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UTEP opens 2012 football season with No. 4 Oklahoma

Published On: Aug 28 2012 06:54:21 PM CDT

EL PASO, Texas -

UTEP hosts Oklahoma Saturday, Sept. 1 at the Sun Bowl. Game time is 8:30 p.m.

NEW BEGINNINGS
- UTEP is starting its 95th season of football.
- The Miners are 41-48-5 in season openers.
- UTEP is 32-17-3 in season openers in El Paso.
- The Miners are 5-3 in season openers under coach Mike Price.
- UTEP has won two straight season openers for the first time since a run of three in a row from 2005-07.
- UTEP beat Stony Brook, 31-24 in overtime, in last year's opener in the Sun Bowl.
- This is the first opener versus an FBS opponent since 2009 (23-17 loss to Buffalo in El Paso).
- The Miners are opening a season at home for the fourth straight year, their longest streak since christening the campaign in the Sun City seven straight years from 1986-92.
- UTEP is 25-0 all-time when scoring 30 points or more in season-opening games.
- UTEP is 11-5 in non-conference home games in the Mike Price era.

UTEP VS. OU
- Third meeting between the schools, all since 2000.
- OU leads the series 2-0 and has outscored the Miners 123-14.
- OU has scored the last 89 points in the series.
- The Sooners beat the Miners in Norman, Okla. in 2000 (55-14) and 2002 (68-0).
- OU was ranked 19th heading into the 2000 matchup and second entering the 2002 game.
- UTEP averaged 7.0 points, 15.5 first downs, 109 yards rushing, 171.5 yards passing and 280.5 yards of offense in the previous two games.
- Oklahoma averaged 61.5 points, 22.5 first downs, 168.5 yards rushing, 310.5 yards passing and 479 yards of offense in the first two games of the series.
- The Miners lost a total of seven fumbles in the two games (five in 2000).
- UTEP has never led in two games versus OU and tied the Sooners once at 7-7 with 4:48 remaining in the first quarter in the 2000 encounter.

CAPTAINS
- UTEP's 2012 captains are OL Eloy Atkinson (offense), DB DeShawn Grayson (defense) and DB Adrian James (special teams).

CONNECTIONS
- UTEP DB junior Adrian James, OU freshman LB Frank Shannon, OU junior LB Corey Nelson and OU junior DB Joe Powell were teammates at Skyline High School in Dallas.
- UTEP junior DL Germard Reed, UTEP senior DB Terr'l Mark and OU senior DL Jamarkus McFarland were teammates at Lufkin [Texas] High School.
- UTEP has one Oklahoma native on its roster, freshman OL Trint Jenkins (Tulsa/Victory Christian High School).
- Oklahoma has played in the Sun Bowl twice, beating Houston in the 1981 game (40-14) and Stanford in the 2009 game (31-27).

UTEP VS. THE BIG 12
- The Miners are 0-11 against Big 12 opponents since the formation of the league for the 1996 season.
- UTEP is 0-3 versus Texas Tech, 0-2 versus Oklahoma, 0-2 versus Texas, 0-1 versus Colorado, 0-1 versus Kansas, 0-1 versus Kansas State and 0-1 versus Texas A&M during that time frame.
- Of the previous 11 matchups against Big 12 schools, seven came against teams that were listed in the Associated Press top-25 poll at game time.
- UTEP has been outscored by a combined 499-162 in its first 11 games versus Big 12 adversaries.
- UTEP has not allowed fewer than 33 points to a Big 12 opponent and has not scored more than 35 points.
- UTEP is playing a home game versus a Big 12 school for the fourth time (lost to no. 24 Texas Tech 38-35 in overtime in 2006, lost to no. 10 Texas 42-13 in 2008, lost to no. 24 Kansas 34-7 in 2009).
- The last time UTEP beat a school currently in the Big 12 was on Nov. 15, 1997 in El Paso, a 24-17 triumph over TCU.

UTEP VS. THE AP TOP 25
- The Miners are 4-47 all-time against schools listed in the Associated Press top-25 poll.
- UTEP is 0-5 versus AP top-5 teams.
- UTEP is 3-17 in home games versus AP top-25 squads.
- UTEP's last win over an AP top-25 team was a 58-41 conquest of no. 12 Houston on Oct. 3, 2009 in the Sun Bowl.
- The highest ranked team that the Miners have ever beaten was no. 7 BYU, 23-16, on Oct. 26, 1985 in El Paso.
- The highest ranked team that UTEP has faced was no. 2 Washington on Sept. 11, 1982 in Seattle (55-0 loss) and no. 2 Texas on Sept. 26, 2009 in Austin (64-7 loss).
- The highest ranked team that UTEP has hosted in the Sun Bowl prior to the Oklahoma game was no. 6 Wyoming in 1967 (21-19 loss) and no. 6 SMU in 1982 (31-10 loss).
- UTEP has lost 27 of its last 29 games to AP top-25 teams.
- In 51 games versus AP top-25 teams, UTEP has scored 20 points or more 12 times.
- Since Mike Price took over as the Miners' head coach for the 2004 season, UTEP has played eight games against AP top-25 squads and scored 20+ points on five occasions.
- The most points UTEP has ever scored against a team rated in the top-5 of the AP poll was 23 at no. 3 SMU (35-23 loss) on Sept. 7, 1985.

MIKE PRICE
- Mike Price is in his ninth year as UTEP's head coach (45-52 record) and 31st year as a collegiate head coach (174-174 mark).
- Price is the third-winningest coach in UTEP history with 45 victories. Mack Saxon ranks first (66 wins) and Mike Brumbelow rates second (46 wins).
- Price and Mike Brumbelow are the only coaches in school history to lead the Miners to three bowl games.
- Price is the sixth-winningest active head coach in the FBS behind Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer (251 victories), Texas' Mack Brown (227), Nevada's Chris Ault (226), South Carolina's Steve Spurrier (197) and Notre Dame's Brian Kelly (187).
- Price is coaching in his 349th career game on Saturday and his 98th at UTEP. Only Mack Saxon (118) has coached more games with the Miners.
- Price and Saxon (13 seasons) are the only men to coach the Miners for more than seven seasons.
- Price is 0-1 in his coaching career versus Oklahoma. His Washington State Cougars lost to the Sooners, 34-14, in the 2003 Rose Bowl.
- Price is 0-8 all-time when coaching against Big 12 opponents (0-6 at UTEP).

UTEP IN THE SUN BOWL
- UTEP is in its 50th season playing in the Sun Bowl.
- The Miners have posted an all-time mark of 122-154-3 in the venue, which opened in 1963.
- UTEP is 30-18 in the Sun Bowl in the Mike Price era.
- UTEP has won 11 of its last 16 games in the Sun Bowl.
- UTEP has never posted a losing mark in the Sun Bowl under Price. In their previous 35 years in the stadium (1969-2003), the Miners had a losing record 26 times.
- UTEP is expected to draw 40,000+ fans in the Sun Bowl for the Oklahoma game for the first time since Sept. 20, 2008 versus NM State (42,930).
- The Miners are 12-6 when playing before 40,000+ spectators in the Sun Bowl under Mike Price.

2011 REWIND
- UTEP finished 5-7 overall and 2-6 in Conference USA, fifth place in the league's Western Division.
- The Miners were playing for bowl eligibility in each of their last two games but lost at home to Tulsa (57-28) and on the road to UCF (31-14).
- UTEP was 3-3 at home and 2-4 on the road.
- The two road wins were the most for the Miners since 2008.
- UTEP ranked fourth in the country in kickoff returns (26.4 avg.) and sixth in net punting (40.5 avg.).
- The Miners averaged 154.9 yards rushing per game, their high water mark of the Mike Price era.
- UTEP tied for fourth nationally in offensive plays of 70+ yards (four), tied for sixth in plays of 60+ yards (seven) and tied for 17th in plays of 50+ yards (nine).

THE SCHEDULE
- The Miners will play three of four non-conference games against teams from the Big 12 (Oklahoma), Southeastern (Ole Miss) and Big Ten (Wisconsin) conferences.
- UTEP's 2012 opponents posted a combined record of 84-71 (.542) a year ago.
- UTEP will play six games against teams that appeared in bowls in 2011 (Oklahoma, Wisconsin, SMU, Tulsa, Houston, Southern Miss). Four of the six games are on the road.
- The Miners will face four schools coming off 10-win seasons -- Oklahoma (10-3), Wisconsin (11-3), Houston (13-1) and Southern Miss (12-2).
- UTEP and Mississippi will square off for the first time since the 1967 Sun Bowl, won by the Miners 14-7.
- The Sept. 15 matchup between UTEP and New Mexico State is the 90th in the I-10 rivalry.
- On Sept. 22, the Miners will take on Wisconsin in Madison, their first date with a Big Ten team since playing at Iowa on Sept. 27, 1986.
- For the first time since 2002, UTEP will not play back-to-back home games.
- UTEP will travel a combined 12,565 miles round-trip this season to play games at Ole Miss, Wisconsin, East Carolina, Tulsa, Houston and Southern Miss. In back-to-back weeks in September, the Miners will travel a total of 5,810 miles to face Wisconsin and East Carolina.

COACHING CHANGES
- New to the UTEP staff in 2012 are offensive line coach Brian Natkin, tight ends coach Chad Raymond and safeties coach Tom Williams.
- Natkin played for the Miners from 1997-2000 and became UTEP's only unanimous All-American in 2000. He led all tight ends nationally with 64 catches for 787 yards that year.
- Raymond was also a member of Mike Price's staff as a program coordinator from 2008-10.
- Williams was the head coach at Yale from 2009-11 and was also a defensive assistant with the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars from 2007-08.

THE ROSTER
- UTEP's 101-man roster includes 21 seniors, 17 juniors, 22 sophomores and 41 freshmen (10 redshirts/31 true freshmen).
- UTEP has 43 returning lettermen (20 offense/20 defense/three special teams).
- The roster features a total of 26 players who have started games for the Miners -- 13 each on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball.
- Center Eloy Atkinson leads all offensive players with 17 career starts.
- The bulk of UTEP's offensive starting experience is in the line with Atkinson, LT Brander Craighead (12 starts), LG Jerel Watkins (11) and RT James Nelson (eight).
- On defense, UTEP has two players with 20+ career starts in FS DeShawn Grayson (26) and 3 Tech Germard Reed (20).

THE DEPTH CHART
- UTEP's two-deep for the opener lists 12 seniors, four juniors and six sophomores in starting assignments.
- UTEP's projected starters on defense are all upperclassmen (eight seniors/three juniors).
- There are five freshmen in the depth chart, all listed as reserves: center Paulo Melendez, tailback Laquintus Dowell, `Z' wide receivers Ishmael Harrison and Cole Freytag and right defensive end Roy Robertson. Freytag is the only true freshman in the group.
- UTEP averages 6-4, 302 pounds across the starting offensive line and 6-2, 268 pounds across the starting defensive line.
- If the depth chart holds, UTEP's first-time starters against OU would be WR Malcolm Trail and RG Kyle Brown on offense and LCB Darren Woodard on defense.

WHO'S BACK
- UTEP returns players who accounted for 13.8 percent (258-of-1,866) of the team's rushing yards last season, 88.2 percent (2,387-of-2,707) of the passing yards and 60.2 percent (1,630-of-2,707) of the receiving yards.
- On defense, UTEP returns 60.7 percent (516-of-850) of its tackle production from 2011, 87 percent (20-of-23) of its sacks, 65.8 percent (39.5-of-60) of its tackles for losses, 61 percent (25-of-41) of its pass break-ups and 50 percent (6-of-12) of its interceptions.
- UTEP returns its regular punter (Ian Campbell), field goal kicker (Dakota Warren) and kickoff man (Steven Valadez), as well as players who accounted for 30.3 percent (391-of-1,291) of the kickoff return yards and 37.3 percent (82-of-220) of the punt return yards.

WHO'S GONE
- UTEP lost its top three rushers from last season as Joe Banyard (832 yards), Vernon Frazier (434) and Leilyon Myers combined to run for 1,634 yards in 2011.
- The biggest loss in the receiving corps is Donavon Kemp, who was second on the team with 456 yards last year.
- Frazier also averaged 30.5 yards on 29 kickoff returns to rate seventh nationally a year ago.
- The Miners lost three of their top five tacklers from 2011 in LB Jeremy Springer (team-high 70 stops), LB Isaiah Carter (54 stops) and DB TraVaun Nixon (50 stops).
- Another key loss from the 2011 squad is three-year long snapper Matt Camilli, who earned first team All-Conference USA honors as a senior.
OFFENSE
THE RECEIVING CORPS
- Sixteen players registered a reception in 2011, eight of whom scored at least one touchdown. Of the 16, eight return for the 2012 campaign and five recorded multiple touchdown receptions in 2011.
- UTEP's top-two receivers, Michael Edwards and Jordan Leslie return for the 2012 season.

JORDAN LESLIE HAS BREAKOUT FRESHMAN SEASON
- Jordan Leslie recorded 30 catches for 430 yards and two touchdowns in 2011.
- Ranked third on the squad in reception yards and third in yards per reception (14.3 avg.)
- Led the team in receiving in five contests in 2011.
- Leslie's 430 receiving yards last year marked the second-highest total by a UTEP freshman.
- He became the first freshman since the 2003 campaign to post a 100-yard receiving game.
- Leslie averaged 14.3 yards per catch, tops among returning wide receivers.
- He reeled in a career-high seven receptions for 119 yards against Tulsa.

MIKE EDWARDS BECOMES SENIOR LEADER
- Mike Edwards led UTEP in receptions (50), receiving yards (657), receiving TDs (three), and receiving yards per game (54.8) last season.
- Clutch player who posted a team-high 24 first-down receptions, with 11 coming on third down.
- Recorded at least two catches in every contest, including a quintet of games with a least five receptions.
- 455 of his yards and all three of his TD grabs came in C-USA action.
- He recorded a career-best 187 yards at Rice and twice had seven receptions (Stony Brook & Rice).

OFFENSIVE LINE BRINGS PLENTY OF EXPERIENCE
- With four seniors on UTEP's two deep, the offensive line is a particularly veteran group. The line enters the season with a combined 48 starts, including three players who are in double digits - Eloy Atkinson (17); Brander Craighead (11); and Jerel Watkins (11). Sophomore Kyle Brown is the only player on the line to have not started a game.
- The Miners ranked tied for fourth nationally in long plays of 70+ yards (four), tied for sixth in plays of 60+ yards (seven), and tied for 17th in plays of 50+ yards (nine) a year ago.
- The Miners scored 22 rushing touchdowns in the red zone in 2011.
- UTEP's 154.9 yards rushing per game marked its third-best effort in 13 years.
- UTEP registered four players with 150+ yards rushing.

MINERS LOOK TO REPLACE RUNNING GAME
- While its offensive line gained plenty of experience last season, UTEP lost the meat of its running game with the departures of Joe Banyard (69.3 ypg), Vernon Frazier (36.2 ypg) and Leilyon Myers (30.7 ypg and 12 TDs).
- The trio combined for 1,634 of the Miners' 1,859 yards last year.
- UTEP returns the fourth-fewest number of rushing yards in the nation for 2012.
- Sophomore Nathan Jeffery will take the reins of the UTEP running game. Jeffery carried the ball 26 times, collecting 166 yards (6.4 average) with one touchdown as a rookie.

NICK LAMAISON RETURNS AS UTEP SIGNAL CALLER
- UTEP's starting signal caller, Senior Nick Lamaison returns as a 2012 Preseason All-Conference USA selection.
- Lamaison connected on 130-of-224 passes for 1,718 yards and 12 TDs despite playing in just nine games due to injury last season.

TIGHT ENDS MAKE AN IMPACT
- The Miners return a trio of tight ends, Kevin Perry (203 yards), Eric Tomlinson (83 yards) and Craig Wenrick (105 yards).
- Each scored at least one touchdown and averaged over 10 yards per reception.
- Kevin Perry had 17 receptions for 203 yards (11.9 avg.) and a touchdown. He recorded five contests with 20 or more yards receiving and was the only Miner tight end to register more than 200 yards in receptions on the year.
- Eric Tomlinson was tabbed to the league's all-freshman team in 2011, having recorded six catches for 83 yards and two touchdowns. Tomlinson averaged 13.8 yards per reception.
- Craig Wenrick registered four receptions for 105 yards (team-leading 26.2 avg.). Wenrick registered one reception for 66 yards versus Tulane, the longest catch by a tight end in school history.



DEFENSE
THE RUNDOWN
- The Miners return two of their top-three tacklers from a year ago in S DeShawn Grayson (67) and LB Josh Fely (61).
- Senior LB Jamie Irving returns to the gridiron after redshirting the 2011 campaign following a season-ending shoulder surgery and starters DL Germard Reed, DL Horace Miller and CB Drew Thomas also highlight the Miners' defensive personnel returning alongside DB Richard Spencer and DL Greg Watkins.
- Miller led the squad in sacks with five and Reed, Watkins, Fely and Spencer combined for 12.
- UTEP's returning career leaders by statistical category are DB DeShawn Grayson (tackles-201, pass breakups-13 & interceptions-2), DL Germard Reed (tackles for losses-12) and DL Greg Watkins (sacks-6).
- LB Jamie Irving was UTEP's second-leading tackler during the 2010 season with 79 stops and tied for the team lead with 4.5 tackles for losses that year.
- UTEP increased its sack total from 14 to 24 last season. The Miners also raised their tackle for loss figure from 50 to 60 despite playing one fewer game than in 2010.

PATTERSON'S STOP TROOPS
- In 25 games since Andre Patterson took over as UTEP's defensive coordinator, UTEP has yielded 24 points or fewer on 13 occasions. The Miners had surrendered 24 points or less 13 times in 48 games over the previous four seasons prior to Patterson's arrival.
- The Miners have also limited opponents to under 300 yards of offense seven times under Patterson, a feat they achieved six times in the previous four years.
- UTEP's defensive balance under Patterson is evidenced by the fact that the Miners haven't had a 100-tackle player in back-to-back years for the first time since the evolution of the statistic in 1969. UTEP had at least one 100-tackle performer in 25 straight seasons from 1985-2009.


SPECIAL TEAMS
CAMPBELL RETURNS AS SPECIAL TEAMS STANDOUT
- Ian Campbell was named one of 10 semifinalists for the Ray Guy Award last year.
- Campbell ended the 2011 campaign ranked third nationally in punting with an average of 46.1 yards per punt, kicking 48 times for a total of 2, 214 yards.
- The Duarte, Calif. native had 18 punts covering 50-plus yards and averaged at least 50+ yards per punt in three games (54.8 vs. Stony Brook, 54.7 vs. Colorado State & 50.6 vs. Houston).
- Campbell had as many punts fair caught (six) as for touchbacks (six) and registered 16 punts inside the 20-yard line.
- Campbell was a second team All-Conference USA selection.

VETERANS RETURN FOR PUNT AND KICK RETURNS
- Sophomore RB Nathan Jeffery will be UTEP's primary kickoff returner against Oklahoma. 

Source: UTEP Athletics

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