They’re not who we thought they were
Published: Tuesday, September 4, 2012
Updated: Friday, May 17, 2013 13:05
After the 24-7 home opening loss to perennial Big 12 powerhouse Oklahoma, I was just waiting for head coach Mike Price to start a rant during postgame interviews.
Much like former Arizona Cardinals head coach Dennis Green did in 2006 after blowing a 20-point lead to the Chicago Bears and yelling during the postgame presser, “They are who we thought they were, and we let them off the hook.”
That didn’t happen, but the Miners’ first contest of 2012 against the Sooners was much closer than the score indicates. Surprisingly, UTEP led 7-0 for most of the first half and were only trailing by three at the start of the fourth quarter.
And to use the words of Green, the Miners are not who we thought they were.
Oklahoma entered the game ranked in the Associated Press preseason poll as the fourth-best team in the country. They were also favored to win by 31.
The Miners did more than covering the spread, they held their own against a team that is flooded with All-Americans, including a Heisman Trophy candidate in senior quarterback Landry Jones.
Perhaps the 2012 Miners are better than anyone expected, or perhaps Oklahoma is just overrated.
I’d like to think the latter.
Price is entering his ninth and final year under contract with UTEP. The defense is made up of veteran players that are led by third year defensive coordinator Andre Patterson, who spent most of the past 10 years working for various staffs in the NFL.
Prior to the game, Price said he wanted sophomore running back Nathan Jeffery to carry the ball 20 times per game. Jeffery carried the ball 21 times and sure made the most of it, gaining 177 yards in the process.
The problem is, the UTEP offense did not generate any points. Jeffery did score the lone touchdown for the Miners, but that came off a blocked punt that he recovered and returned for the score.
To those who witnessed the defensive struggle Sept. 1 at the Sun Bowl, saw that the Miners blow many opportunities to jump ahead on the Sooners. Leaving nine points on the board after both place kickers missed a trio of field goal attempts has many wondering what could have been.
Had the Miners connected on those field goals the score could have been 16-10 in favor of UTEP heading into the final quarter.
Instead the score remained 10-7 for Oklahoma and forced Price to gamble on a fake punt that led to the Sooners having a short field and jump ahead by 10.
If the Miners play much like they did against Oklahoma, there is no reason why they shouldn’t contend for the conference championship.
Done with talking hypotheticals, Miner fans should be optimistic and excited about what lies ahead for the team this year.
The type of effort they displayed Sept. 1 should only propel the Miners onto a successful season.
After all, the Miners find themselves in a conference that went a combined 2-10 in week one of play.
Daniel Ornelas may be reached at email@example.com.