Heisman hopeful leads Sooners into the Sun Bowl
Miners open 2012 non-conference schedule against no.4 Oklahoma
Published: Tuesday, August 28, 2012
Updated: Friday, May 17, 2013 13:05
The UTEP Miners will have their hands full, when they kick off their 2012 campaign against the nationally fourth ranked, Oklahoma Sooners at 8:30 p.m. Sept. 1, at the Sun Bowl.
This will be the first time the Miners host a team with national championship aspirations since facing the Texas Longhorns in 2008 in front of 53,415 in attendance.
With 14,000 tickets still available, head coach Mike Price is hoping to see a sell-out crowd at the Sun Bowl for the opener.
“We definitely want to emphasize the concept of selling out the Sun Bowl, it’s something really important to our athletic department, our football team and university,” Price said. “(It’s) a chance to showcase our football team, our university and yet really, a chance to showcase El Paso and the fans.”
The Miners and Sooners have faced each other twice since 2000. Oklahoma came out on top in both ocassions with a combined score of 123-14.
Despite the lack of success, players and coaches seem optimistic about the challenge.
“The team is really excited, and we are working really hard, we are still a long way from where we need to be, but we are way ahead of our schedule compared to other years,” linebackers coach Robert Rodriguez said. “We have a good group of leaders, we have a good group of talent, we just have to make sure we execute.”
Last year, UTEP senior quarterback Nick Lamaison started nine games and threw for a total of 1,718 yards, 12 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
Senior Mike Edwards led the team receiving, with a total of 50 receptions for 657 yards and three touchdowns.
For 2012, the weight of the passing offense will fall on the two returning wide receivers, Edwards and Jordan Leslie.
On the other hand, the No. 4 ranked Sooners, bring Heisman Trophy hopeful, quarterback Landry Jones.
Jones completed 339 of 537 attempts for a total of 4,463 yards, 29 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.
Despite losing wide receiver Ryan Broyles to the NFL, the Sooners still count with Kenny Stills and running back Dominic Whaley to lead the offense.
Sooners head coach Bob Stoops, hired his brother, Mike Stoops as a defensive coordinator to solidify their defense and avoid any surprises.
“This is always the hardest week. Everybody is kind of anxious to get into game week and game preparation. We started a little bit earlier splitting the time up between getting good fundamental work with our offense and getting ready for UTEP,” Mike said. “We are so used to seeing our offense, you almost have got to deprogram yourself and get focused on another team.”
The Miners had their second scrimmage on Aug. 18 at the Sun Bowl, where the running game looked solid with sophomore running back Nathan Jeffrey with 103 yards and two touchdowns in only five carries.
Freshman Autrey Golden scored two more times and covered 80 yards in nine carries. In total the group of running backs combined for 251 yards.
“We need to be making big plays to help the team,” sophomore tight end Eric Tomlinson said. “We should get the ball a lot this year and we need to help the team win games, especially the first one against Oklahoma.”
Last season the Miners finished their campaign with a 5-7 record, one win shy of bowl eligibility. The Miners finished fifth in the Conference USA West Division, on top of Tulane.
The Sooners, who were the preseason favorites in 2011, lost their last two road games against Baylor and Oklahoma State and finished fourth in the Big 12 Conference.
This season is another opportunity for Oklahoma and the game against UTEP is special for the Sooners senior quarterback Jones.
Jones played high school football 200 miles away from El Paso in Artesia N.M. where he lead his team to consecutive 4-A state championships.
“It is just three hours southeast of us, so it is not too bad of a drive. I hope a lot of people get to come out to the game,” Jones said. “I never thought I would go to El Paso to play a football game. That is exciting and fun to be able to do.”
Jones did play in El Paso back in 2009 leading the Sooners past Stanford in the annual Sun Bowl game.
The Sooners are one of four non-conference opponents for the Miners in the 2012 season, in addition to rivals New Mexico State and road games against Ole Miss and Wisconsin.
Price expressed his satisfaction with the team’s has performances in practices during the offseason and feels the team is healthy and ready to go.
“What’s been impressive to me this year? No bad practices, every practice has been a good one,” Price said. “It has something to do with the character and chemistry of our team...we have really good people leading our team.”
Edwin Delgado may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org