Battle of I-10 week is now in full swing, but I think it's important to take one last look at the SMU game so we can chart out some patterns that are coming clearer into focus. Some of these patterns will end up forming the identify of the 2011 UTEP Miners football team. Why don't we kick it off with the bad news this time.
1. 118th- UTEP Has Beyond Serious Issues in the Running Game: Two games in to the regular season, the UTEP Miners are ranked 118th out of 120 FBS schools in rushing offense. Only Florida Atlantic and Kent state are ranked below the Miners. The Miners have ran the football 49 times for 66 yards. I'm not making this up. The Miners are averaging 1.35 yards per carry two games in. The stats are obviously thrown off by Jay Hall's -22 yards rushing against SMU. Joe Banyard and Leilyon Myers combined for 41 yards on 9 carries (4.55 ypc) but anybody who watched the game knows the Miners really couldn't depend on anything consistent on the ground. Myers did find the end zone twice, but.... 66 yards in two games? By the way, Florida Atlantic has played the Florida Gators and Michigan St. Spartans. Kent State opened at Alabama. UTEP played Stony Brook and an SMU team that let Texas A&M rush for 212 the week before. Picks Down.
2. 110th- UTEP Has Serious Issues With Turnovers: Only four FBS schools have more turnovers than the UTEP Miners do through two weeks. UTEP and several other squads are tied for 110th in the nation in turnovers. Jay Hall threw his first collegiate pick and of course had that costly fumble in the end zone. UTEP has 6 turnovers in their first two games. Hard to win games when you can't run the ball and you can't hang onto the ball. Picks Down.
3. Injuries: Lamaison. Reed. Enough said. Picks Down.
4. The 400: The Miners are now ranked 84th in the nation in total defense and give up an average of 400 yards per game. Amazingly, the Miners are still ranked 6th in the C-USA in total d. How's that possible? Tulane (92), Houston (93), Rice (100), Tulsa (104), UAB (115), and Memphis (dead last at 120) have been worse. But, to be fair, all of those teams except Tulane have played at least 1 BCS conference foe and several have played ranked opponents. UAB has only played one game and it was at Florida.
It's worth noting that two games in these rankings aren't incredibly valuable with such a small sample size. But, we track them because the way UTEP moves up and down the various boards in the coming week will show us where the Miners do and don't improve. Especially as the team hits league play and SOS begins to balance out.
1. A Hot Start for Donovan Kemp: Kemp had six more catches for 92 yards against SMU. How much has Donovan Kemp improved statistically from last season? Last year he caught 18 passes for 181 yards. Through two games he has 10 catches for 206 yards. The senior from DeSoto is set to have a ridiculous senior campaign. Picks Up.
2. Picks, Picks, and More Picks: Travaun Nixon is, well, a badass. That's the only way to describe the UTEP cornerback who had now has a three game interception streak going back to the New Mexico Bowl. Last years defensive MVP, Nixon now has 6 interceptions as a UTEP Miner. Picks Up.
3. Instant Impact: Mt. SAC transfer Mike Edwards has been every bit as big as Donovan Kemp in the passing game. Edwards had 5 catches for 86 yards against SMU and is proving to be a reliable weapon and quick study in the 1 Back. Picks up.
4. Vernon's Found His Calling: Vernon Frazier is now ranked 17th in the nation in kickoff returns. The senior RB is averaging 31.14 yards per return. As a team, UTEP is first in the C-USA in kickoff returns and 18th nationally. Picks up.
5. Germard's Recovery: Mike Price noted in his Monday press conference:
Germard Reed is neurologically fine. He didn't chip any bone. The tests were all precautionary. He had an MRI last night. He stayed down there [in Dallas] for a day, and he has all the feeling back. He feels fine, his neck is sore and he probably had a concussion as much as anything. He may be out for a couple of weeks, but we're glad nothing serious happened. He had a neck brace on yesterday but will probably take it off today. He has been fully checked out by numerous physicians."
Thank goodness for that.