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Miners look to extend streak at UAB

Published: Thursday, October 14, 2010

Updated: Friday, May 17, 2013 12:05

donavon

Bob Corral

Junior wide receiver Donavon Kemp returns a kick against Rice Oct. 9 at the Sun Bowl. The Miners beat the Owls 44-24.

The UTEP Miners are off to their best start since the 2005 season and are a win away from putting on their bowling shoes.

The Miners (5-1, 2-1 Conference USA) defeated the Owls 44-24 at the Sun Bowl Oct. 9, their first victory against Rice in four years. They now have to play on the road against UAB.

The Blazers (1-4, 0-2 C-USA) are coming off a lopsided 42-7 loss at the hands of the UCF Oct. 6. The Blazers have dropped their last two games. Their one win of the season was a 34-33 victory against Troy Sept. 18.

Since joining C-USA during the 2005 season the Miners hold a 1-2 record against the Blazers. The road teams in all three meetings have won each matchup. UTEP's lone win came back in 2006, when the Miners went to Birmingham, Alabama, to defeat UAB 36-17.

"UAB is a really good football team. Neil Callaway is a great coach and there are guys on his staff who I know personally," head coach Mike Price said. "We will be playing at Legion Field. It's a big, huge stadium and it's a little bit different playing in there."

UAB junior quarterback Bryan Ellis has completed 54 percent of his attempts with five touchdowns and five interceptions. This is the first year that Ellis is under center for the Blazers. He replaces Joe Webb who scored four touchdowns against UTEP last year in the Sun Bowl for a total of 313 yards.

UAB also has two running backs that can hurt an opposing team having both reeled-off runs of 50 yards or more. Sophomore quarterback's David Isabelle and junior Pat Shed have ran for a combine 667 yards with four touchdowns. Isabelle has run for 389 yards on 71 carries with all four touchdowns. Shed comes in with 277 yards on 44 carries.

"Bryan Ellis has been conference player of the week twice and their other quarterback, David Isabelle, is their leading rusher," Price said. "They have a really good wide receiver, Frantrell Forrest, and they have a junior college transfer Pat Shed who is a punt returner, kickoff returner and wide receiver."

UTEP senior quarterback Trevor Vittatoe is now the most prolific quarterback statistically in UTEP history after his record-breaking night against Rice. In the game against the Owls, Vittatoe broke three records. He is now the leader in total offense (11,117), total yards (11,260) and total touchdowns (89).

Kris Adams has been Vittatoe's go-to guy this year and against Rice was no different. In the game he caught five balls for 134 yards with three touchdowns. His performance against the Owls did not go unnoticed as he was named the C-USA Offensive Player of the Week. He now has 23 receptions for 553 yards and eight touchdowns on the year.

"Kris Adams is a tremendous outside receiver. He can run and out-jump the defensive backs," Price said. "He's faster than he looks. He's good on deep routes. He's a good target. He seems to have a real knack for tracking the ball and jumping at the right time. He has a real good chance to play on Sundays."

The Miner defense is continuing to keep opponents from scoring as they held Rice to just 10 points before entering the fourth quarter. The Owls managed to score twice in the fourth quarter, but that was against a defense that was predominately second string.

"Our defense is ranked fourth in C-USA and 50th nationally. It's fantastic, isn't it," Price said. "It gives us a chance to win. It's so great to hear our crowd ‘ooh' and ‘ahh' for the defensive plays and chant ‘Defense.'"

UTEP heads to Birmingham, Alabama to face UAB at 2 p.m. Oct. 16 at Legion Field. The Miners are vying for their fifth straight win and a sixth win on the season, which would officially make them bowl eligible. The game will be televised in El Paso on Time Warner Cable Sports Channel 24.

Alex Morales may be reached at prospector@utep.edu.

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