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November 19, 2010

UTEP Team Report 11/19

Quarterback Trevor Vittatoe has started the first 47 games of his college career.

Head coach Mike Price doesn't see that stopping now despite his senior signal caller suffering another major ankle sprain last week in a non-conference road loss at Arkansas.



"I wouldn't shut the door on anything that Trevor Vittatoe does," Price said. "Not sure if he will practice (throughout the week), but he'll be out there. He is getting rehab constantly. If you want to find him, he's in the training room. He is and amazing guy. I would not be surprised if he is our starting quarterback at Tulsa."

Vittatoe has been the key to the UTEP season. When he's played healthy, the Miners have looked pretty good. When he's played hurt-see that three-game October losing streak against UAB, Tulane and Marshall that nearly cost the Miners a shot at a bowl game-the Miners' offense has sputtered.

Now, with one game left in the regular season for the Miners (6-5, 3-4 C-USA), the only way Vittatoe doesn't start on Saturday at Tulsa is if he misses the flight out of El Paso.

"Trevor is the toughest QB I have ever coached," said Price, who has coached for more than 40 years. "He is one of the toughest players I have ever coached. He wouldn't be helped off field. He hopped off. He wouldn't be helped into locker room, he wouldn't ride the cart. He wanted to walk into the locker room. He had it X-rayed in the second half, and there was nothing broken. Don't bet against him playing (this week)."

Vittatoe has 12,094 career passing yards, ranking him 15th all-time in NCAA history. He needs 335 passing yards to pass Texas Tech's Kliff Kingsbury for 14th.

Vittatoe is also tied for 18th all-time for FBS programs in passing touchdowns with 94, tied with BYU's Max Hall and one behind a three-way tie for 15th place with Kingsbury, N.C. State's Phillip Rivers and Notre Dame's Brady Quinn.

NOTES, QUOTES

• Injuries continue to take their toll on the UTEP Miners. It was that lack of depth, according to head coach Mike Price, that prevented any serious chance of a comeback last week against Arkansas and allowed the Razorbacks to play keep away in the second half.

"We were without nine players in the second half, and it resulted in Arkansas running the ball," Price said. "I knew it was going to happen, I could see it coming. They ran the ball and kept it away from us, and did not give us a chance to get back into the game."

Arkansas rushed for a season-high 326 yards against UTEP and won the time-of-possession battle 36:04 to 23:56.

• UTEP head coach Mike Price has called Houston head coach Kevin Sumlin a good friend, and there are plenty of close connections between the two programs.

But the Miners, if not publicly, certainly privately, have to be rooting against the Cougars in Houston's final two games of the season.

Houston is at 5-5 with road games at Southern Miss and at Texas Tech. It has to win one of those two to become bowl eligible. Otherwise, it appears C-USA will only have six bowl-eligible teams, and UTEP will be guaranteed a bowl. If there are seven bowl-eligible teams, UTEP could risk being left on the outside looking in.

• An unsung hero from last week's Arkansas game for the UTEP Miners was backup LB Jeremy Springer, who made not one but two big blocks, setting up a 100-yard kick return for a touchdown for WR Marvin McClure.

"That was a tremendous, tremendous play," UTEP head coach Mike Price said Monday. "Jeremy Springer made two blocks on that kickoff return. He blocked the guy he was supposed to, and then when Marlon switched and came back the other way, he made a second block. Jeremy got an award for that on Sunday for us. He is a big, strong backup linebacker for us, and he did a great job on that play."

Series History: Tulsa leads UTEP, 9-8 (last meeting, 2009, 28-24 UTEP).

Scouting The Offense: It's become clear in 11 games that UTEP's offense is really good with a healthy Trevor Vittatoe and pretty bad without it. Vittatoe does not appear healthy heading into the Nov. 20 regular-season finale against Tulsa. WR Kris Adams has emerged as one of the league's top wideouts, but a lot of his skill may be negated if Vittatoe's injured ankle either prevents him from playing or limits his ability to plant when throwing. RBs Joe Banyard and Leilyon Myers will have to be big to make up for the disappointing production of oft-injured RB Donald Buckram. Myers had 71 rushing yards last week at Arkansas, including a 51-yard first quarter touchdown.

Scouting The Defense: The Miners need help in run support. Eleven games into the season, it's not likely to come. UTEP has had some decent individual performances sprinkled throughout the season, but overall the defense simply hasn't been able to compete with the better teams in C-USA. UTEP has allowed 109.8 rushing yards per game in its six wins this season and 259.4 rushing yards per game in five losses. Two teams have rushed for more than 300 yards on UTEP this year.

Quote To Note: "We're bowl eligible. We want to be more bowl eligible."-UTEP head coach Mike Price heading into the team's regular-season finale against Tulsa

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

This Week 'S GAME: UTEP at Tulsa, Nov. 20-Tulsa has a lot on the line this week, as the Golden Hurricane is still playing for a C-USA West Division title (SMU is in the driver's seat there, though). For UTEP, a team with six wins and already bowl eligible, the resume isn't the most impressive. While it's unlikely the Miners would be left out of the bowl picture after the season, a seventh win sure would solidify those chances.

Keys To The Game: UTEP can't stop the run against quality opponents, and Tulsa leads C-USA in rushing, so it's hard to imagine the Golden Hurricane trying to get cute and do anything but run right through the heart of the Miners' defense. UTEP's offense is banged up, and if you get pressure on QB Trevor Vittatoe early, head coach Mike Price may take him out with hopes of keeping him healthy for a possible, although not guaranteed, bowl game.

Players To Watch:

WR Marvin McClure-The return specialist made ESPN's No. 3 play of the weekend last week with a spectacular 100-yard kick return for a touchdown against Arkansas. Despite aggravating a shoulder injury late in that game, he'll be back against Tulsa, and his return skills will be needed to help keep pace with the Golden Hurricane.

QB Trevor Vittatoe-Even if not healthy, he's pretty much turned into a Brett Favre-type player. He may always be banged up and reporters may always ask about his availability, but the bottom line is he has started 47 consecutive college football games for a reason. It's hard to imagine him not doing so in his regular-season finale in a Miners uniform.

UTEP's rush defense-Tulsa, this week's opponent, leads C-USA in rushing with 218.6 rushing yards per game and racked up 259 in a win last week over Houston. The Miners have been horrendous stopping the run this season and will need some help this week if they want a shot at keeping pace with Tulsa.

Roster Report:

• QB Trevor Vittatoe, hampered by an ankle injury for much of the last six weeks, hurt his ankle again last week against Arkansas and left the game in the third quarter.

His head coach, however, said Vittatoe may be able to return by Saturday's game against Tulsa.

"I wouldn't shut the door on anything that Trevor Vittatoe does," UTEP head coach Mike Price said. "Not sure if he will practice (throughout the week), but he'll be out there. He is getting rehab constantly. If you want to find him, he's in the training room. He is an amazing guy. I would not be surprised if he is our starting quarterback at Tulsa."

• WR Marvin McClure aggravated a lingering shoulder injury last week at Arkansas, but he should play at Tulsa.


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