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Monday Lunch With Mike Price

NCAA Football: Texas El Paso at Southern Mississippi Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Price opens with a quick review of the Miner latest loss to Southern Miss.

“I thought we came out with really good energy and enthusiasm for the first half. The momentum really got squandered when we fumbled on the one-yard line. We made a tremendous play on the interception, and then fumbled the ball back to them and gave them a touchdown, and otherwise it would’ve at least been 7-0 and we would’ve remained in the game with the enthusiasm that we started the game with.”

“But I thought our defense played well again for two weeks in a row with great intensity and enthusiasm and we got three turnovers, which is something we’re striving to do as a defense and continue to improve on.”

“But that fumble did change the momentum of that game, there’s no question about it. Our offense again was very poor. I don’t think we know who we are on offense, or we know who we are on offense and don’t like it. One of those things is where we stand, I think, in our opinion of the offense right now.”

Price goes on about the Miners offensive struggles…

“Kind of that statement I made about not knowing who we are is kind of where we’re at. I don’t know what kind of offense we are right now. But I don’t like that kind, whatever it is. Nobody does. Players and coaches and fans.”

“Coach [Brian] Natkin is working real, real hard, as are all the coaches. Every play is drawn up to be a touchdown in everybody’s playbook. If everyone does their job, you get a touchdown. Every play should be a good play to call, or it shouldn’t be in your playbook. So I don’t see that as being particularly poor. I don’t think it’s the play calling, it’s our execution that is poor.”

UTEP’s quarterback situation is up in the air this week.

“Quarterback is still kind of up in the air. I don’t know how Zack [Greenlee] is, I haven’t seen him since Wednesday. He has been in for treatment. I think his groin is fine, but he’s still got a high ankle sprain. We’ll just have to see how that goes. Ryan [Metz] is better every day too. He was kind of a winged warrior when he was in that last game.”

Moving onto to this week’s opponent UTSA.

“We’ve got the Roadrunners coming in here. They’re hard to kill, if you’ve seen any cartoons. They are an elusive bird. I think they’ve done a really good job there.”

“Their program has come a long way. Frank Wilson, the new coach, and his associate head coach Jason Rollins, they are guys with really great reputations in the coaching profession. And their players play like it. They are well coached and they’re disciplined and they play well.”

“Their offense is pretty explosive. They are averaging around 460 yards per game. Oh, what we would take for 460 yards a game on offense. They can move the football. They’ve got a really good quarterback. He’s a senior. He is really tough, #14 Dalton Sturm. He has got five or six school records already and he’s chasing all of the other passing records. He is a real good player.”

“They have two running backs. #5 Jalen Rhodes has really been the guy that started the season out for them. He was closing in on all the career records in San Antonio. And then his backup, Tyrell Clay, has had a fantastic last two games. They have four solid receivers, all making about 20 receptions so far. They are really good on offense. Really good.”

“On defense, they run a different defense. I kind of like it, a 4-2-5. It’s got five defensive backs. The safeties are kind of interchangeable. They have three safeties in the middle that either support or defend, and they’re active. The corners are pretty much on islands.”

“Their best player, and maybe one of the best players we’ll see all season, is #93 Marcus Davenport, defensive end. He is 6-7, 255 pounds. He looks the part, plays the part, is the part. He is someone that you’ve got to know where he’s at all the time. Last game he had 11 tackles, two sacks, broke up a pass, picked up a fumble and ran it in for a touchdown. He is one of the best defensive ends that we have faced and probably the number one defensive end in the conference. Fantastic player, plays really hard, he is really talented and that’s a combination you can’t beat. Their special teams are solid. This is a solid team that we’re playing, and very well coached by a couple of good young coaches in the profession.”

Quardraiz Wadley is still questionable this week.

“Wadley is a question mark still. I just saw him yesterday and he’s still a question mark. I’m not sure if he’s going to play and how much he would play.”

Price acknowledges what UTSA has built since he left the C-USA landscape.

“When they first came into the league and they first started up, I thought that’s fine and dandy, because we used to recruit that area pretty good. Let’s not let them get good, because we’ll really have our hands full. I would’ve liked to have kept them a not really good program, and we could’ve gone in and recruited a little bit better out of there. Now they’re 4-2, they’re right in the race for the conference and they’re doing a really good job. Them and North Texas, I wasn’t really excited about having them join the league because it’s two really good recruiting areas and they’re both doing very, very well. It will be, and is, a rivalry.”

How does Price go about finding UTEP’s identity on offense?

“I think it’s an evolving process. Like I said before, these players were recruited to a particular type of offense. The terminology is professional in its nature, having come from professional football, and real wordy. It’s a little hard to change horses in the middle of the race, but hopefully, and that’s on my part, what I’d like to do is help the offense produce more yardage and touchdowns and be a more wide open scheme. We’ll see how that goes on Saturday night.”

Price was asked how the team morale is heading out of the bye week.

“I think team morale is good. I saw everybody yesterday. We had dinner here. They want to win as bad as anybody. But their heads aren’t down, their heads are up. And their heads could be down. It hasn’t been a real fun year. But we’re trying to instill some fun. We had a really good scrimmage here Wednesday afternoon, with all the reserve players and scout team. That was a lot of fun for the players.”

UTEP will go into the week without a set QB plan it appears….

“I don’t know what the process will be. I’ll have to sit down with the coaches and talk about that a little further. The injuries have prevented us from beingput in that situation. If they’re both healthy, that’s awesome. Because we’ll probably need both of them. We probably should’ve played Mark Torrez a little more, I would’ve liked to see what he could have done in the last game too.”