El Paso, TX — UTEP (1-5, 0-3 C-USA), idle last week, returns to action on Saturday at Rice (5-2, 3-0 C-USA). The Miners will be on the road for five of their remaining six regular season games. UTEP’s lone home game during that span comes on Nov. 16 versus FIU. The Miners are playing three straight road games -- including facing Texas A&M in College Station on Nov. 2 and North Texas in Denton on Nov. 9 -- for the first time since September of 2011. UTEP is 4-3 in C-USA games (2-3 home/2-0 away) when coming off a bye week since joining the league in 2005. This includes wins over Houston in 2005 (44-41 in double OT), at Tulane in 2005 (45-21), Tulsa in 2009 (28-24), and at Tulane in 2011 (44-7), and losses to Houston in 2007 (34-31), Rice in 2008 (49-44) and UCF in 2012 (31-24). The Miners have lost their last seven games in the city of Houston dating back to a 38-31 triumph at Rice on Oct. 29, 2005. This includes four losses to Houston and three losses to Rice.
The Owls have won six of the last seven games between the Texas rivals to take a 10-6 lead in the series ledger. Rice’s last six wins over the Miners have come by a total of 33 points (5.5 avg.); the closest outcome during that span was nine points in last year’s 33-24 decision in the Sun Bowl. Rice Coach David Bailiff is 5-1 against the Miners. The Owls are 6-2 versus the Miners in Houston with victories in the last three meetings at Rice Stadium. The last four games in Houston have all been decided by eight points or fewer, with the Miners prevailing 38-31 in 2005 and Rice upending the Miners in 2007 (56-48), 2009 (30-29) and 2011 (41-37). Overall eight of the last nine games between UTEP and Rice, and nine of the last 11, have been determined by eight points or less. UTEP has averaged 36.9 points and Rice has averaged 37.6 in eight meetings between the schools as Conference USA members. In the four games at Houston during that span, the averages jump to 38.0 ppg (UTEP) and 39.5 ppg (Rice).
The Last Meeting
Charles Ross ran for 154 yards and two touchdowns and Rice became bowl-eligible with a 33-24 win over UTEP on Nov. 24, 2012 in the Sun Bowl. Ross scored on a nine-yard run to give Rice a 26-21 lead in the fourth quarter and after UTEP answered with a field goal, Jeremy Eddington returned a kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown. Eddington also ran for another score for the Owls, who won their fourth in a row to get to 6-6. Taylor McHargue completed 21-of-30 passes for 207 yards. Nick Lamaison, one of 17 seniors who played their last game for UTEP, threw for 249 yards with a pair of touchdown passes. Two UTEP receivers went over 100 yards as Jordan Leslie had three catches for 168 yards, and Michael Edwards had five receptions for 121 yards. Nathan Jeffery led the Miners with 95 yards rushing. The Miners led 21-17 late in the third quarter before Rice closed the game by outscoring UTEP 16-3. It was the final game for the Miners’ Mike Price, who retired after 31 years as a college head coach.
UTEP players from the Greater Houston area are RB Josh Bell (Sugar Land/Kempner HS), OL Kyle Brown (Conroe/Conroe HS), RB LaQuintus Dowell (Humble/Humble HS), DL Dewan Edmonson (Manvel/Manvel HS), TE Katrae Ford (Houston/Westfield HS), RB Autrey Golden (Willis/Willis HS), OL Christian Harper (Galena Park/North Shore HS), DB Demarcus Kizzie (Willis/Willis HS), WR Jordan Leslie (Houston/Tomball HS), DL Brian Madunezim (Houston/Nimitz HS) and TE Kevin Perry (Houston/Westbury Christian HS).
UTEP OL Wayne Frazier and Rice DL Dylan Klare attended Refugio High School. UTEP QB Blaire Sullivan and Rice LB Nick Elder went to Central Catholic High School in San Antonio. UTEP RB Josh Bell and Rice DB Julius White are products of Kemper High School in Sugar Land. UTEP DL Cooper Brock and Rice RB Brandon Hamilton graduated from Copperas Cove High School. UTEP OL John De La Rosa and Rice WR Derek Brown attended Bay City High School. UTEP LB Cooper Foster and Rice QB Taylor McHargue graduated from Vista Ridge High School in Cedar Park. UTEP WR Jordan Leslie and Rice OL Connor Patterson hail from Tomball High School. UTEP DB Traun Roberson and Rice LB Alex Lyons attended DeSoto High School. UTEP’s Assistant AD for Football Operations, Nate Poss, is a graduate of Rice University and played for the Owls from 1973-76. Rice safeties coach Larry Hoefer had two separate stints as an assistant coach at UTEP, including serving as defensive coordinator during the WAC championship 2000 season.
Rice entered the week on a four-game winning streak as the Owls racked up a season-high 409 yards on the ground in a 45-19 win over NM State last Saturday at Aggie Memorial Stadium. In their final non-conference game of the season, the Owls jumped out to an early lead and never looked back to complete the sweep of a three-game road swing. Charles Ross racked up a career-high 167 yards and a score on 26 carries, good for 6.4 yards per tote. Taylor McHargue added 90 yards and three touchdowns on the ground to accompany his 89 passing yards on 8-of-14 attempts. Rice ranks 16th nationally and first in Conference USA in rushing offense (229.9 per game). Leading the Owls’ offense is McHargue who rates eighth in C-USA in total offense (200.0 per game). Ross averages 109 rushing yards per contest and, like McHargue, has five rushing TDs on the year. Rice is the C-USA leader in red zone offense, converting 23-of-24 opportunities into scores (19 TDs/four field goals). The Owls have blocked three kicks this season to rank among the national leaders.