Scouting the Miners

Bret Bloomquist of the El Paso Times covers the Texas-El Paso Miners on a daily basis. He will be in Oxford Saturday night for the game with Ole Miss. He's been around the program for six years. Last week's UTEP performance in a 24-7 loss at home to Oklahoma, a top 5 team, impressed Bloomquist.

Follow SpiritJeff on Twitter

"I've been covering UTEP since 2006, and I've talked to people who've been there a long, long time. They couldn't remember UTEP playing that well defensively," he said. "Coach (Mike) Price said it was the best showing he's had in nine years."

Defense was certainly the strength of UTEP's performance last weekend. Offensively about all the Miners had going for themselves was the running of Nathan Jeffery.

Jeffery, a sophomore, suffered a groin injury late in the game with the Sooners and was questionable for Ole Miss. However Bloomquist reports Price is optimistic about Jeffery's chances of playing in Oxford Saturday night.

"We're hoping he'll be fine," Price said. "We have until Saturday. He ran around, he got good work, we just didn't want him making major cuts as fast as he can."

Jeffery is an important part of the Miners' offense. Against Oklahoma, he rushed for 177 yards on 21 carries.

Wide receiver and punt returner Mike Edwards had a concussion in the OU game and was thought to likely miss the Ole Miss game. But it appears he will be available Saturday night in Oxford.

One of UTEP's missteps against the Sooners was in the field goal department. The Miners missed three that could have helped their cause.

"Something they're usually pretty good at is kicking field goals," Bloomquist said. "If they just could have done that, it would have been a different game."

It also made for a different decision for Price in the fourth quarter. From their own 38-yard line on fourth and 7, the Miners faked not a field goal, obviously, but a punt.

"UTEP had missed those three field goals in the game," Bloomquist said. "Last year they were 3-for-3 on faking punts on fourth and long in their own end (of the field). The play was designed to go to Nathan Jeffery, who had rushed for 177 yards. But he had left the game with a groin injury. They put in his backup, and not only did he miss a hole (on the play), OU saw different personnel back there and they were alerted something was up. The fake punt backfired and gave OU the ball on like the UTEP 40, and then they banged it in pretty quickly."

That made it 17-7 Sooners and the Miners were in trouble but still with 10:32 to go in the contest. Even though there was plenty of time, Texas-El Paso couldn't find any more points as Oklahoma tacked on one more touchdown with a long run late.

UTEP struggled mightily through the air offensively.

Coach Mike Price, QB Nick Lamaison
File Photo

"They weren't able to throw the ball, which they expect they will be able to do as the year goes on," Bloomquist said. "They have a preseason All-Conference USA quarterback in Nick Lamaison, and they think they'll get that sorted out."

Lamaison, a senior and the starter, was only 6-of-23 for 39 yards in the opener.

"Defensively they played well, and they also ran the ball well (offensively)," Bloomquist said. "They really competed well in both lines. Their offensive line kind of beat up OU's defensive line.

"UTEP hung with the OU offensive and defensive lines. It was the Oklahoma secondary that kind of overwhelmed the UTEP passing game," Bloomquist continued. "Last year was the best year (UTEP) had on defense in a long time, and they were still ranked 104th in the country. Defense is always a problem. But they had such a good tackling game against Oklahoma and played so well. They only return four starters on defense, but all their starters were on the two-deep and played a lot last year. They hit hard and tackled better."

Ole Miss and Texas-El Paso have played football only once before. That was in the Sun Bowl Classic in 1967, a game the Miners won 14-7 on their home field. UTEP has not won a bowl game since.

The game against the Sooners was the first of three against major conference schools this season for the Miners. UTEP played Oklahoma at home. Now it's Ole Miss on the road as well as Wisconsin in Madison later this month.

"(Hosting Oklahoma) got everybody excited about the season, and you have to play well when you do that," Bloomquist said of the season opener. "They probably generated some excitement among the fan base with the way they played."

Now they head to Southeastern Conference country. Bloomquist doesn't believe the Miners see a program in Oxford that is down and rebuilding.

"The fact that Ole Miss was 2-10 last year probably flies under the UTEP radar. They're just looking forward to playing an SEC team," he said. "They're really excited about that.

"They were disappointed they didn't win (the opener), and they are pretty confident how good they can be," Bloomquist continued. "They historically don't play well on the road, and historically don't play well in back to back games. On the other hand, they historically don't line up against a team like OU and play that well, especially defensively. It's a huge game (at Ole Miss) for UTEP."

OM Spirit Top Stories