colorado State on Sept. 28 and a 71-yard catch versus Tulsa on Oct. 12.
Leslie Now Eighth in 100-Yard Games
Jordan Leslie has eight career 100-yard receiving games, tied for the eighth-most in school history with Bob Wallace (1965-67). Ed Puishes (1969-71), Lee Mays (1998-01), Jeff Moturi (2006-09) and Kris Adams (2007-10) are in a four-way tie for fourth place with ten 100-yard games. Leslie has gone over the century mark in four of the last five games, averaging 94.6 yards during that span. He is the first UTEP player to post three 100-yard receiving games in a row since Kris Adams did so in the final three games of the 2008 season. If he can extend the streak at Rice, he will be the first Miner with four consecutive 100-yard games since Chuck Hughes compiled a school-record eight in a row over the course of the 1964 and 1965 seasons.
Leslie Knocking on Receiving List's Door
Jordan Leslie has 1,888 career receiving yards and needs just 46 more to tie Brian Natkin (1,934 yards) for 10th place in school history. Natkin is currently the Miners' tight ends coach. Leslie's 17.64 yards per reception (1,888 yards/107 catches) would rank fifth in the UTEP record book. He has 13 touchdown receptions, putting him one away from tying David Karns (1966-68) and Cedric Johnson (1993-96) for ninth place in school annals. With 485 yards in 2013, Leslie has a chance at becoming only the seventh Miner to hit 1,000 for a season.
Leslie on Pace For Double-Digit TDs
Jordan Leslie has five touchdown catches this season and could become just the ninth UTEP player to reach double figures in a season. The others are Kris Adams (twice), Johnnie Lee Higgins Jr. (twice), Reggie Barrett, Chuck Hughes, David Karns, Lee Mays, Jeff Moturi and Volley Murphy. Leslie is tied for 31st nationally and tied for second in Conference USA with five touchdown receptions. Tulane's Ryan Grant is the league leader with six and Marshall's Gator Hoskins also has five.
Leslie Feels at Home on the Road
Jordan Leslie has put up 103 and 130 receiving yards respectively in UTEP's two road games this season at NM State and Colorado State. In his last five road games dating back to the 2012 season, he has compiled 587 yards (117.4 avg.), including a 218-yard effort at Tulsa on Oct. 11 of last year. He has had at least 95 yards in four of his last five road games.
Golden Moving Up on Kickoff Returns Chart
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.
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
Texas Tech Kliff Kingsbury 1999-02
Tulsa Bill Blankenship 1975-79
Utah State Matt Wells 1994-96
UTEP Sean Kugler 1985-88
Virginia Tech Frank Beamer 1966-68
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.
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 four 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.
The Miners' 2013 captains are senior DL Marcus Bagley, junior RB Nathan Jeffery, senior TE Kevin Perry, senior DL Germard Reed and junior OL Jerel Watkins.
Up Next: at Texas A&M
UTEP will make its first visit to College Station since 2000 on Saturday, Nov. 2. The Aggies are rated 14th in this week's Associated Press top-25 poll and 15th by USA Today. The Miners will be facing a ranked opponent for the first time since the 2012 season opener versus no. 4 Oklahoma, and a ranked team on the road for the first time since Sept. 24, 2011 at no. 18 USF.
Source: UTEP Athletics