Q&A with UTEP's Mike Price

"SMU throws the ball so quickly, it's hard to even sack the quarterback. We have to think about confusing him a little bit, so he has to hold onto the ball." - Mike Price: UTEP Coach

We came up short, to say the least (at Tulane). There's a lot of second-guessing on our part – not that our guys didn't get themselves in a proper mental framework to play, because they did. I thought our enthusiasm and intensity was very good throughout the game. There were momentum swings in the game. But I really feel like the 66 players who were there were into the game, worked hard and gave good effort, we just didn't execute some of the things in the game plan. Our punt protection was real good. Our punt return was good. I thought the fake punt worked well. That was another huge momentum swing for us in the right direction. That was a big play, a well-executed play.

On defense, we came out really psyched up. We attacked the run. We used the four-man front a lot in the game because of injuries to our linebackers. Going into the game, we felt like we only had four experienced linebackers, and it was going to be hard to run our normal defense for the whole game. I underestimated their freshman quarterback, and that's ultimately what lost the game for us – our lack of pass rush and poor coverage in the secondary. On offense, we ran the ball really well. (Donald) Buckram is establishing himself as one of the top running backs in the country. He ran well and caught the ball really well. He was spectacular on the screen passes. He broke 21 tackles in the game. Our entire defense missed 20 tackles, which is a high number for us. Our third down conversions were good and our time of possession was good.

A big momentum change was the kickoff return. That was a poor play by us – poorly designed and poorly executed in just about every phase. Some of the breaks that happened just came at good times for them.

I was really disappointed in the way we rushed the passer and our pass coverage. We're not making big plays defensively. We needed to put more pressure on the freshman (quarterback) with one minute to go. I didn't expect them to go 86 yards with no timeouts.

In the overtime, they had the momentum. Our linebackers were set to make plays on the goal line in overtime and missed, and we were going to run the ball come hell or high water in overtime and we got the illegal procedure penalty. We tried a play action pass, it didn't work, and it was fourth down and they blitzed us with seven people, which was gutsy on their part. Trevor (Vittatoe) was going to drop it off to Buckram, but their end covered Donald real well and Trevor didn't have time to come back to a second receiver. It was a bad deal for the Miners.

On the health of Anthony Morrow and Braxton Amy: Morrow is not good, and Amy is not good. I don't know any more than that. That's the initial indicator from Dawn (Hearn), our trainer. I think we got through this game (Tulane) OK as far as guys being injured. We're a little bit banged up.

What did you say to the team after this week's loss? It was pretty difficult after this game. I'm kind of fresh out of speeches to give the players after a loss. We only have so many of those written up before the season, and I have kind of used them twice.

On Donald Buckram: He's the last one to be discouraged (after a loss). He just comes out fighting on every down, and we have to take his lead. We've just got to do all the clichés that you usually do – stick up for each other and stick together and practice hard. We'll have a great crowd at SMU, we always do.

On the third and long pass to Jeken Frye in the fourth quarter: It was a really good pass, a well-conceived play. That was a thrilling play for him, and we'll be seeing more of him as the season concludes here. We have to get some of our younger receivers in there who can catch the ball. He has done a really nice job.

Do you second-guess going to the prevent defense at the end of regulation? We weren't really running a prevent defense. It looked like it, though. There were a lot of things that we could have done differently in that last minute. The mistakes we made, we won't make them if there is a next time. I didn't think that was going to happen, a freshman quarterback going 86 yards.

Thoughts on SMU: SMU is a vastly improved team, 4-1 in Conference USA. Their starting quarterback dislocated his left shoulder, but he is still being listed at number one. He hasn't played for two and a half games. Their backup is Kyle Padron - he's a 6-5, big, tall, good-looking kid from Southlake Carroll High School. They have a great football program, and they're always producing great quarterbacks. They have a backup, Braden Smith, who is a running quarterback. He will run the zone read very well, and against Houston coach (June) Jones used those guys interchangeably. Their running back, Shawnbrey McNeal, went to Miami for a year or two and was a part time starter. He has brilliant speed. He transferred because of his mother's illness and was automatically eligible to play, which was big boost to their offense. (Emmanuel) Sanders didn't play against us last year because of grades. He is playing really well this year. He's a big time receiver. Their other receiver, Aldrick Robinson is a 200-meter state champion.

They have a couple of really good linebackers, Chase Kennemer and Youri Yenga, who played with Trevor Vittatoe in high school. Their defense is playing hard and running hard. They're physical. They're upbeat and positive. They're in a winning mode right now and really have the momentum going into the end of this season. We have to come back. Our backs are against the wall, we're in the corner, and the only thing to do is fight our way out of it.

SMU throws the ball so quickly, it's hard to even sack the quarterback. We have to think about confusing him a little bit, so he has to hold onto the ball.


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