As noted yesterday, I want to start publishing postgame awards each Monday. I think it will serve as a nice way to conclude last week's game and kick off the upcoming game week. So, on the heels of UTEP's 16-13 showdown win against Memphis, here are Miner Rush's post game awards. Like always, please feel free to chime in and fight for who you think deserves each honor. Also, if you think I've omitted a player who had a special performance, let me know. I want to make sure everyone that deserves a mention gets one here. Also, I'm not crazy about "Miner Monday" so if you have a better name for a Monday awards post, let me hear it.
1. Offensive Player of the Week: Joe Banyard (RB)
I know Saturday night was supposed to be all about Donald Buckram's return. And, Buckram definitely showed progress back into his 2009 form as the game went on. But, hats off to Banyard who didn't start the game but came in and earned 45 tough yards on 9 carries. On a night when it seemed nobody in a Miner uniform could find the end zone, Banyard was the only UTEP player to cross the goal line. Banyard also had that clutch 18 yard run during the teams final drive to make a somewhat difficult field goal in windy conditions a simple extra point. Miner fans know that Buckram is the star of the show, but we are very lucky to have a change of pace back with Banyards talent and attitude. I still see Banyard as a 7-12 carry a game back with Buckram back in the starting lineup.
Trevor Vittatoe was good, not great. The O-line struggled a bit with run blocking (especially on the goal line where Memphis held strong), but TV had plenty of time to pass the ball for the most part. The running backs ran hard. The flaw on offense that consistently killed drives was dropped passes. The normally sure handed Evan Davis dropped a few. Freshman tight end Kevin Perry had one that would have extended a drive. The first half was riddled with some errors in protection and poor throws by Vittatoe. When TV would hit a receiver with a catchable pass, it seemed like it was always dropped. More on McClure later.
3. Defensive Player of the Week: Jamie Irving (LB)
The junior linebacker was simply everywhere on Saturday night. He led the Miners with 10 tackles (6 solo, 4 assist), 2.5 tackles for loss, and had a key interception that he returned for 19 yards. Irving also had 2 quarterback hurries. We finally started to see Andre Patterson mix it up with a series of blitz calls that almost always featured Irving. He had a monster game.
4. Defensive Goat of the Week: None.
I hope I can write this every week. UTEP's defense rose to the occasion time and time again on Saturday. The unit forced two interceptions, had 7 tackles for loss, 5 quarterback hurries, 2 sacks, and 4 passes broken up. The Miners defense was good against New Mexico State, but Memphis is a lot better than NMSU. This was by far UTEP's best defensive performance of the season.
5. Special Teams Player of the Week: Marlon McClure
Marlon was great on offense (4 catches for 48 yards) and huge on special teams. He also had a whopping 139 yards in the return game. I've written before that Marlon truly is a threat to take it to the house every time he gets the ball. I think he showed that, again, on Saturday. I really want to note that when the offense was struggling to move the ball, time and time again, Marlon turned a simple reception into something exciting. He was truly a spark plug for the team all night. I thought long and hard about making him the team's overall game MVP but another Miner did something we might never see again.
6. Coach of the Week: Andre Patterson
For the numbers, see #4 above. Yes, the increased quarterback pressure and backfield penetration helped make this award obvious, but the real reason Patterson get's it is because of attitude. Did you see UTEP's defense swarming to gang tackle Memphis runners in the second half? Did you see UTEP's defense excited, playing with energy, and finally trying to outdo one another by making the biggest hit? The Miners defense played with purpose in a way that we simply haven't seen in several years. Why do you think that is? Andre Patterson is changing the mindset of this defensive unit.
7: The Guy I Don't Want to Face Again: Ryan Williams (QB)
I'm adding this category so that we can identify opposing players to watch in the future and also to form candidates for the "Danny Ainge Most Hated Opposing Player" post-season award. Ryan Williams, the 6'5, 220 lb. true freshman quarterback may have tossed 2 key interceptions. He may have stared down his receivers at times. He also really impressed me with his composure in the pocket and accuracy. He only went 20/30 with 144 yards and a touchdown, but the kid was a tough out all night and his touchdown pass in the back of the end zone showed incredible arm strength. I hate to admit it, but Memphis found a good one.
8. Team Most Valuable Player: Dakota Warren (K)
The sophomore kicker came into the season as one of UTEP's highest regarded pickups and he showed why on Saturday. Points were hard to come by, and in a windy Sun Bowl, Warren found a way to boom two kicks of 50 yards or more including a ridiculous 57 yarder in the first half. Warren missed a 37 yard kick, yes, but more than redeemed himself later in the game by hitting the 50 yarder and of course the 18 yarder to seal the win.
Yes, that 18 yarder was an extra point of sorts. But regardless of that, it's never easy to hit a field goal with that much pressure on your shoulders. Warren won me over because he showed incredible mental toughness by letting go of his 37 yard miss and bouncing back to be the real difference maker for UTEP on Saturday.