Miners travel to Camp Randall
1-2 UTEP wraps up non-conference schedule against Big Ten’s Wisconsin
Published: Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Updated: Friday, May 17, 2013 12:05
The UTEP Miners will travel 1,400 miles for their final non-conference game of the season against the Big Ten conference defending champions Wisconsin Badgers, Sept. 22 at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison.
“They are fundamentally sound on defense and you are going to have to block them and knock them down,” UTEP head coach Mike Price said. “On their offense you know where they are going to run but you have to defeat that block from a blocker who is stronger and bigger than you and tackle their All-American running back (senior Montee Ball).”
The Badgers have a new signal caller in place, junior quarterback Danny O’Brian, who transferred from Maryland to replace now Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.
Through three games, O’Brian has thrown three touchdowns and is averaging just over 150 yards per game.
Wisconsin escaped close games against Football Championship Subdivision Northern Iowa in their season opener 26-21. One week later, the Badgers fell 10-7 against Oregon State. After the game, Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema fired his offensive line coach Mark Markuson.
The Badgers had another close game Sept. 15, edging Utah State 16-14 who missed a game winning-field goal in the dying seconds of the contest.
On the other hand, the Miners won a crucial game over rival NM State 41-28, their first of the season. That also gave UTEP seniors a 4-0 record against the Aggies.
“We haven’t focused on them (Wisconsin) yet; on Monday we should watch film on them,” junior linebacker A.J. Ropati said after the Sept. 15 win. “I heard they are a good team, we must respect their tradition and their history. This win (against the Aggies) is a huge confidence boost going into this game.”
At the start of the season, the Badgers were the 12th ranked team in the country in the Associated Press poll. The Badgers have dropped out of the top 25 in the AP poll and now only appear as the 24th ranked team in the Coaches/USA Today poll.
Despite losing their starting quarterback, the Badgers still have experienced playmakers on their offense, among them is last season’s Heisman trophy finalist Ball, who has 320 yards rushing and two touchdowns in his first three games, while junior wide receiver Jared Abbrederis has registered seven receptions for 118 yards.
After the win over the Aggies, Price mentioned he was proud of the toughness and willingness to play of his players.
He also said that sophomore running back Nathan Jeffery was ready to comeback against the Aggies, although he didn’t play much, but is expected to be 100 percent in the game against Wisconsin.
“Our defense is confident, they are getting well coached by (defensive coordinator) Andre Patterson and the other coaches obviously, putting the guys in the right position to make things happen, rotating a lot of people, a lot of guys are playing,” Price said. “Ropati, who I didn’t think would play, Drew Thomas (senior) cornerback who I didn’t think was going to play after he bruised his knee, those two guys sucked it up and played and we should be close to full strength against Wisconsin.”
Price said that the experience of their last road game against Ole Miss, where they played in front of 60,000, will be helpful when they play at Camp Randall Stadium in front of 80,000-plus fans.
The Miners are currently 0-16 on the road against BCS conference schools and will try to get a big landmark win to get to conference play full of confidence.
Kickoff is at 10 a.m. Mountain time and will air live on ESPN2.
“Wisconsin is a great team, and we have our hands full, but we need to go out there and practice like any other week,” sophomore wide receiver Jordan Leslie said. “It’s about us, that’s our motto, it’s about us. We just want to play hard and go out there and do what we can do.”
Edwin Delgado may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.