Bowl Season

UTEP(6-6) VS BYU (6-6)
BYU hammers UTEP 52-24
3 Stars
1. BYU QB Jake Heaps- The superb freshman made only 1 mistake completing 25 of 34 passes for 4 touchdowns and 1 interception. He had 264 yards through the air in what may be a coming out party for the 2011 Cougars.
2. BYU WR Cody Hoffman- Hoffman was absolutely unstoppable with 8 receptions for 137 yards and 3 touchdowns. The freshman averaged 17.1 yards per catch.
3. BYU RB- Josh Quezada- Quezada had 15 carries for 101 as part of a dominating backfield for BYU. His combination of speed and power gave the Miners trouble all day. Oh yeah, he is also a freshman.

All 3 stars are freshman and all 3 stars are from BYU. Congrats to the Cougars.

 Mountain West vs. WAC                                      Albuquerque, N.M.
                                     University Stadium
                    Dec. 18
                    2 p.m.

New Mexico Bowl Preview
The Miner offense is 73rd in  the country in total offense. A lot of that can be attributed to QB Trevor Vittatoe, who has passed for over 2500 yards this year in the single back set the Miners use. His top receiver is Kris Adams, who has 903 receiving yards. Look for some deep shots to him early and often by offensive coordinator Aaron Price. UTEP will have to establish the run to set up the pass and that's where junior RB Joseph Banyard steps in. He is averaging 5.7 yards per carry and has 8 touchdowns. Also look for WR Marlon McClure to make some big plays. The sophomore is electric in space and will make plays on special teams as well as offensively.
The BYU offense has been based on the run, but look for the Cougars to air the ball out with freshman QB Jake Heaps. Heaps has thrown for just over 2000 yards, but has made his fair share of mistakes with 8 interceptions to his 11 touchdowns. It's nice to have the luxury of a three-headed rushing attack that the Cougars own. J.J. Di Luigi is seen as the most versatile back, while Bryan Kariya is a power back. The future of the program, combo back Josh Quezada may have a big game. The freshman back is averaging 4.8 yards per carry. When he drops back in the pocket, Heaps will look to fellow freshman Cody Hoffman and McKay Jacobson. Though the offense hasn't been great, there is definite potential with this young group.
The BYU defense has been greatly improved since the firing of defensive coordinator Jamie Hill and head coach Bronco Mendenhall took over the duties himself. They have not given up more than 20 points in their last five games. The Cougar defense will be hard to pass against with ballhawking safety Andrew Rich. Cornerback Brian Logan has also played well in the secondary. Defensive end Vic So'oto and NT Eathyn Manumaleuna will try to stuff the Miner rushing attack along with LB's Shane Hunter and Brandon Ogletree.
The UTEP defense has returned to a 4-3 set and has improved from last year, but it struggled towards the end of this year. The Miners won't blitz much, and will sit back in their set. Standout freshman tackle Germard Reed has had a fine season and was named to the C-USA all freshman team. The Miners will have to contain BYU and get the offense a chance to shine.

The pick: I like UTEP to win this game. I think their offense will preform and Marlon McClure and Kris Adams will have big games. QB Trevor Vittatoe will have a big performance in his final college game.
This pick has been made by and therefore will be correct.
 But if you disagree or agree with me send and email to saying who you think will win and why and I'll post it.... 

Adrian Macias, of was nice enough to answer a few questions about the UTEP Miners. Here it is.

BS:It was a great 5-1 start for the Miners this year. What was the difference in the second half  of the season. (1-5)?

Adrian Macias: There are some legitimate reasons for UTEP struggling in the second half but the bottom line always seems to center around Mike Price's inability to finish seasons strong.  Injuries were a factor.  Trevor Vittatoe, UTEP's QB, was hampered by a nagging ankle injury during the last half of the season.  Also, UTEP was down to their third and fourth string center and was forced to play musical chairs along the offensive line.  UTEP lost some key contributors on defense as well including team captain Braxton Amy (safety) in the second game of the season with a torn ACL.  Besides injuries, the Miners frankly played better teams down the stretch.  Their November schedule included three bowl teams in SMU, Arkansas and Tulsa.  That said, there is definitely concern in El Paso about a seemingly neverending string of second half meltdowns under Coach Price.  Here's something I wrote on the subject:

13-29.  That is Mike Price's record in the final 6 games of each of his seven seasons at UTEP.  UTEP raced to a 5-1 record this season before another Price team suffered another late season meltdown.   In 2006 the Miners lost 5 of their last 6.  In 2007, the Miners lost 6 straight to end the season.  in 2008, the Miners lost 4 of their last 6.,  In 2009, the Miners lost 4 of their last 6.  In 2010, the Miners lost 5 of their last 6.

BS:The offense was pretty good, (as was most in Conference USA). How would you describe the offense including senior Trevor Vittatoe, who has passed for over 2500 yards?

Adrian Macias:Good question that I love to answer.  Many people see Trevor Vittatoe's incredible career statistics (Over 10,000 career passing yards) and assume UTEP runs a gimmicky spread offense.  The Miners actually run a 1 back offense that requires Trevor to be under center for a majority of UTEP's snaps.   The coaches have integrated some spread and wildcat elements to the offense but UTEP typically stays in the 1 back formation.  Offensive Coordinator Aaron Price, yes Mike Price's son, loves to take advantage of Vittatoe's arm strength by featuring deep passes early and often.  Vittatoe's favorite target is 6'3 Kris Adams who I believe has NFL talent.  Adams led the C-USA in yards per reception (20+) and had 11 touchdowns.  He should pass the 1,000 yard receiving mark in the bowl game against BYU.

BS:What would your comments be about the Miner defense?

Adrian Macias: Improved.  Perhaps the biggest mistake Mike Price has made in El Paso was abandoning a traditional defensive scheme for the 3-3-5 defense.  The experiment, manned by Osia Lewis, was an absolute disaster and Price was forced to let Lewis go after last season.  He hired Andre Patterson, a former NFL defensive coordinator, to come in and move UTEP to a 4-3 set.  The Miners do not stunt or blitz often.  They don't gamble a lot because Patterson's mentality in year one has been to avoid the big play at all costs.  Consequently, UTEP has improved across the board statistically this season.  Yes, they are still below average in many regards, but they aren't the worst defense in the nation.  And last season, an argument could have been made that that's exactly what UTEP was.  Miner fans are thrilled with the job Patterson has done. Also know that UTEP was very young and inexperienced on the defensive line.  The Miners started a freshman, Germard Reed, at defensive tackle. He had a nice season and was named to the All C-USA Freshman team.  As he and other underclassmen like Marcus Bagley mature, the Miners will only continue to improve.

BS:Despite the disappointing finish to the season, how important is it that the Miners will be bowling for the first time since 2005?

Adrian Macias: It's huge.  UTEP hasn't had a coach take the Miners to three bowl games since the 1950's.  Mike Price desperately needed that sixth win against SMU and without it I don't see any way that he could have kept his job going into next season. Also, the players deserved it.  This is a team that started seniors seemingly across the board on offense.  Trevor Vittatoe, Donald Buckram, Alex Solot, Rod Huntley, Kris Adams...  These are guys that Miner fans will remember for a long time.  It's nice to see them end their careers with the reward of a bowl game experience.

BS: If you had to choose one player who will have a breakout performance in the bowl game, who would it be?

Adrian Macias: Kris Adams is always capable of taking over a game but if anybody can come out of seemingly nowhere with a big play or two it's UTEP's kick and punt returner Marlon McClure.  Marlon is one of the most dangerous return men in the country and is a threat to score everytime he touches the ball.  Against Arkansas, he had one of the most incredible kickoff returns for a touchdown I've ever seen.  He simply has another gear.  UTEP will use him in the running game and he is UTEP's second best wide receiver.  He's fun to watch.

Thanks a lot to Adrian Macias. Check him out at .

Jay Drew, a BYU beat writer for the Salt Lake Tribune was nice enough to answer some questions.

BS: The Cougars started 2-5, but won 4 of their last 5 including a
tough loss in the rivalry game vs Utah. What changed in the second
half of the season?

Jay Drew:Two things changed: BYU's defense got a lot better when coach Bronco
fired defensive coordinator Jaime Hill after the Cougars'
1-4 start and appointed himself d.c., and BYU's offense found its
stride under freshman quarterback Jake Heaps.
The Cougars were awful against the run in their first five games,
but started to figure it out in a 24-21 win over San Diego State. Of
course, not facing running teams such as Nevada and Air Force helped
a lot.
Heaps played in BYU's first three games, but didn't start. He
started to get more comfortable the second half of the season, and it
helped that BYU's receivers started catching the ball. The Cougars
were plagued by drops the first half of the year.

BS: This the first year in a while that BYU hasn't had a great
offense. How has freshman QB Jake Heaps adapted to the college game
in his first year? Who are his weapons, both in the backfield and at

Jay Drew:It has taken awhile, but Heaps has started to show the potential
that made him one of the country's most sought-after prep
quarterbacks. The Cougars don't have a superstar offensively, like in
year's past when they've had RB Harvey Unga, TE Dennis Pitta or WR
Austin Collie.
They've had a three-headed rushing attack this year, with freshman
Josh Quezada and juniors J.J. Di Luigi and Bryan Kariya sharing the
load. Di Luigi has been the most consistent weapon, and is the most
versatile. He can catch the ball out of the backfield, but also carry
it effectively. Kariya is the power back, while Quezada is a mixture
of both -- and seen as the star of the future.
Redshirt freshman Cody Hoffman has emerged as the receiver to watch;
Junior McKay Jacobson had a disappointing year, plagued somewhat by
nagging injuries, while senior Luke Ashworth finally broke out with
four touchdown catches against Colorado State after struggling to
hold on to the ball the first half of the year. There is no big
playmaker among the receivers, but the unit has been solid the last
5-6 games.

BS: The defense played well at times. What were the keys to that unit
and who are the top players?

Jay Drew: The key to the defense's improvement was Mendenhall taking over on a
daily basis. The Cougars started the year very inexperienced at
linebacker, which isn't good for a team that employs a 3-4 defense.
But guys such as Shane Hunter and Brandon Ogletree have found their
groove, and now the defense is fairly solid throughout.
The defense has been led all season by safety Andrew Rich, a MWC
all-conference pick. Defensive end Vic So'oto has also had a fine
year. Cornerback Brian Logan and nose tackle Eathyn Manumaleuna have
also emerged.

BS: If you could choose one player to have a breakout performance in
the bowl game, who would it be?

Jay Drew: That's a tough one, because this is a team that lacks superstars.
That said, I am going to say that quarterback Jake Heaps is going to
have another big game, just as he had the last few games of the
season. The Cougars are going to throw the ball a lot against UTEP,
showcasing Heaps' talents and trying to gain some momentum and
confidence for the teenager going into the offseason.

Thanks a lot to Mr. Drew. Check him out at .

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