University of Central Florida Knights at UTEP Miners
Saturday, September 27th, 2008, 8:00 p.m.
Sun Bowl, El Paso, TX
2008 records: UCF- 1-2, UTEP- 0-3
Series history: UCF 1-0
Last season, UTEP relied on a balanced attack with freshman quarterback Trevor Vittatoe bursting on to the scene to the tune of 3,101 yards passing and 25 touchdown passes to seven interceptions. Unfortunately for the Miners, Vittatoe has gotten off to a rough start and an ankle injury caused him to leave last week's loss to New Mexico State. After Kyle Wright was ineffective, third stringer James Thomas II came in and sparked the Miners.
Thomas is listed as a receiver on the depth chart, but the former high school quarterback looked like he knew what he was doing. He ran for 142 yards on 19 carries and also went 8-of-15 through the air for 60 yards. Thomas will likely start this week for UTEP and will lead a spread option attack.
Marcus Thomas surpassed 1,000 yards rushing last season and UTEP has struggled to replace him. Terrell Jackson is the team's leading rusher, averaging 80 yards a game, but he missed last week's game with an ankle injury and if he does play this week, he will likely not be at 100%. Freshman Vernon Frazier filled in adequately last week, rushing for 74 yards on 14 attempts. Frazier stands at only 5'7", 160 lbs, but he is a water bug type of back who runs in the low 4.4's. Him and Thomas II should form a very quick duo in the backfield and will force UCF to play very disciplined football.
UTEP has a group of explosive players at receiver, with Kris Adams leading the way. Adams is a big receiver (6'3") with good speed and is leading the team with 44 receiving yards per game. Evan Davis and Jeff Morturi are both productive receivers as well who are very well balanced and can make plays if given the opportunity.
Best offensive matchup for UTEP: Thomas vs. UCF's defensive ends- This is not to say that UCF's ends aren't very good, but they will be tested against a very quick quarterback in Thomas. UTEP will run a lot of option plays and when they pass, expect Thomas to be put in a position to where he can break containment. Bruce Miller, David Williams and crew must be play very discipline defense and cannot get moved off their lanes this week, because Thomas is much faster than Boston College quarterback Chris Crane, who broke away for several big runs last week.
Best defensive matchup for UCF: Secondary vs. Thomas- While Thomas can certainly run the ball, there is a reason why he wasn't recruited as a quarterback in college. Thomas isn't the most accurate passer around and if he is forced to throw the ball, the secondary could be in a position to make some big plays.
UTEP runs an untraditional 3-3-5 defense and it really hasn't panned out for them thus far. In just three games, UTEP is giving 418 yards per game and has allowed 17 touchdowns. Up front, the 5'11", 275 lb. Steve Riddick starts at nose tackle. He had five tackles against Texas two weeks ago and has nice burst for a player of his size.
Adam Vincent starts in the middle for UTEP and is a captain. He recorded 10 tackles against Texas and is a huge playmaker. Landon Goodwell plays on both side of the ball for UTEP and is very tough against the run. He weighs 260 lbs. and does a very good job meeting linemen and fullbacks, and forcing them out to other defenders. Nuuese Punimata is a starting outside linebacker who is quick but doesn't consistently make plays. He has the ability to, but he has yet to put it all together.
UTEP's safeties must be strong against the run and pass in this specific scheme. Da'Mon Cromartie-Smith and Anthony Morrow are good fits in this scheme and have 32 tackles between them. The Miners use a by-committee approach at cornerback, with Melvin Stephenson II the only consistent starter so far this season.
Best defensive matchup for UTEP: strong safeties vs. quarterbacks- If Michael Greco's knee isn't fully healed, than UTEP, which blitzes 94% of the time, could get to him. Rob Calabrese, who is inexperienced, might also have to deal with some strong pressure. At the very least, UTEP's safeties will make it difficult for Greco to break containment towards the outside.
Best offensive matchup for UCF: offensive line versus front six- The middle is very vulnerable to the run in the 3-3-5 and UTEP doesn't have the biggest front. UCF's line has done a great job run blocking and should be able to get good push against UTEP. If the running backs make the right cuts, they could have a breakout game.
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