Audio (MP3)June 29th Miners Madness Podcast MP3
Archive for June, 2010
In the first part of my predictions, I picked the Miners to be at 6-0 after the first six games of the season. As I said, many were less optimistic than I, and some questioned my sanity. You expect that when you predict more wins than losses for the Miners football team.
At 6 wins and 0 losses, the Miners confidence will begin to grow, and they will need it when they travel to Birmingham to play the Blazers. These two teams will be a pretty even match. UAB has a pretty decent offense of their own, and they always feel like they can out-muscle the Miners. The Miners’ offensive line, and Donald Buckram will put a stop to that. The Miners’ offensive strength, and the confidence the Miners come into this game with will put another “W” in the Miners’ win column.
Tulane comes to El Paso, and this one will be fun for a Sun Bowl full of crazy Miners fans. It will be apparent that this team is special, and El Pasoans will want to be a part of this one.
Spirits will be dampened, and Miners fans will be brought back to reality when the Miners travel east to play Marshall. I think this is a game the Miners will lose. I think Marshall plays defense well enough to keep us from having our way, and the long trip east will take its toll. As much as anything, I just feel like were have to lose a couple of games, and this might just be one of them.
We get back on track against SMU. Our fans, our Sun Bowl, and our running game, will be the difference in this one.
Arkansas puts us in our place.
But, we regroup, and travel to Tulsa for our last game of the regular season. Our offense, especially the running game, keeps our defense from being worn down, and in a terrific game, a game of good old fashioned, hard-nosed football, the Miners come home with the close win.
Here’s my complete prediction for C-USA as I gave on June 20th.
So. Miss. 10-2 8-0
UCF 9-3 6-2
Marshall 8-4 6-2
ECU 5-7 5-3
Memphis 3-9 2-6
UAB 3-9 1-7
UTEP 10-2 7-1
Houston 7-5 5-3
SMU 5-7 4-4
Tulsa 5-7 3-5
Tulane 3-9 1-7
Rice 1-11 0-8
I will post my predictions for each C-USA team game by game in upcoming posts.
On the June 20th Miners Madness program, I predicted that the Miners would go 10-2 this season. Most people out there are much less optimistic in their predictions. Many frustrated Miners fans are simply hoping for a winning season. I will admit that my vision is always filtered through orange colored lenses, but I don’t think my 10-2 prediction is crazy. So, I thought I should explain how I came up with that prediction. We’ll take a look at the Miners’ schedule, game by game. One of the things I looked at was what I call my Modified Rankings. It is an average of the team’s 2009 NCAA Ranking in these four areas, Total Offense, Scoring Offense, Total Defense, and Scoring Defense. That ranking, from 2009, along with adjustments I make to reflect players gained or lost, coaching changes, and other factors are what I used to make my predictions. Here is the Modified Rankings of the teams of interest for the 2010 Miners’ season;
So. Miss. 47.75
The first game on the Miners’ schedule is Arkansas Pine Bluff. I don’t think I need to explain this win for the Miners. This should be a good game to get the season off on the right track. Also, it should be a great way to get mentally set for the next game, a tough game, against the Cougars in Houston.
So, let’s take a closer look at this second game of the season, UTEP at Houston. I have to begin with the fact that Houston will bring the country’s top rated offense from last season into this game. So, you have to give the edge to Houston’s offense. But, how much and in what way, will be important here. UTEP’s offense will probably be in the nation’s top twenty this season, too. And, although Houston will rack up the yardage, through the air, the Miners will bring a more balanced offensive attack. Donald Buckram, and the Miners’ offensive line will provide the Miners with the needed control of the clock to do two things. One, it will limit the possessions Houston has with which to score, and two, it will give the UTEP defense enough time off of the field to keep from being worn down by the Cougar’s offense.
That brings me to the defenses. Last season, Houston’s defense was ranked 111th. Of course, UTEP’s was right there with them at 110th. Houston is switching to a 3-4 defense this year, and UTEP is switching from the failed 3-3-5 defense of the past two years, to a more conventional 4-3 defense. Houston lost a lot of their top defensive players from last season, and I believe their defense may rank even worse at the end of this season than last. On the other hand, I believe UTEP’s defense will be much improved this season. I look for UTEP’s defense to be much better at stopping teams from being able to sustain long, time consuming, defense tiring, will breaking, drives. When this game is over, the Miners will be 2-0.
Next up on the Miners schedule will be NMSU. This game won’t be close. UTEP will do whatever it wants against the Aggies in the Sun Bowl.
The next game is against Memphis. This game has an interesting extra twist to it. It pits Mike Price’s, and his son Aaron Price’s offense, against Mike Price’s other son, Eric Price’s offense. Both sides will have a pretty good idea of what to expect from the other team’s offense. Memphis has an inexperienced new head coach, and a new coaching staff. I think there will be some signs of settling, or lack of, in this game. I think this one will be a comfortable UTEP win.
Then, the Miners take a bus ride to the Duke City for their next game. The Lobos have little in the way of offense to bring to the game, and an equally bad defense. The Miners will score early, and often. The Lobos’ offense will give the Miners’ defense a chance to settle in, and gain confidence under their new defensive coordinator.
Rice is simply horrible. I know, UTEP has trouble with Rice. I know, UTEP can never take any game for granted. Rice is horrible. After six games, I predict the Miners will be 6-0, and feeling pretty good about themselves.
We’ll take a look at the second half of the season, next time.
Wow! Tulane. This is a tough one. Last season the Tulane offense was ranked 105 out of 120 schools Their defense was ranked 102 out 120. Their offense was fairly balanced. They ran the ball 395 times, and they passed the ball 373 times. But scoring wasn’t balanced at all. Tulane scored 193 points, but their opponents scored 440 points. They gave up twice as many yards on the ground as they gained. Tulane rushed for an average of 105 yards per game, and their opponents averaged 205. They did pretty much keep up on the passing though. They averaged 207, while their opponents averaged 218. They had possession of the ball about as much of the time as did their opponents. Part of the problem was that they only picked the ball off 5 times while being intercepted 14 times. They also lost the ball on fumbles seven more times than they gained possession. So, let’s summarize. Their defense was bad, and their offense was bad, and they turned the ball over a lot.
They bring to mind a little story. Mr. Johnson rushed his pregnant wife to the hospital. Finally, a nurse came into the waiting room and nervously told Mr. Johnson that his wife had given birth to an 8 pound 4 ounce eyeball.
“Eyeball?” he gasped Dang!
“What could be worse?”, he asked.
“It’s blind”, replied the nurse.
What does that have to do with Tulane football, you ask? Well, I think it is going to get worse. On offense, 7 starters will return, including their quarterback, Ryan Griffin. Also, 4 of his starting 5 linemen are back. But, although they only lost 4 starters, they are key players.Tailback Andre Anderson, their number one scorer, number one running back, and their number three receiver, is gone. Fullback Antoine Duplessis, number 4 in rushing yards, and 6th in receiving, is gone. Wide Receiver Jeremy Williams, 3rd best in soring, 2nd leading rusher, and number 1 receiver is gone. That’s the good news. The bad news is the defense. They return 4 starters, but lose seven. Gone is their leading tackler, Safety Chinonso Echeblem. Their second leading tackler, LB Travis Burks is gone. They lose their also lose their 7th, 8th, and 10th leading tacklers. They have lost both of the starting Defensive Ends, and a starting Defensive Tackle, They lost two starting Linebackers, a Cornerback, and their best Safety. With all of that in mind, here are my predictions;
9/2 SE Louisiana W
9/11 Ole Miss L
9/25 @ Houston L
10/2 @ Rutgers L
10/9 Army W
10/16 @ Tulsa L
10/23 @ UTEP L
10/30 SMU L
11/6 So. Miss. L
11/13 Rice W
11/20 UCF L
11/27@ Marshall L
3-9 All Games
Let’s take a little trip back in time. In the early 1950′s the Miners had a coach named Mike Brumbelow. From 1950 to 1956 he racked up 46 wins and just 24 defeats, with 3 ties. Ask you fathers and grandfathers about him. That must have been a great time to be a Miners football fan. Then, from 1957 to 1964 Ben Collins, Bum Phillips, and Warren Harper combined, won a total of 25 games, while losing 49, and tying 3. Then came those Flyin’ Miners of Bobby Dobbs. From 1965 to 1971 Dobbs won 41 and lost 35. In 1972 he went 1-5 before being replaced by Tommy Hudspeth, who went 1-3 that year.Thus began the Dark Ages of UTEP Football. From 1972 through 1985 the Miners really lived up to their name, digging themselves into a deep hole, and the only light in the darkness came from their mining helmets. During that 14 year period Hudspeth, Gil Bartosh, Bill Michael, Bill Alton, and Bill Yung combined to win a whopping 20 games, while guiding their teams to 133 losses. The Miner’s headlamps must have had dead batteries by then. Twenty out of one hundred fifty-three. For those of you who like percentages, that is 13.1% games won, and 86.9% games lost. Then, along came UTEP’s High Plains Drifter, Bob Stull. His first season his team went 4-7. The next year his team went 7-5. In his third year, he led the Miners to 10 wins and only 2 losses. Then, he rode out of town into the shimmering heat waves of the desert, fading into the mirage, taking the light of day with him. UTEP fell into the Second Dark Ages of UTEP Football. From 1989 through 2003, David “Wrap Around Draw” Lee, Charlie Bailey, and Gary Nord picked and shoveled their way to a 45-139-2 record. Again, for the percentages folks, that’s 24.2% wins against a 75.8% loss record. Take away the three Stull years and from 1957-2003 you get 47 years (two + generations) of football in which the Miners won 65 games and lost 339. Many of you younger folks knew that we were bad, but perhaps didn’t have any idea of just how bad we were.
Speaking of fans, what was attendance like during those years? For the years of 1963 and 1964, the Miners had an average attendance of 12,500. During the Bobby Dobbs years of 1965-1971, the first four averaged 24,000. Then as wins dwindled, so did attendance. The three years from 1969-1971 saw the numbers fall from 19, 000 to 16,000, to 13,000. For the next two years, the Dobbs/Hudspeth 2-8 team and the Tommy Hudspeth 0-11 team had only 9,000 fans watching. Rubberneckers! Alright, some of them were just Miners fans to the bone. The next year, brought a new coach and renewed hope, as the attendance swelled back up to 19,000. But, from 1974-1985, Bill Yung’s final year, attendance averaged 17,900. Bob Stull’s 1986 team had 27,000 fans watch them go 4-7. That was enough to bring out 42,00 fans for his 7-5 season. The huge rush of attendance passed, and for his 10-2 season attendance fell to 35,000. Then, the Second Dark Ages of UTEP Football came, and attendance averaged 27,000 for the years from 1989 through 2003, even though the Miners were still losing 76% of their games. That, is a testament to hope, and the Miners football fans.
In 2004, the UTEP Miners hired Mike Price to coach the team. The story of how he came to coach at UTEP is well known, so I won’t bother to retell it. Suffice it to say that we had a coach that had taken another program, the Washington State Cougars, from Pac 10 doormat to the Rose Bowl for the first time in more than 60 years. His last two years at WSU, his teams went 20-5. In his first two seasons his Miners went 8-4, and 8-4, and the Miners went to bowl games for the first time since the Bob Stull team of 1988. Attendance soared. For the games played in the Sun Bowl for his first season, the attendance averaged 42 thousand per game, and in 2005 it swelled to an average of 48 thousand per game. Expectations had been set high. If he could do that in his first two years, fans could only dream about what the future could bring. Shoot, people (the craziest of the crazy UTEP fans) were even thinking National Championships. But, the next four seasons proved to be much less than what had been hoped for, or expected. The Miners had gone from the WAC to a tougher C-USA, and the wins didn’t come as easy. In 2006, the Miners went 5-7. In 2007, the went 4-8. The years 2008 and 2009 saw the pattern repeated, with records of 5-7 and 4-8. Many of the losses in those four years could easily have been wins. Many of the losses brought back memories of UTEP teams from the past, when inventing ways to lose was a UTEP specialty. Attendance has begun to fall, with the four losing seasons. The people of El Paso have taken a shine to Mike Price, and it seems that he has taken a shine to El Paso. In 2004, and 2005 he could easily have run for mayor and won, nowadays he is just greeted warmly where ever he goes. Once seen as a savior, he is now seen as a genuinely warm, friendly, good man. He is no longer asked to turn water into wine.
In normal football towns, expectations are normal. There is generally a cycle that is followed. An average team is expected to become above average, of course. But, normal isn’t bad. There is usually some better than average years to balance out those less than average years. Usually, normal teams will, in the never ending search for excellence, let a coach go after a period of normalcy. Very often, there will be success with a new coach, to a certain extent from the fresh energy the new coach brings to the team, even if it is only temporary.
UTEP Football is not normal. There is a fifty year history of almost unimaginably bad football, with a few, odd, bright spots. Looking at the”program” it has been arguably the worst in Division 1 football. Mike Price could have pulled a duct tape and baling wire fix, and moved on after his two 8-4 seasons. Instead, he has committed himself to repaying the people of El Paso, and UTEP, by undertaking the almost impossible task of building a program. A younger coach might not have stayed to try. A coach without his previous experience at WSU, where he saw the efforts of his 14 years come to fruition, might not have had the confidence, or knowledge, to try. A coach who hadn’t become the butt of jokes, only to be welcomed with love and friendship, might not have felt the need to repay the kindness and trust.
To build a program from scratch is a tremendous undertaking. But, in this case the job is even tougher. In order to lay the foundation, the layers of quicksand the previous 50 years had put down has to be removed. The first two years of winning brought energy and bought some time, but the real work was so much more than just winning those games. Things like depth, changing the perception of UTEP football so that recruits could come here not as a last resort. Changing entire mind sets for both players and fans from expecting to lose, to normal expectations of winning. First, to winning enough to be normal. Then to winning enough to be a winning program. He began his project by changing his player’s perceptions, and expectations of themselves. They expected losing, and he told them to expect winning. They did win, but they too knew about Pale Riders, and energy new coaches bring with them. But, it was a start. When losses came, he didn’t scream and yell. He didn’t beat them back down. He didn’t overreact. He let them know that even with great effort there would be times that that wouldn’t be enough, but that was no reason, or excuse, to stop trying. he gave them reason to believe, even when it seemed so easy not to, when it seemed so easy to fall back on what was a tradition at UTEP. Losing. It was a small step. But it was an important step. It was the beginning of the laying of the foundation. It was the stakes establishing where the foundation would be poured. The high powered offense he brought made for exciting football, even if it wasn’t always winning football. It brought fans to watch. Winning is the best fan attractant, but a high scoring offense is close. And, it is a step up from losing. Losing without even being able to cheer for some big plays isn’t much fun at all. Losing, but being able to cheer for some exciting plays is a little better. Winning some is better than that, and winning them all is best. But, steps have to be taken, in order. No longer losing dismally, allowed him to add decent recruits. To build depth. To provide leaders with troops worth leading. Offense has become established. Even to most critical fans go into games knowing we will be able to put points on the board. The frame has been completed. Offense wins games, and puts fans in the seats. Defense wins championships, and builds fans with staying power, confidence, and strength of character. These are the kinds of fans that don’t just get their teams fired up for games. These are the kinds of fans that teams draw strength from when the going gets tough, when players have to dig down deep in the fourth quarter of games that normal teams, and normal players might concede but winners won’t. Offense is easier to build. It can be built with players with flash. Defense is tougher to build. It requires players with toughness, strength, and deep character. Being Ali was much more fun than being Joe Frazier. Dancing, jabbing, and throwing quick right hands, while building up points and chipping away at an opponent’s will was fun. Wading through five or six bunches to deliver a left hook isn’t nearly as much fun. That takes will power, determination and character.
UTEP defense is what is being built, now. Coach Patterson, is a Joe Frazier kind of guy. Talk to him and you come away from it knowing that he is defense, the way defense was meant to be. Tough, hard-nosed, no compromise, slap that smile off of your cocky face, kind of defense. Along the way, depth of defensive players has come, along with players with depth of character to play it. The defense is the plumbing, wiring, and sheetrock.
The special teams are the paint and trim. The “program” is well on the way to completion. This year’s schedule could be the “Open House”. I believe we may very well see our Miners win 9 or more games, this season. The water was been drained from the quicksand. Rock, covered by fill dirt, and topsoil was been brought in, and this program has been built on a solid foundation. There is still work to be done, but this reclamation project is well on it’s way.
First, a little history. The Western Athletic Conference was established in 1962. BYU’s AD, Eddie Kimball was the man behind it’s formation. The first six members were BYU, Utah, Wyoming, UNM, AZ, and AZ State. In 1967, Texas Western(UTEP) coming off of its winning the National Basketball Championship, and Colorado State joined, bringing the number of schools to eight. In 1978, AZ and AZ State left, to join the Pac 8, and brought the Pac 8 to 10 members, thus it became the Pac 10. In 1979, San Diego State, and Hawaii joined the WAC, bringing its membership back up to 8. The next year, the Air Force Academy joined the WAC, and the membership grew to 9. The conference remained this way for nearly fifteen years. In 1992 Fresno State joined the conference, bring its membership to ten. Then, in 1996 the first “mega conference” came into being, when the WAC added Rice, TCU, SMU, San Jose State, UNLV, and Tulsa.
In 1999, five members, AFA, BYU, Utah, Colorado State, and Wyoming, feeling that athletic and academic excellence had been compromised by the expansion of 1996, and along with those concerns and concerns about travel costs, they met secretly and formed their new conference, the Mountain West Conference. Those five included UNLV, San Diego State, and UNM in the newly formed conference.
Left in the WAC were UTEP, member since 1967, and Hawaii member since 1979. It has always been an angry topic of discussion in El Paso, as to the reasons why UTEP was abandoned, and the way it was done (behind UTEP’s back). So I decided to look at their stated reasons for leaving, and their choices of whom to include. I looked at wins and losses, attendance, facilities, and other factors. The numbers I used were not what I would have liked to use, as they weren’t readily available from many of the school’s websites. Even so, I think the raise some questions.
First, let’s look at the reason given that academic excellence was being compromised by the 16 members of the WAC, and how they compared to the 8 members that formed the MWC. Here is who were invited to join the MWC, and here are the schools who were left out.
Some how, some way, that academic excellence issue looks a little weak to me. I mean no offense, but the top 5 on the MWC list chose the other three, and left three of the eight on the WAC list? So, I figure academic excellence wasn’t really a top priority for them. How does UTEP fit in, academically? UTEP has a unique mission, and that is tied to it’s location on the US/Meico border. In order to best serve the community, it has an open enrollment policy. Because of this, graduation rates suffer. It is the largest university in the U.S. with a majority Mexican-American student population (about 75%). It is the only such university to be classified RU/H (“Research Universities (high research activity)”) by the Carnegie Foundation. The university ranked, in 2006, second in federal research spending among UT System academic institutions. The National Science Foundation has designated UTEP as a Model Institution for Excellence, one of only six in the country. UTEP is one of only 11 universities nationwide to receive a $5 million Teachers for a New Era (TNE) research grant from the Carnegie Corporation. Hispanic Business magazine has twice ranked UTEP as the number one graduate engineering school for hispanics. The National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering has called (UTEP) “a model for other engineering institutions who say that today’s minority young people from low-income families can’t succeed in a rigorous math- or science-based discipline.” So, although the open enrollment policy hurts graduation rates, for many for whom this is their only opportunity to attend college, it does an excellent job. So, take a look at the chart and see if there is compelling evidence that academic excellence was the(a) factor.
So maybe it was athletic excellence that was more what it was about. I’m just going to ask you if you feel like San Diego State, UNM, and UNLV were better football teams than Tulsa, TCU, or Hawaii? From 1980-1997, UNM was 77-141 (35.3%), UNLV was 82-125 (39.6%), and San Diego St. was 99-110 (47.3%), in football. Tulsa, from 1977-1999 went 127-131 (49%), TCU was 86-151 (36%) from 1977-1997, and Hawaii was 109-110 (50%) from 1980-1998. Now, it is common knowledge around these parts that UTEP was not good at football during that period. They had a 55-162 (25%) record for the period of 1980-1998.
Let’s look at facilities, and attendance. Here, it was difficult to get figures from before 2000, but I think they are still somewhat representative of fan support for the programs I will list.
|Wyoming averaged about 18,000/game from 2000-2008
AFA averaged about 39,000/game from 2002-2008
San Diego St. averaged about 30,000/game
Co St. about 24, 000
UNLV about 23,000
UNM about 33,000
UTEP about 35,000Facilities;
Wyoming FB Stadium=30,500 BB arena =15,000
AFA ” =46.7 ” Unk.
SD St. “ =71,000 “ 12,400
Co St. ” =39,100(?) “ 11,600(?)
UNLV ” =36,800 “ 18,500
UNM “ =39,200 “ 18,000(SRO)
UTEP ” =52,000 “ 12,200
When the WAC broke up and the MWC was formed, the amount of television coverage for almost all but the top ten teams in the country was very limited. Bowl games did allow some exposure for some other teams as ESPN came on the scene. So, I don’t think that could have been too much of a factor.
The five who engineered the break sited travel expensed as a factor. Let me give you some mileage, and we will see how well that holds up.
|City to City miles
Laramie, WY -> El Paso, TX= 856
“ San Diego, CA= 1132
“ LV, NV= 807
Provo, UT -> LV, NV= 381
“ SD, CA= 707
“ EP, TX= 820
Ft. Collins,CO EP, TX= 775
SD, CA= 1138
LV, NV= 813
Alb. NM EP, TX= 266
LV, NV= 574
SD, CA= 765
Travel expenses? I don’t think UTEP was the problem, there.
Let me give you two more possible factors that they didn’t mention. From 1980-1998 UTEP basketball teams won 383 games, and lost 194. The Miners earned the conference title outright 3 times in that period, and tied for it 3 more times. Let me remind you that the Don Haskins coached basketball team won the National Championship in 1966 starting an all African American team. UTEP’s student population is 75% Hispanic. The Mormon Church prohibited individuals of African descent from joining the Church’s lay priesthood until 1978. The Mormon Church had a long history of discrimination against people of “color”. I am not claiming that UTEP was left behind because of this, but I am saying it deserves some thought that it may have played a role. Perhaps more importantly, will it play any role in the conference realignment taking place, right now?