Four and three.
If that sounds familiar it’s because UTEP has started 4-3 four out of the last nine years. The past three times history has not been kind to us. Could this be the year we escape and win two out of five?
This was supposed to be our breakout year. Straight off from two bowl appearances and equipped with senior quarterback Jordan Palmer, and senior receiver Johnnie Lee Higgins UTEP had enormous aspirations in Mike's third year. After picking a win at old WAC foe San Diego State to start the season, El Paso responded with consecutive sold out Sun Bowl’s sending the message of what was expected.
The schedule set up nicely with four out the first six games at home, but ended ugly with four out the last six games on the road.
After gathering three home wins in a row UTEP hit the road in search of a conference title, though two weeks later priorities were changed. Sitting at 4-4 and knowing we only had two home games left 43k showed up on homecoming night to help UTEP beat Rice and inch closer to bowl eligibility.
As loud as we screamed our defense just couldn’t stop the Owls in the last drive of the game as they marched down the field consuming almost half the clock while scoring the winning touchdown.
A week later we made up for our home loss by traveling to Birmingham and beating UAB. A 21-49 loss at Marshall set up our home finale.
I’ll never understand if it was because it was cold, or if it was at night, or if we were disappointed in the season, or if we just assumed we would beat Memphis but a small crowd of 31k showed up November 25th.
With Memphis coming in at 1-10 it seemed as is if our great senior class would go bowling. Four turnovers and two missed field goals later doomed the Miners and a season with so much promise came to a gloomy ending.
With freshman quarterback Trevor Vittatoe given the starting role not many knew what to expect. After seven games and a 4-3 start Miner fans were smiling because we had found a hidden gem.
Having wins over New Mexico, Tulsa, and SMU under our belt we prepared for homecoming night. 41k attended what we hoped would be our 5th win, but instead we saw the beginning of our bad luck.
With the game tied at 32, Marcus Thomas scored on a 31 yard run with 34 seconds left in the game. That’s all ECU needed with time running out Juwon Crowell caught a miraculous 34 yard touchdown heave to send the game into overtime. After UTEP scored a field goal on the first drive of overtime, ECU’s Rob Kass snuck into the endzone to win the game.
That would be the beginning of a five game losing streak as UTEP finished the season 4-8.
In what many believed should have been Price’s last year we once again got off to a good start. With wins over Stony Brook, NMSU, Tulane, and Colorado State in the bag, the stage was set for our 8th game against then #25th ranked Southern Miss.
Previously Price had enjoyed crowds of over 40k in the pivotal 8th game of the season. Not this time despite having a winning record and a top 25 team at home, less than 25k showed up to witness the inevitable. A 31-13 loss followed by another 37-41 loss at RICE left UTEP at 4-5.
A season saving win over ECU put UTEP back at .500 and one win away from a bowl berth. The magic was gone as only 26k showed up to witness another UTEP catastrophe.
A loss at UCF sealed the season without the magical 6th win.
Once again we sit at 4-3 with five games left. The odds are on our side to turn the corner, but history is not. During the Price era we saw UTEP jump out to good starts only to falter towards the end. It became a trend and not just on the 4-3 starts, but basically every one of his teams.
If Kugler wants to change UTEP culture he has the perfect chance to do it right now. We have three home games left to defend our home turf twice, and we are in. We have three teams with a losing record, beat two and we are in.
The combination of wins doesn’t matter its all about just winning the games you are supposed to. UTEP is a seven point favorite for tomorrow. Two things to look out for how will the team and how will El Paso respond.
In a perfect world we win by seven and 40k show up but we don’t live in a perfect world.