The Miners team put on a show for those who came home. Offensively, they were able to do just about anything they wanted. Defensively, they continued to show the new personality they have developed this season.
The Miners offense begins with the offensive line. Injuries had left some questions about whether the line would show cracks in the wall. As cousin Vinnie would say,"Forgedaboudit!" Nathan McCage stepped in at the center position, and super 6th man, Lance Evbuomwan, played left tackle. Others rotated in, and the line rolled on like they have for the entire year. Trevor Vittatoe seemed to have time to work crossword puzzles behind his line, and still connect on 19 of his 33 passes, without throwing an interception. When he was done with the Rice defense, he had added 327 passing yards to his total. He also was able to rip a few pages out of UTEP's record book, replacing them with new pages with his name. He now sits at the top of the list of UTEP quarterbacks in passing touchdowns (89), passing yards (11,260) and total offense (11,117). Kris Adams' 5 catches, for 173 yards and 3 touchdowns, including a 73 yarder, earned him Conference USA's Offensive Player of the Week. Donald Buckram returned to action, and led the Miners' ground pounders as they took control of 137 yards of the enemy's terra firma. Leilyon Myers broke into the Rice endzone twice and Jason Williams did it a third time.
Defensively, the Miners are coming into games with bad intentions, and the Rice Owls were the latest victims. The Owl's ground crew, led by Sam McGuffie, netted 141 yards on the ground. Quarterback Nick Fanuzzi completed 23 of 38 passes for 201 yards. Fanuzzi was under attack all night, and his longest completion was for 22 yards.
To put this game into perspective, as our competition has been so weak so far this season, I think it might be helpful to see how the UTEP team compares to the Rice totals coming into the game. Rice had played Texas, North Texas, Northwestern, Baylor, and SMU. That is a baseline from some pretty good teams to compare UTEP's numbers to.
|Rice's numbers going into the UTEP game and against UTEP;
Rice v Previous Teams Category Against UTEP
21 Scoring Offense 24
33.4 Scoring Defense 44
328 Total Offense 342
434 Total Defense 463
98 Rushing Offense 141
151 Rushing Defense 136
229 Passing Offense 201
283 Passing Defense 327
As for the subject of attendance, and the fans, it seems that we are getting about 30,000 fans coming to the games on a consistent basis. There has been lots written about this. Plenty of reasons, or excuses have been given to explain the low turnout for the games. I'm not going to debate the validity of those reasons/excuses. I will say that crowing about the huge fan base of loyal Miners fans is out. I will say that what may have been a point in favor of taking the UTEP football program into another conference has taken a hit. I will say that revenue for UTEP Athletics has suffered. I will say that the lowered attendance numbers is a step backwards. I will say that fan response this season is not forward looking. I will say that if we aren't moving forward, we are falling behind. I will say that a team that is 5-1, and playing the best defense we have seen in many years, should be able to expect better attendance. I will say that winning seems to mean almost nothing. I will say that I am amazed that 750,000 can find something better to do in El Paso, on a beautiful October Saturday evening.
So, after one half of the season has been played the Miners offense is as potent as ever, and probably better balanced. The defense is playing better than it has since Chris Mineo and Zach West were tearing through opposing defenses. The fan support is the worst it has been in many years. Onward through the fog.