Some might argue that no good can come from a 58-21 loss. I don't think any rational Miner fans expected UTEP to beat the #15 Arkansas Razorbacks at their place, at night. We did hope, surely, for a strong showing and some signs that the win against SMU could be repeated against Tulsa (who SMU beat). In the end, we saw some good things on offense that were encouraging, but we may have lost our starting quarterback as well.
1. Marlon McClure Has SEC Speed
Marlon finally broke one all the way for a touchdown and it came against the best team on UTEP's schedule. Few guys have another gear like Marlon does. Even fewer have a combination of elusiveness and surprising strength. On a field with several NFL prospects, Marlon McClure had perhaps the most electrifying single play of UTEP's season.
I haven't found embeddable video yet, but if you missed it WATCH THIS VIDEO- its the first play. McClure finished with 166 yards.
2. UTEP's Offensive Line can Play with Anybody... for a while.
I was concerned that Arkansas' defensive front would dominate the line of scrimmage. But, Alex Solot & Co. played one heck of a game. Lance Evbuowmwan, Tanner Cullumber Eloy Atkinson, and Anthony McNac gave Trevor Vittatoe ample time to throw the ball throughout the first half before he was knocked out of the game with an aggravation to his ankle injury. UTEP Running backs averaged a stellar 4.7 yards per rush. It always bothers me when people see a team lose and instantly dismiss the offensive line. This team did not lose this game because of our Hogs up front. The Miners O-Line did allow two sacks, but against an SEC defense I'd say thats not too shabby.
3. Leilyon Myers and Joe Banyard Give us Hope for a Good 2011
The 2 junior tailbacks are both very good players. The duo combined for 14 carries for 110 yards against Arkansas. Myers opened up the scoring with a 51 yard touchdown run right at the heart of the Razorbacks defense. Banyard is a weapon catching passes and he had 7 receptions for 30 yards.
4. Kris Adams Can Play With Anybody
Adams is now only 109 yards away from a 1,000 yard receiving season after burning the Arkansas secondary for 148 yards on 5 catches with a TD. Adams is a master at using his 6'3 frame to his advantage. If the NFL scouts wake up, I think they'll see a guy who is more than deserving of a Senior Bowl invitation. He's that good. Just ask the Arkansas defense. Adams also now has 11 touchdowns this season.
5. Mike & Eric Price Can Gameplan a Game on Offense
Mike Price is a touch guy to root for. Against Marshall, I couldn't believe the way UTEP imploded down the stretch. Against SMU, we finally saw the team we expected to see throughout the season and the Miners beat the team that controls their own destiny in the West. Against Arkansas, Eric and Mike Price had the mentality that they were going to attack Arkansas with quick traps and Leilyon Myers- a play that worked to perfection twice. They knew they could get Banyard involved in the passing game (7 catches). They knew Adams could beat his guy deep (148 receiving yards). Towards the end of the Texas/Oklahoma State game, I couldn't get over the utter lack of imagination by UT OC Greg Davis. We are very lucky to have coaches who know how to mix things up on offense. You can say a lot of things about game management and bad losses, but UTEP's offense has never been boring to watch.
6. Royzell Smith Fighting the Good Fight
Smith missed a tackle or two, but for the most part he was all over the field Saturday night and he led UTEP with 12 tackles (4 solo, 8 assist).
7. Chad Moncure playing till the end
The frosh safety from H-Town delivered a knockout hit late in the game. I don't remember what receiver it was, but Moncure leveled him much to our enjoyment in the game thread.
Trevor Vittatoe may or may not get the call in the final regular season game of his four year starting career. Mike Price said today at his press conference that nothing was broken, so that's good. UTEP lost 9 players in the second half due to injuries, Price said most of them will be back for Tulsa.
2. Missed Tackles
We saw some good and bad along the UTEP defensive front. Robert Soleyjacks did sack Ryan Mallett and made some nice plays. Bernard Obi forced some pressure on Mallett. Germard Reed and Marcus Bagley made some plays here and there. But, Arkansas still shredded UTEP for 326 rushing yards. Many of these yards came after missed tackles. No need to call out individual players who missed tackles because I think its possible all of our linebackers missed at least a few.
3. Travaun's Penalty
UTEP DB Travaun Nixon had a heck of a return after a Mallett INT but it was called back because he clearly interfered with the receiver. The thing is, Nixon had good position, and the pass was a bit ahead of the WR, and Nixon probably didn't need to hang onto the WR to make the INT to begin with. That was a huge play in the early going .
4. SEC Refs
In the game thread we couldn't believe some of the calls Arkansas got. When the score was 14-14, Joe Banyard clearly earned a first down on a running play. The refs have the Miners a terrible spot and when Mike Price argued about it he was called for a 15 yard penalty that essentially killed UTEP's drive. It was one of the most ridiculous penalties I've ever seen. C'Mon SEC. Do you really need those kind of calls against UTEP?
Am I missing anything? Let me hear about it via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or in the comments.