Miners Muffled in Wisconsin

Sep 22, 2012; Madison, WI, USA; UTEP Miners quarterback Nick Lamaison (7) is hit by Wisconsin Badgers defensive lineman David Gilbert (11) after throwing the ball during the first quarter at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE

The signs were portentous early for UTEP as the Miners could have asked for no greater gift than a fumble by Wisconsin's pre-season Heisman candidate Montee Ball at UTEP's 26 yard line. The Miner's Richard Spencer caused the separation by delivering a cracking hit to the running back. Ball would later leave the game permanently after scoring a touchdown but received another vicious hit in the process. UTEP was unable to take advantage of the turnover as its offense struggled against the Badger's defense. Although Nathan Jeffrey started the game, he failed to break any long plays.

The Badgers started walkon-on QB Joel Stave and James White took over for the injured Montee Ball. Stave's performance belied his background as he was able to niftily carve up UTEP's secondary and even make some significant running plays.

The Miners used several running backs and finally hit paydirt when Limaison hit Mike Edwards for a 39 yard scoring pass. The PAT, however, was blocked and returned for a 2-point score.

The second quarter was mostly Badgers as they were able to keep the field while UTEP had trouble generating a sustained drive. The Miner's only other score in the the first half was a Steve Valadez 45-yard field goal. The score was 23-9 at halftime.

The third quarter was largely a stalemate until the Miners put together a sustained drive from their 25. The Miners put together a 13-play 75-yard drive that ended when running back Xay Williams punched the ball into the end zone with 5:20 left. At that point it seemed entirely possible the Miners had figured out the Badger D and the exploitation would continue. However, it was not meant to be.

The Badgers missed a near chip shot 33-yard field goal with 14:56 left in fourth. The Miners took over put together another promising drive, only to have it stall at the Badger Wisconsin's 26 yard-line. Steve Valadez came on the field and kicked a 43-yard field goal bringing the Miners closer at 23-19.

The Badgers then seemed to turn their offense into high gear (or UTEP became satisfied with the score) and proceeded to score two quick touchdowns due to a fumbled Miner kickoff return. The score quickly became

37-19 with really no hope for a Miner win at that point. UTEP took over with 3:05 to play and after two Lamaison sacks, Mike Edwards snagged a 62 yard touchdown pass. An unsuccessful Miner onside kick gave the ball to the Badgers who simply ran out the clock. The final score was 37-26

Of great concern ito the Miners s the loss to the team of Richard Spenser who anchors the defensive secondary. He appeared to injure his knee in the second half and was carted away to the lockerroom.

The Miners were simply outplayed at the line for most of the game and frankly out-strategized as they had no answer for Stave and his ability to hit receivers. Although the last Miner drive will pad Lamaison's stats a little, his inability to pick out receivers and hit them in tight coverage is limiting. A nicely thrown long fade to Tomlinson in the endzone is a good example. Though accurate, it was a little too late and just out-of-bounds.

Scorecard

Passing game --- C Lamaison and his receiving corps missed several connections unless receivers were WIDE open. Lamaison seems to focus solely on first-options and is slow reading progressions.

Running game --- B- The raft of running backs seem talented enough for the job, but the play calling and game planning are suspect

Special Teams -- C - They would have gotten a C+ but the late game giveaway and blocked PAT for a touchdown really hurt at the worst times.

Defense - B- The Miners gave up big plays again in this game. The tendency to micro-focus is a problem. Not noticing when a passing play is not a running play is an issue. Too often Stave had forever to look down field. It's a credit to the secondary that the game was as close as it was. The defense was not helped by the offense or special teams play today.

Coaching/game planning - C I think I will go a little easier on Mike this week. The bubble screens are too predictable, though and don't work against better teams. I don't see much in the MIner repertoire to change things up. Could be all the young players, could be an arthritic offensive mind who keeps saying the name "Ryan Leaf" in his dreams. I think rolling Lamaison out would provide dividends.

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