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UTEP’s Mike Price talks Oklahoma loss, kicking woes

UTEP coach Mike Price talked to the media Sept. 3 about the loss to Oklahoma and the upcoming game against Ole Miss.

(On the Oklahoma game)
“I was very pleased with the atmosphere on Saturday night. The crowd was great, the weather was perfect and the opponent was perfect. It was an exciting game for the players and the fans. The game didn’t turn out the way we wanted it to, but our players were not one bit intimidated. They played full blast as hard as they could the whole game. We didn’t finish strong, but our defense was on the field a lot in the fourth quarter. Our offensive line played hard and tough. This team is tough, aggressive and they get after it. Our offensive line knocked them off the ball. We thought we could do that against Stony Brook [in the 2011 opener] and we didn’t, but we did it this year against Oklahoma and they’re no slouches. Their defense was solid and strong.

“Our passing game was missing on six of eight cylinders. We dropped the ball too many times. Nick [Lamaison] ran out a couple of times when he didn’t have to, they pressured him and covered our receivers well. They were strong with their hands and physical in the secondary against our receivers, but we had no penalties on the offensive line. We were onside the whole game. We had no holding calls. We did have three offsides penalties against our young receivers. We had no turnovers. We averaged seven yards per rush and Nathan Jeffery was honored as the Conference USA player of the week. He had a wonderful game. I didn’t realize I was going to run him 20 times in the first half.

“On defense we played lights out. It was the best defense we’ve seen as a Miner football team. We caused three fumbles and we had an interception dropped in our hands. There were very few missed tackles. We hit them and we got to their quarterback with three sacks. We probably didn’t help his Heisman Trophy candidacy.

“Our kicking game was good except for field goals. We covered well. Ian [Campbell] can punt better than that and he still averaged 46 yards per punt. Steve [Valadez] kicked all of the kickoffs that he had out of the end zone. We came up short but I’m still really proud of this team. It should be a confidence builder. If we can do what we did on Saturday night then we should be able to play pretty well once we get to Conference USA.

“We have to stay healthy. We have to hydrate and drink fluids earlier this week because it’s going to be hot and humid at Ole Miss, and we had some cramping against Oklahoma. We certainly gave effort and we weren’t too excited to play. I thought we might be too tight. We were in the game for most of it until the fake punt, which didn’t work. We lost a lot of momentum there. And we struggled to regain momentum with the missed field goals. We had some adversity and our guys played through it.”

(On Michael Edwards’ health)
“I’m not sure if he’s going to be able to play [on Saturday]. He got a concussion in the game and he has to pass his physical and mental test before he can be released to practice. If that’s the case, he’s probably out for this week. That creates some problems at punt returner because our backup punt returner Adrian James sprained his ankle and he will be out for at least two games. So that’s going to give me some concern with receiving punts.”

(On other injury concerns)
“Adam Ayala, our starting defensive tackle, went out in the first series [against Oklahoma]. Germard Reed got hurt, Ruben Munoz got hurt, Marcus Bagley got hurt and we were playing Greg Watkins at the defensive tackle position. But they played their hearts out. I think Bagley and Reed will be back. I wouldn’t think Adam will be back. Nathan Jeffery pulled a groin and Horace [Miller] and Eloy [Atkinson] both hurt their thumbs. These guys are tough. At halftime they were taping Horace’s thumb. He dislocated his thumb and wasn’t even whimpering. They just taped him and he went back in. Just like old school. I love it. So he’ll probably be wearing a cast of some kind. I think Nathan Jeffery is going to play. He’s not going to practice tomorrow.”

(On the fake punt try)
“We went for it fourth and one and put them in a bad position earlier in the game. I was disappointed we didn’t make that. The fake was there. The play was there. The hole was there. It was the same way in the previous three or four punts, it was a perfect setup and for some reason we practiced it all week and just didn’t run it to the right hole. We ran it up the middle instead of off tackle and off tackle was wide open. We did have some kids who were hurt who were on that team. Five of the guys were substitutes. If I was aware of that, it probably would have been enough to say no. It was supposed to go to Nathan Jeffery, but he cramped up and couldn’t go and we had to put [Josh] Bell in. If I had known that, in hindsight we shouldn’t have done that. But if you look at the tape, it was wide open and would’ve been a first down. It took whatever momentum we had going in the fourth quarter, and then we had nine plays on offense. Three downs and out, three downs and out, three downs and out. Come on, we’ve got to do better than that.”

(On the kicking situation)
“We have a competition every week. Steve will be our kickoff guy. Maybe Dakota will be our PAT guy because he gets the ball up quick and high and Ole Miss is a middle block team. They’re real good. They have huge guys up the middle. They’re going to be trying to come through the middle. For field goals, I don’t know what we’re going to do. We could run four downs.”

(On Ole Miss)
“They beat Central Arkansas, which is the winningest college football program in the state of Arkansas. They go to the playoffs quite often. They have a lot of transfers and they’re good. They played even the first half with Ole Miss. In the second half Ole Miss got to them, outplayed them and blew them out. They have a real good quarterback who was player of the year last year at East Mississippi Junior College. He’s a big guy who ran for two touchdowns [last week]. They only threw three incomplete passes. Last year’s starting QB, Randall Mackey, is the starting tailback so he can run a little wildcat and throw halfback passes.

“They’re no-huddle, they’re upbeat and up-tempo. They’re faster up-tempo than Okalhoma, so we’re going to have to work on that. They repeat good plays. If it’s a good play, they will come back and run it again as quickly as they possibly can. They run around with great enthusiasm on defense. They have outstanding athletes. Their d-line isn’t huge, but they’re tough and aggressive. Their ends are very good pass rushers. Their secondary made some picks and big plays in the game. They have another punter who’s in the top 25 coming back from last year. They’re really excited about their program and their new coach. They had a full house last Saturday night and will have another full house this Saturday night in Oxford. It will be a great experience for our players to experience the culture and the big time football. They did poorly the last two years and the new coach came in and has gotten everybody jacked up and excited about Rebel football.”

(On re-establishing the passing game this week)
“I hope we can throw the ball better. I don’t know if playing them will help us throw the ball better, but I know our receivers can play better and I know Nick can play better. I don’t know who will start at wide receiver right now. We’ll just have to look at that. We probably put out a two deep but it’s not set in my mind.”

Source: UTEP Athletics

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