2011 UTEP Miners Football Preview
The Price once was right, but now the man who soiled his reputation with an ill-timed lap dance in a Pensacola ( Florida) joint might be oh-so-wrong for the University of Texas-El Paso Miners.
After inheriting a two-win team from the previous head coach in El Paso, head coach Mike Price took UTEP to back-to-back bowl games at the beginning of his tenure in the West Texas town that’s been sung about in famous ballads. The years that followed haven’t been as kind. Price has yet to have another winning season near the Mexican border. After starting the 2010 season 5-1, the Miners lost six of their last seven games. They dropped a 10-point decision at home to Tulane, a head-scratching result that simply never should occur in the Sun Bowl, which is a tough stadium for a visiting team to play in at night. UTEP’s ability to beat SMU at home last year, combined with its twin takedowns of Houston and Tulsa the year before, affirm how capable the Miners are at home. Therefore, the pancake-flat (non-)showing against Tulane represented a mammoth setback for the program, an indication of the staleness that has pervaded the Price regime in recent seasons. If there was any doubt about UTEP’s fragility, those doubts were confirmed in a 16-12 loss at a mediocre Marshall team and another dispiriting road loss at UAB. Yes, the Miners punched a postseason ticket, but their 12-game record of 6-6 should have been a lot better. Moreover, despite qualifying for a bowl game the Miners were left with a bitter taste in their mouths. A 52-24 throttling at the hands of BYU in the New Mexico Bowl sent the Miners to their fifth consecutive losing season when all was said and done; 6-6 became 6-7 in a markedly ghastly manner.
Questions now abound in El Paso as the Miners must replace four-year starting quarterback Trevor Vittatoe. Redshirt freshman Javia Hall and junior-college transfer Nick Lamaison separated themselves from the pack during spring ball. One of these two signal callers will have the task of replacing a quarterback who holds nearly every school passing record. While the hard work of building something better in El Paso is a project that begins at quarterback, it certainly doesn’t end there. The Miners return just two starters from last season’s offense. UTEP returns nine starters from last year’s defense. The Miners struggled mightily against capable offenses last season. With the level of inexperience in their own offensive ranks this season, the Miners simply can’t afford to wobble on defense in 2011.
The schedule is a favorable one for the Miners. UTEP plays just one BCS squad (South Florida) and hosts three of the top six Conference USA squads in the Sun Bowl. Tulsa, East Carolina, and Southern Miss all come to El Paso this season. Road trips to Southern Methodist and Central Florida will be difficult for a team that will have to overachieve if Mike Price is to remain the head coach in the Western tip of Texas.
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