El Paso, TX — UTEP (1-4, 0-2 C-USA) concludes a two-game homestand -- its only one of the year -- on Saturday when defending Conference USA champion Tulsa (1-4, 0-1 C-USA) comes to the Sun Bowl. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. MT and the game will be nationally televised on Fox Sports 1. The Miners are playing their first three conference games at home for the first time since 1953, when they were members of the Border Conference. UTEP is 0-2 thus far in the swing with a 32-13 loss to UTSA on Sept. 21, and a 38-35 loss to LA Tech last week. After Saturday, the Miners have a bye week at the midway point of the season before playing five of their last six regular season games on the road, starting at Rice on Oct. 26.
Tulsa leads 13-8 and has won three in a row over the Miners, tying its longest streak of victories in the series (also happened from 2002-04). The combined score of the last two matchups was 90-39 in favor of the Hurricane -- 57-28 in the Sun Bowl in 2011, and 33-11 at Tulsa a year ago. Tulsa leads the series in El Paso by a 6-4 count. However, after the Hurricane won the first four games in the Sun City from 1989-1999, the Miners have prevailed in four of the last six battles between the long-time rivals in the Sun Bowl. Three of the last four games between the teams in the venue have been decided by four points or less. That includes a 41-38 UTEP victory in 2005, a 48-47 triumph in 2007 and a 28-24 win in 2009. Two years ago, Tulsa snapped a three-game losing skid to the Miners in El Paso.
The Last Meeting
Ja’Terian Douglas had an 81-yard touchdown run and finished with 128 yards on 13 carries to help Tulsa top UTEP, 33-11, on Oct. 11, 2012 at H.A. Chapman Stadium. Alex Singleton added 96 yards and two touchdowns to tie the Tulsa career record for rushing TDs, and Cody Green was 13 of 22 for 198 yards for the Golden Hurricane. Jordan Leslie led UTEP with 10 catches for 218 yards and a touchdown. Carson Meger was 16 of 23 for 257 yards with a touchdown and an interception in relief of the injured Nick Lamaison. Up 6-3 at the half, Tulsa outscored UTEP 20-0 in the third quarter. Singleton scored on a 1-yard run, Douglas added his 81-yarder, and Shawn Jackson made it 26-3 with a 17-yard fumble return. UTEP ended a 10-quarter touchdown drought with Meger’s 61-yard pass to Leslie with 11:06 left. Singleton countered with a 10-yard scoring run. DeAundre Brown had 14 tackles for Tulsa, and the Hurricane defense forced three turnovers and had 10 tackles for loss and six sacks. Leslie became the sixth UTEP player to amass 200 receiving yards in a game, joining Arnie Adkison, Johnnie Lee Higgins Jr., Chuck Hughes, Volley Murphy and Bob Wallace, with the sixth-best single game total in school annals. Leslie accounted for over half of the Miners’ 407 total offensive yards. UTEP finished with 31 yards rushing and turned the ball over three times, leading to two Tulsa touchdowns.
UTEP DB Adrian James and Tulsa DB Will Barrow are both graduates of Skyline High School in Dallas. UTEP DL Cooper Brock and Tulsa LB Donnell Hawkins attended Copperas Cove [Texas] High School. UTEP LB Cooper Foster and Tulsa WR Chris Showels are both products of Vista Ridge High School in Cedar Park, Texas. UTEP DL Silas Firstley and Tulsa LB Craig Suits hail from Poteet High School in Mesquite, Texas. UTEP TE Katrae Ford and Tulsa DB Darrell Williams both graduated from Westfield High School in Houston.
The Hurricane entered the season having won 19 of its last 21 Conference USA games, but dropped to 0-1 in league play with last Saturday’s 30-27 overtime loss to Rice at H.A. Chapman Stadium. Taylor McHargue threw a 25-yard TD pass to Darik Dillard for the game-winner after Carl Salazar kicked a 36-yard field goal to put Tulsa ahead 27-24. Trey Watts rushed 34 times for 165 yards and two TDs as Tulsa gained 222 yards on the ground. Cody Green completed 16-of-32 passes for 193 yards for the Hurricane, but was picked off twice. Tulsa scored on its first two possessions and its last three, finishing with 415 yards while holding Rice to 344. Michael Mudoh (15 tackles) and DeWitt Jennings (12) both had double-figure tackles for the Hurricane. Jennings collected 2.5 tackles for losses and two sacks. The Hurricane has had its struggles on offense this year (21.0 ppg/362.0 ypg) while replacing three starters in the line. Tulsa does rank ninth nationally and first in C-USA in sacks allowed (0.8 per game). The Hurricane is also among the nation’s least penalized teams with 25 yards per game (third in the FBS) and 3.6 penalties per game (eighth). Tulsa returned just three starters on defense and is yielding 36 points and 412.2 yards per contest. The Hurricane’s individual stars include Watts on offense and defensive back Mudoh on defense. Watts is fifth in the country in all-purpose yards (188.0 ypg), and Mudoh is sixth in tackles (11.8 avg.). Tulsa is 0-2 on the road with losses to Bowling Green (34-7) and Oklahoma (51-20).
Kenneth Dixon rushed for 200 yards, and LA Tech racked up 353 in the ground game in a 38-35 win over UTEP on Oct. 5 in the Sun Bowl. The Bulldogs won their fourth in a row in El Paso and by the same score as the last time the teams met in the stadium in 2003. Jameill Showers completed 18-of-33 passes for 237 yards and three TDs for UTEP, and Jordan Leslie went over 100 yards receiving for the third time in four games with five catches for 114 yards. Aaron Jones added 121 rushing yards for the Miners. The Bulldogs scored 24 unanswered points after Showers gave UTEP a 7-0 lead on a one-yard touchdown run with 11:17 remaining in the first quarter. The Miners cut the 17-point deficit to 10 (24-14) late in the second quarter on Showers’ 28-yard pass to Leslie. UTEP had a chance to pull closer before halftime when Richard Spencer forced and recovered a fumble by the Bulldogs’ Ryan Higgins at the Miner 25-yard line, but time ran out as he returned the ball to the LA Tech 17-yard line. The Miners pulled within a field goal (24-21) early in the third quarter when LA Tech’s D.J. Banks fumbled a punt return, and Trey Brown recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchdown. The Bulldogs reinstated a 10-point lead (31-21) on Higgins’ two-yard run with 7:35 remaining in the period. UTEP answered with a three-play, 72-yard drive, capped by a 65-yard touchdown pass from Showers to Leslie, to make the score 31-28. The backbreaker came at the start of the fourth quarter when LA Tech, facing third and 21 at its own one-yard line, moved the ball to the Miner 27-yard line on a 72-yard run by Dixon.
Three plays later, Dixon punched it into the end zone with a nine-yard rushing TD. UTEP mounted an 11-play, 69-yard drive, but Jay Mattox’s 22-yard field goal was blocked by LA Tech’s Daniel Cobb. The Miners closed the gap to three points (38-35) with 1:03 remaining on a six-yard touchdown pass from Showers to Craig Wenrick. But the Bulldogs recovered the onside kick and UTEP, with no timeouts, was unable to stop the clock.
UTEP is 0-3 in the Sun Bowl for the first time since 1992, when it finished 0-5 at home. The Miners have lost five straight games in the stadium dating back to 2012, their longest skid since also dropping five in a row over the course of the 2007 and 2008 seasons. UTEP hasn’t lost six consecutive home games since dropping nine in a row from 1991-92.