El Paso, TX — UTEP (1-1) and UTSA (1-2) kick off their eight-game Conference USA slates on Saturday. UTSA is one of five new C-USA teams on the Miners’ schedule, along with Louisiana Tech (Oct. 5), North Texas (Nov. 9), FIU (Nov. 16) and Middle Tennessee (Nov. 30). UTSA is one of three C-USA teams that UTEP has never faced, along with FIU and Middle Tennessee. The Miners will be home for their first three league games, including battling La Tech on Oct. 5 and Tulsa on Oct. 12. The last time UTEP played its first three league games at home was in 1953, when it was a member of the Border Conference.
UTEP in C-USA
This is the Miners’ ninth season as a C-USA member. The Miners are 24-40 all-time in C-USA action. UTEP is 17-15 in C-USA home games and 7-25 in C-USA road games. Since posting a .500 (4-4) league mark in 2008, the Miners have gone 3-5, 3-5, 2-6 and 2-6 respectively in conference play over the last four seasons. The Miners are 10-24 in their last 34 Conference USA games. UTEP has lost four of its last five C-USA home games dating back to the 2011 season.
UTEP in C-USA Openers
UTEP is 5-3 in C-USA openers (4-0 home, 1-3 away). The Miners haven’t lost a conference opener that was played in their home stadium since 2004, when they came up on the short end of a 47-31 decision to 23rd-ranked Boise State. That was UTEP’s final year in the Western Athletic Conference. The Miners have dropped their last three C-USA openers overall at Houston in 2010 (54-24), at SMU in 2011 (28-17) and at East Carolina in 2012 (28-18) after winning five straight.
50 Years of the Sun Bowl
GECU has partnered with UTEP Athletics to celebrate 50 years of Sun Bowl Stadium. On Saturday, GECU will sponsor the UTEP vs. UTSA game, exactly 50 years to the day that the Miners played their first game in the iconic venue. On Sept. 21, 1963, Larry Durham ran 54 yards for a touchdown on the game’s first play from scrimmage as the Miners christened the facility with a 34-7 rout of North Texas State. Durham and a group of his 1963 teammates will be on hand for the 50th Anniversary game.
This is the first meeting between the Miners and the Roadrunners, who are in their third year with a football program and second year as an FBS member.
UTEP DL Dominic Matson (Warren HS), LB Anthony Puente (Marshall HS) and QB Blaire Sullivan (Central Catholic HS) all hail from San Antonio. UTSA LB Dalton Miller, DB Mauricio Sanchez and WR Aron Taylor also graduated from Warren High School. UTEP DL Roy Robertson-Harris, UTSA LB Tank O’Neal and UTSA OL Breyun Owens all attended South Grand Prairie [Texas] High School. UTEP DB Robert Spencer, UTSA DB Darrien Starling and UTSA DB Triston Wade all went to John Tyler High School in Tyler, Texas. In addition, UTEP DL Matthew Heard and UTSA WR Brandon Freeman both started their college careers at NM State. UTEP tight ends coach Brian Natkin is from San Antonio and played his prep ball at Churchill High School.
The Roadrunners are 1-2 with a 21-13 win at New Mexico, and losses to Oklahoma State (56-35) at home and Arizona (38-13) on the road. UTSA’s all-time football record is 13-12, all under the direction of former National Coach of the Year Larry Coker. He earned the honors in 2001 after directing Miami (Fla.) to a 12-0 mark and national championship. In the 38-13 loss at Arizona last Saturday, UTSA senior QB Eric Soza completed 30-of-46 passes for 277 yards, but the Wildcats rushed for 264 yards behind Ka’Deem Carey, who racked up 128 yards on the ground, and B.J. Denker, who added 90. Soza has completed 75-of-121 passes (62 percent) for 822 yards and five touchdowns on the year. Despite averaging 294 yards passing per game, UTSA has just one receiver averaging over 50 yards per contest (sophomore Kenny Bias - 54.3 ypg). Seventeen players have made at least one catch for the Roadrunners through three games. The defense yields 434.7 yards per game (253.3 passing/181.3 rushing) with junior DB Triston Wade averaging a team-high 9.0 stops per outing.
Aaron Jones rushed for 97 yards and fellow true freshman Darrin Laufasa added 74 as UTEP punished NM State on the ground in the second half en route to a 42-21 win over the Aggies on Sept. 14 in Las Cruces. Limited to 49 yards rushing on 22 carries in the first two periods, the Miners erupted for 244 over the final 30 minutes. UTEP won its fifth straight game over NMSU while securing its third consecutive victory in Las Cruces. The teams combined for four touchdowns in the first five and a half minutes of the game. The defenses fared much better in the second quarter, with Jones’ eight-yard run with 17 seconds remaining accounting for the only touchdown of the period. The Miners took a 21-14 lead into halftime. After the Aggies knotted the game at 21 midway through the third quarter, the Miners scored the game’s final 21 points, the last 14 coming on long touchdown runs (17 yards, 45 yards) by Laufasa in the fourth quarter. Earlier, LaQuintus Dowell’s 54-yard touchdown run put UTEP in the lead for good, 28-21, with 6:21 remaining in the third period. The Miners simply wore down the Aggie defense in the second half, running for 116 yards in the third quarter and 128 in the fourth. Jameill Showers completed 18-of-28 passes for 253 yards for UTEP, and Jordan Leslie had seven catches for 103 yards. Ian Hamilton also had a big night in the passing game with six receptions for 81 yards. A week after yielding 395 yards rushing to New Mexico, the Miners held NMSU under the century mark. The Aggies finished with 99 yards on 19 carries. Andrew McDonald and King Davis III combined to complete 14-of-26 passes for 299 yards for NMSU. The Aggies turned over the ball four times on the night.
Players Turned Coach
Sean Kugler is the second UTEP head coach who played for the Miners at one time. The other is Walter Milner, a three-year letterman from 1931-33 who served as head coach in 1942. Kugler is one of 12 active Division I head coaches who played at the school where they are currently coaching.