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Price suffers first shutout, worst start at UTEP in 17-0 loss to SMU

Head coach Mike Price never thought it had happened before, but it did. But despite the historical fact, Price was positive this game was disappointing and the record only enhanced the feeling.

Anthony Salom

The SMU Mustangs defeated the UTEP Miners 17-0 in Price's first shutout at UTEP--and second in his career--en route to the Miners' worst start in the Price era.

"We're really disappointed with that loss...I thought we were physically ready and mentally ready but they took the battle to us in the first half," Price said.

UTEP (1-5, 0-2 Conference USA) was last shutout Sept. 13, 2003 at San Diego State in a 34-0 loss and was last shutout out at home against SMU in 1996, which happened to be both team's first year in the same conference--the WAC, at the time.

Price said he had never been shutout before but it happened one time before: in 1984 when he was at Weber State, in a 48-0 loss to Montana State.

The Miners dug themselves in an early hole and never found that tool to get them out of it. UTEP even found themselves juggling quarterbacks by the second quarter.

With 7:50 left in the second quarter, junior Carson Meger took over for senior Nick Lamaison following a three-and-out, shortly after SMU went up 10-0. Lamaison had thrown an interception on the first play of the second quarter to set up that scoring drive.

Neither quarterback saw much success in the second quarter, as Lamaison went 0-for-6 with two interceptions and Meger went 3-for-7 for 26 yards and one interception. Lamaison played the entire first quarter and went 3-for-6 for 49 yards.

“We had a concept with Carson that we tried to run but we never had the field position and when he had the opportunity in the second quarter. So we put Nick back in,” Price said.

By the third quarter, Lamaison was given the nod and stayed in the remainder of the game.

The Miners were trailing 17-0 by halftime, but Price said his team was ready to move on from there.

“I think the confidence was good at halftime. Half the team was stunned, there’s no question about that,” Price said. “They were pretty good on defense and we were pretty bad on offense.”

UTEP showed that confidence when moved the ball into field goal range twice to begin the second half.

On his first drive of the half, Lamaison conducted a drive where he completed his first four passes, and drove it down to the SMU 10-yard line.

But even on their best drive of the game, UTEP couldn't get on the scoreboard. Sophomore Steven Valadez had his field goal blocked from 28 yards out by 6-foot-8 Margus Hunt, who racked up his NCAA-leading 15th career blocked field goal. It was also his third-blocked field goal against the Miners.

The ensuing UTEP drive stalled when they attempted a fake field goal and Meger's pass fell incomplete.

"I don't think it was a given, but we were anticipating it earlier in the game," head coach June Jones said. "They did what they tried to do, they faked a couple on us a few years ago, so we were hopefully able to defend it and we did on that one."

Despite the offensive struggles, UTEP allowed just 10 points on defense, but despite Price saying his team was stunned, players said they never got frustrated with the offense.

“We had the offenses back, they made some good plays, too. I wouldn’t say we played alone,” senior defensive back Drew Thomas said.

The Miners finished the night with 285 yards, 87 yards less than SMU's total. The Mustangs also had the ball nearly 15 minutes more than UTEP and converted on three

more third down conversions than the Miners.

Lamaison finished the day 9-of-32 for 131 yards and the two interceptions. Gilbert went 22-of-44 for 234 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

The Mustangs had no problem taking advantage of UTEP's poor-offensive performance in the first half, as they jumped out to a 17-0 lead by the half, including 14 points in the second quarter alone.

The lack of offense showed in the team's offensive statistics, also.

The Miners had five first downs all half to SMU's 13 and went 1-of-7 on third down, while SMU converted on five of their 12 third down opportunities.

The Mustangs had 212 net yards, compared to UTEP's 128.