The Miners dictated the tempo, averaged nearly five yards per rush and outgained defending MAC Champion Buffalo by more than 60 yards, only to see their efforts fall apart over a two-and-a-half minute span that saw the Bulls capture 16 points. UTEP led the remaining 57:30 by a 17-7 margin, but fell 23-17 because of the sour stretch.
Now, the Miners must face Kansas, a team that Price referred to as "not
just a lot better than Buffalo, they're a whole lot better than a bunch
of teams across the country."
The UTEP offense isn't hurting for weapons. Trevor Vittatoe (6-foot-2,
215 pounds) returns after throwing for a school-record 33 touchdowns a
year ago. He put up more than 250 total yards in the losing effort
against Buffalo, and was only sacked once. James Thomas II (5-11 190)
is listed both as a backup quarterback and backup receiver, and he's a
dynamic runner. He put up a 17-yard touchdown last week.
The running game was a pleasant surprise in the Buffalo game. The Bulls
came into fall camp looking for a running back and appear to have found
one in Donald Buckram (5-10 195). The junior rushed for 104 yards,
averaging close to eight yards per carry. Vittatoe actually received
the second-most number of carries, followed by back Jason Williams
(5-10 210), who had a touchdown against Buffalo.
The Miners have a deep and experienced group of wide receivers. Kris Adams (6-3 195) and Jeff Moturi (6-0 190) combined for 23 touchdown
catches last year, while Tufick Shadrawy (6-2 195) and Evan Davis (6-1
185) had three catches a week ago. Moturi also showed off his running
ability, carrying the ball once for 21 yards. The tight end, Jonny Moore (6-5 250), wasn't heavily used.
Price said he was happy with the play of his offensive line from a week
ago. Botched snaps aside, the Miners averaged 6.2 yards per carry,
while protecting Vittatoe at a 98 percent clip. Price said Vittatoe was
hit just three times in the Buffalo game, one of which was a late hit.
He was sacked just once while dropping back 46 times. Mike Aguayo (6-4
300) and Will Osolinsky (6-8 280) are the starters at left and right
tackle, respectively, while Cameron Raschke (6-4 310) and Rod Huntley
(6-3 310) are the guards. Tanner Cullumber (6-4 280) mans the middle of
the line at center.
Defensively, the Miners appear to be ahead of where they were a year
ago when they gave up 42 or more points in six of their seven losses.
Defensive coordinator Osia Lewis enters his second year as the
defensive coordinator and coaches and aggressive 3-3-5 defense.
That defense was helped dramatically by strong play by the defensive
line last Saturday. Buffalo failed to average four yards per carry on
the ground, while defensive ends Aaron King (6-4 250) and Robert Soleyjacks (6-2 250) combined for 2.5 tackles for loss. King also
snagged the team's only sack. Steve Riddick (5-11 275) and Tory Robinson (6-3 285) rotated at the nose tackle position where Riddick
used his lack of ideal height for leverage. But Robinson was more of a
playmaker, grabbing 1.5 tackles for loss.
Converted quarterback Jeremy Springer (6-3 220) was the Miners' leading
tackler from the linebacking unit, making nine stops a week ago.
Springer, a sophomore middle linebacker, is the brother of Kansas
linebacker Justin. Left side linebacker Anthony Morrow (6-0 220) and
right side linebacker Royzell Smith (6-1 220) combined for seven stops.
If a team starts five defensive backs in its basic scheme, one player
typically is a hybrid safety-linebacker with a colorful position name
relating back to the university. In the Miner role, Da'Mon
Cromartie-Smith (6-2 210) fits all the billing. He's big for a safety
and incredibly active … after week one, he leads the entire country in
tackles with 19. He also had a tackle for loss and a forced fumble. The
Miners also welcome back left safety Braxton Amy (6-0 210), who had
five tackles against Buffalo. Amy had 112 stops in 2007, but missed
last year with a torn ACL. Right safety Clarence Ward (6-0 190) had
seven tackles, one for loss and a pass broken up last week. Cornerbacks
Melvin Stephenson II ( 5-10 185) and Cornelius Brown (6-0 195) combined
for six tackles and a pass defended against the Bulls.
Special teams, as a unit, have to get better. Kicker Logan Barrett (6-1
175) split his two field goals last week, missing a 48-yarder. Punter
Greg Hiett (6-5 225) averaged 42 yards per kick, but also gave up a
safety on a bad snap. Moturi and Brown are the kick returners, with
Moturi also fielding punts.
The Miners were sloppy a week ago, misfiring on passes, dropping passes
and giving the Bulls a 2:30 spurt that won Buffalo the game. They'll
need to put a complete one together if they're going to win this
Saturday against Kansas.
Next Up: Miners
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