Any BYU football fan who thinks things are tough in Provo these days should consider the plight of UTEP's football faithful, if such continue to exist.
Once again, the Miners have had a season to forget. What do you say about a team that is 1-10 this year and 11-45-1 over the past five? UTEP hasn't won since Sept. 11, when it defeated UNLV, 41-24.When the Miners dropped to 1-6 after a loss to Utah at home on Oct. 16, head coach David Lee resigned. Defensive coordinator Charlie Bailey replaced him, but things haven't gotten any better. Under Lee, the Miners were outscored by an average of 36-22. With Bailey at the helm, the average score has been 37-12.
UTEP has played some good teams close, but had serious letdowns against lesser opponents. They lost to Arizona by a mere 18 in the season opener, but got trashed 52-0 by Hawaii. They gave a Top 25 North Carolina team a 45-40 scare in North Carolina, but got trounced 52-0 by Colorado State at home. They came within a touchdown of Wyoming and New Mexico, but lost by three TDs to a weak Air Force team.
After senior linebacker Barron Wortham, who was voted the WAC defensive player of the year, this team isn't exactly talent-laden. No other Miner made the All-WAC first or second team, and only three earned honorable mentions. According to their statistics, the Miners can't pass, can't punt, can't block and can't convert third downs.
Offensively, the Miners run an option attack similar to Hawaii's. They have a couple of solid running backs in fullback Kaio Aumua, who averages 5.1 yards per carry, and slotback Ivory Durio, 6.7 yards per carry. They run the ball about twice as much as they pass, and considering the way they pass, that's no surprise.
The Miners have three quarterbacks, two who run the option well but have trouble passing, and one who throws decently but doesn't run the option as well. Junior Corey Tucker, a transfer from Moorpark Community College in California, is listed as the starter, with senior Mike Perez No. 2 and Shawn Gray No. 3.
The big problem is that the two QBs who run the option haven't gained many yards. Tucker, a 43-percent passer, has averaged 2.0 yards per carry. And Gray, a 41-percent passer, averages 1.6 yards per carry. Perez is the designated passer, having completed 30 of 50 passes for 390 yards, but he has appeared in just five games.
UTEP's greatest strength offensively is its placekicker, Marshall Young, who has made 10 of 12 field goals, including five of 6 from 40-49 yards.
Defensively, Wortham is the guy to watch. Lee called him the best linebacker he'd ever been associated with. The 6-foot, 230-pound senior from Everman, Texas, has 137 tackles this season, including nearly 11 per game unassisted. He has 12 tackles for loss, has caused three fumbles and intercepted two passes.
The Miners revamped their defense this season, for the second year in a row, but it hasn't helped considerably. They've already given up more points than last season.