UTEP football coach Mike Price met with the media on Monday and discussed the team's loss to No. 14 Arkansas, the upcoming season finale against Tulsa and quarterback Trevor Vittatoe's injury.
Thoughts on the Miners? game at No. 14 Arkansas ?Just in reviewing this last game, obviously, I?m very disappointed with the outcome and the score. We had a great start to the game. Our players were really ready to play. They were not in awe?not intimidated by the crowd, the stadium, the trip or players. They were really, really ready to play. We had a great start with Leilyon Myers? breakaway run. He outran everybody on the field, which is the first time he?s done that since we?ve had him. He doesn?t do that in practice, but he sure did it in that game.
?There were six big plays to me in the first half. I always say there are five plays in game that are the difference between winning and losing, and there were six plays that went against us in the first half. One was the interception by Travaun (Nixon) that he made great play on but called for pass interference. He made a great run and that would have put us up 14-7. That would have been a great way to start. That was a major play.
?But we still were up 14-7 after Marlon (McClure?s) kickoff return. That was a tremendous, tremendous play. Jeremy Springer made two blocks on that kickoff return. He blocked the guy he was supposed to and then when Marlon switched and came back the other way he made a second block. Jeremy got an award for that on Sunday for us. He is a big, strong back-up linebacker for us, and he did a great job on that play.
?Then they faked the reverse right after we got the touchdown. I thought that was an important reverse. He went 70 yards, and that was a big play against us in that first half.
?But yet, we still came back to tie it at 14. Then Trevor (Vittatoe) hit Kris Adams with a great throw down the sideline. The throw was right on the money, and Kris made a great catch.
?That led to our blocked field goal which was an important play. It was a low kick, they had too much penetration up the middle and they blocked it. Arkansas drove down and did a nice job to score.
?It was 21-14 (Arkansas) at the end of the first quarter, and we were in a short yardage situation. I thought we made the first down by yards, or a long yard. I disagreed with the official and got the first penalty on me of my coaching career. That certainly didn?t help us.
?Then in the second quarter, right off the bat they threw a deep pass for a touchdown. But we fought right back into that game. We had a good drive going, down 28-14. On 3-4 on we had a breakdown in our pass protection. Trevor had to spin out of the pocket, and threw across his body late into the middle of the field. They made an interception at the 24-yard line, and so that was a big play.
?We did a pretty good job of holding them down. They drove down, and we had their player all wrapped up but they got a pass complete across the middle on a diagonal route. We missed a tackle, and they went in for the score.
?Being able to drive the length of field in 13 plays with 1:35 to play to go in half showed a lot of effort on our part. We drove down and had a chance for a legitimate field goal but then had bad snap.
?So we didn?t go into halftime on a high not. Unfortunately it got worse in the half time. We discovered we had lost seven of our players to injuries for the second half. So we without some real good players for the second half. Then in second play of third quarter Trevor goes down, and then in the second series our defensive end Bernard Obi went down.
?So we were without nine players in the second half, and it resulted in Arkansas running the ball. I knew it was going to happen, I could see it coming. They ran the ball and kept it away from us, and did not give us a chance to get back into the game. They did a very, very good job. They grounded it out, ran the clock out. We couldn?t stop them. A few play-action passes in there, and we only had the ball four times in the second half. It is very hard to come back when you do that. We only had it for two minutes in the fourth quarter. The second half went by fast. I was worried about that happening to us, and it came to fruition in the fourth quarter. Big guys, strong guys, and they just ground it out. We were without some people, and they did better than we did.
?However, there was no give up by our team. It was just get up by our team. Football is a game of get ups. We got knocked down, we got up. We got knocked down, we got up. We got knocked down, we got up.. all the way to the last play of the game. We played as hard as we could have possibly played for 60 minutes, and with great courage. I commend our football team for that.
?I think you had to be down on the sidelines to see how much effort our team put into this game and to see how hard we tried. We did not execute well. You would think that with the crowd and the noise that we would have had some penalties as result. We had no offside penalties or illegal procedure penalties. We got our centers back and they did a good job with that. We gave every effort and we were ready to play. Obviously, we all saw the game and it wasn?t good in the second half.?
On quarterback Trevor Vittatoe?s toughness ?Trevor is the toughest QB I have ever coached. He is one of the toughest players I have ever coached. He wouldn?t be helped off field. He hopped off. He wouldn?t be helped into locker room, he wouldn?t ride the cart. He wanted to walk into the locker room. He had it x-rayed in the second half, and there was nothing broken. Don?t bet against him playing (this week).?
On the penalty he received ?There were a few incidents that went against us right in a row with some judgment calls. I thought we had a first down, and it was obvious to me. The official didn?t like what I said.?
On injured players ?I think most of the players who were hurt and didn?t play in second half were hurt for serious reasons and could not possibly have played. But I think that most of them will be back (for Tulsa game). I?d be surprised if not all of them were back. Two of them are getting X-rays and we?ll know more about it today. We?re hoping that they aren?t serious.?
On positives from Arkansas game as team prepares for Tulsa ?Well we had a great start. Now they aren?t in awe of playing anybody, anywhere. They know they can play good, if not spectacular at times and execute our offense and our defense. We know how important this game is but I?ll remind them of that. We are bowl eligible but want to be more than that.?
On Tulsa as a whole ?Tulsa is a fine team, and it is playing really well. They are on a hot streak. We actually have them right where we want them. Tulsa has won four straight. They beat Houston at Houston, Notre Dame at Notre Dame. Yeah? now we?re talking. We wouldn?t them to be all beat up.?
On some of Tulsa?s key players ?Their best wide receiver is Damaris Johnson, who is three yard short of breaking the NCAA record for kickoff returns. He is a spectacular player. He is very much like Marlon McClure, very much built like that. He is just a great return specialist. He runs the screen, runs the reverse for them. They haven?t thrown to him for an awful lot this year like they had in the past. ?The guy that we have to stop is quarterback G.J. Kinne, a transfer from Texas. He is really exceptionable. He runs the ball really well, throws it really well. He?s got a big arm.?
On the Tulsa offense ?G.J. Kinne is really starting to learn the offense. It is a little different than it was in the past. It isn?t quite as fast and trickery. They are running more options with it. Kinne carried the ball 31 times against Houston. So that will tell you one thing there. They run the regular shotgun option, the zone-read option. Then they run the midline option. They do a real good job of that. Kinne is big enough that he can run up the middle. They have all kinds of weapons.?
On the Tulsa defense ?Tulsa?s defense is playing are hard. They have a freshman linebacker from Tulsa who is a fantastic player and is having a great they. They have another freshman, a safety, who I think is leading our conference in interceptions. . He had three against Houston. People have hit on their pass defense. They are solid against the run, and they play hard.?
On the play of James Thomas II at quarterback at Arkansas ?I thought JT (James Thomas II) played really, really good. He was 4-of-5 with a TD pass to Kris Adams. That had to do a lot for his confidence. He is up watching film already, and is really excited for chance to play (at Tulsa). We?ll see how much he does play.?
On chances of Trevor Vittatoe practicing on Tuesday ?I wouldn?t shut the door on anything that Trevor Vittatoe does. Not sure if he will practice tomorrow or not but he?ll be out there. He is getting rehab constantly. If you want to find him, he?s in the training room. He is and amazing guy. I would not be surprised if he is our starting quarterback at Tulsa.?