The game had everything you could love: Big scoring plays, goal line stands, turnovers, and plenty of non-stop offense. Problem is, all those traits belonged to the Rebels. "But hey Gorilla Man," you say, "Why would we want turnovers?" And the answer to that, moaning Miner faithful is, we don't, but Ole Miss had THREE that UTEP failed to turn into scores. So the Miners were even outdone by the Rebels in that department. To be fair, the Miners had an interception. The tone was set early in this one. After getting the kickoff, the Miners were able to move the ball decently but after picking up a first down on short-yardage plays, Nick Lamaison uncorked a long pass to Mike Edwards that missed by inches and could have scored if they had connected. Then it was the D's turn. The Rebels needed only two plays to make a first down.
On the following second down at their own 45, Reb QB Bo Wallace tossed a 55 yard pass to Donte Moncrief for a touchdown. The play was nearly identical to OU's first scoring play against the Miners. Mental lapses are becoming a theme both on and off the field for the Miners. The highlight of the first quarter was a series where an Ian Campbell punt pinned the Rebels at their own 2 and the Miners held them there for what appeared to me to be a safety on second down. A replay showed Mackey's feet were in the endzone but the ball was not. Go figure. Lamaison's lone sustained drive was down to the Mississippi 7 for a first and goal.
In what I consider a stupendous lack of preparation and play-calling ingenuity by Mike Price, the Miners called successive dive plays into the Rebel line with freshmen Xay Williams and LaQuintus Dowell carrying the ball. But the Rebs snuffed them like Mississippi Delta gnats. On fourth and goal Lamaison, long-known for his resemblance to Tim Tebow, took the ball on a quarterback delay draw up the middle and lost two yards. At least the Rebs got lousy field position. But they were undaunted as they marched right down field and scored again. The Rebels went on to score two more touchdowns in the first half. The Second a bomb thrown by Wallace to Jaylen Walton for a 51 yard score. Carson Meger saw action after the second Rebel TD and deftly led the Miners downfield with a combination of passing and running plays. Unfortunately that drive ended in the end zone with a Rebel pick.
They then drove the field for their final score of the half. The Miners were never able to run against the Rebels and even when later in the game Lamaison was able to complete one or two fades and crossing routes, the lack of space in the Rebel end of the field seemed to work against them. Passeswere missed or dropped. You can only rely on your punter - who has become UTEP's best offensive and defensive player. Once again, the Miners attempted sideline hitch plays-- clearly a Price favorite -- which went for naught. The second half saw the Rebels make mincemeat of Miner defensive backs as they turned up the running game which kept the Miners off-balance all night long. The Rebels finished with 332 yards rushing and 206 in the air -- half of it from two plays. The rebels had over seven yards per rushing play compared to an embarrassing 1.2 for the Miners. The only stat the Miner captured was time of possession.
Nathan Jeffrey did not play which potentially explains the dismal running game. However, it does not explain everything. The two huge defensive lapses in the secondary happened on the same side as last week's against OU. That absolutely has to be dealt with or every team will test the right corner.
Passing Game: D-
Lamaison for all his ability to regroup in the second half, lacks the mobility and field sense when he runs out of time. At least twice he ran directly into a Rebel lineman when attempting to salvage a play. Perhaps Lasix surgery would help. The missed bomb at the beginning of the game was unfortunate but it was never attempted again and except for a couple of long completions to Leslie, most passes were in the 10 - 15 yard range. Longer passes with covered players are not his forte. Meger had some success but threw the pick. Can't really blame him. Price putting him in then taking him out is bizarre. His rationale is to rotate bodies to keep them fresh.
Running Game: F
Although Price told media that Jeffrey was doubtful to probable, he clearly knew that he would hold him out. That left all week for the backups to prepare. There was little evidence of that or that Price's strategy to let them read the defense was a sound idea. Xay Williams and LaQuintus Dowell both lack experience and possibly the lateral quickness and movement to make players miss. Jeffrey clearly has that down. But Price apparently went with the same strategy to ill-effect.
Giving up two easy scores were killers for this team.Although the Miners held the Rebels to one score in the second half, the damage was already done. The turnovers by the Rebels weren't caused by hits but by poor ball handling as with a muffed return. The Rebels gashed the Miners on the ground solidly all game long. The Miners had difficulty stopping plays that clearly generated as running plays.
Kicking Game: C
The Miners were one for two on field goals with Dakota Warren missing a 44 yarder and Steve Valadez connecting on a 37 yard field goal. In any case, field goals would not have won this game for UTEP.
Ian Campbell clearly is in a class by himself on this team and gives the Miners every advantage possible as far as length and hangtime for coverage go. Price's lack of confidence in his kickers may generate more self-esteem issues in the future.
Coaching/Play Calling: D-
Apologists say coaches don't play, they only coach. And if players don't execute, it's not the...still, the team showed that at least on the blown plays they weren't prepared, capable or both. Penalties in the second half added to their difficulties. The Miners ended the game with eight penalties for 70 yards.