CoogFans' UTEP update

Every Houston fan knows, the Cougars do not need to be on the field long to score 50 points and it is unlikely UTEP can keep up offensively and find a way to stop Keenum defensively.

UTEP Miners
Conference USA

2010 Record: (1-0, 0-0)
2009 Record: (4-8, 3-5)
2009 Bowl: none
Coach: Mike Price (35-38 at UTEP, 164-160 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Bob Connelly and Aaron Price
Defensive Coordinator: Andre Patterson

Current Leaders:
Rushing: Joe Banyard, RB, 94 yards
Passing: Trevor Vittatoe, QB, 229 yards
Receiving: James Thomas, WR, 52 yards
Tackles: DeShawn Grayson, S, 8
Sacks: Bernard Obi, DE, 1.0
Interceptions: Braxton Amy, S, 1; Isaiah Carter, LB, 1

Other Key Players: WR Kris Adams, CB Antwon Blake, C Tanner Cullumber, RB Vernon Frazier, WR Donavon Kemp, DT Ruben Munoz, OT Will Osolinsky, WR Kevin Perry, DE Robert Soleyjacks, OT Alex Solot, CB Drew Thomas

In years past it has been the offense that has bailed out the UTEP defense. In the 2010 Miners season opener against Arkansas-Pine Bluff, it was the other way around. After allowing the Golden Lions to march down the field in their opening drive to take a 7-0 lead, the defense made some great adjustments and basically shutdown Arkansas-Pine Bluff for the rest of the game. In the meantime, the offense made a few mistakes and could have put a lot more than 31 points on the board, but they had a strong second half and eventually got things rolling.

Strengths:
The offense is still what makes UTEP a dangerous team. However, that danger is lessened without Donald Buckram. The senior running back missed the season opener and is listed as questionable for Friday night's showdown in Houston. However, behind a talented offensive line, the Miners found a couple more backs in Joe Banyard and Vernon Frazier who proved to be capable runners. Having Buckram back would be beneficial, but it appears that Banyard and Frazier, both of whom rushed for two touchdowns on Saturday, can be dangerous against any opponent. Quarterback Trevor Vittatoe was slow to get his offense moving and threw an interception in the end zone, but overall had a decent outing. He spread the ball around to nine different receivers and covering James Thomas, Kris Adams, Kevin Perry, Donavon kemp and LaVorick Williams will not be easy for any team. Vittatoe can play better than he did against Arkansas-Pine Bluff and he will have to if UTEP hopes to knock off the Cougars.

Weaknesses:
UTEP's defense may have bailed out the offense early in the season opener, but the competition is going to get a lot stiffer. The move to a 4-3 scheme has been relatively smooth and the players know their roles and how they fit into the new look. It will still be a learning process, but having what was practically an exhibition game before opening conference play allowed the Miners to work out a few kinks. The front four did a decent job getting pressure in the backfield with Adam Ayala, Ruben Munoz and Bernard Obi all tallying at least half a sack. Safety Braxton Amy is the leader of the defense and has not given up that job. The bigger news in the secondary is the emergence of sophomore safety DeShawn Grayson, who led the team with eight tackles against Arkansas Pine-Bluff. The issue against Houston will obviously be trying to stop Case Keenum and that will come down to corners Antwon Blake and Drew Thomas. Those two did alright in the opening week, but it will be a whole different situation with Keenum pulling the trigger. The return of Travaun Nixon, a junior college transfer, from a one game suspension may help, but Nixon has not proven anything at this level of play yet.

The Bottom Line: Houston should want some revenge after falling in El Paso 58-41 last season. The Miners found a way to get it done last year and overall this is a better team, so it would be unwise to count out Coach Mike Price's team. However, in Houston and this early into the 2010 campaign, Houston has a big advantage. If Buckram is back and the UTEP offense can avoid making mistakes, the Miners can keep Keenum off the field. Yet, as every Houston fan knows, the Cougars do not need to be on the field long to score 50 points and it is unlikely UTEP can keep up offensively and find a way to stop Keenum defensively.

2010 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 234.00 (26th in nation, 2nd in conference)
Passing Offense: 229.00 (51, 4)
Total Offense: 463.00 (35, 3)
Scoring Offense: 31.00 (48, 3)
Rushing Defense: 76.00 (31, 2)
Pass Defense: 202.00 (61, 4)
Total Defense: 278.00 (43, 3)
Scoring Defense: 10.00 (28, 2)
Turnover Margin: 0.00 (44, 3)
Sacks: 2.00 (36, 5)
Sacks Allowed: 1.00 (24, 2)

2010 Results:
September 4th vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff: 31-10


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