Friday, September 24, 2010

PREVIEW: Tigers at UTEP

Posted By on Fri, Sep 24, 2010 at 8:00 AM

Saturday, 8 pm, El Paso

• UTEP enters Saturday’s game with a record of 2-1, with each of its games being blowouts. The Miners whipped Arkansas-Pine Bluff, 31-10, and New Mexico State, 42-10, in their two previous games at the Sun Bowl, but lost at Houston, 54-24, on September 10th. UTEP is trying to improve on a 2009 campaign that saw the Miners finish 4-8 (3-5 in C-USA play).

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• UTEP is one of two programs on the Memphis schedule against which the Tigers have a winning record. In fact, the Tigers have never lost to the Miners. Memphis won, 27-20, in 2005; 38-19 in 2006 (the only time the teams have played in El Paso); and 35-20 in 2009 (Tommy West’s last victory as head coach).

• UTEP enters the game ranked third in total offense among the 12 teams in C-USA (466 yards per game), while the Tigers are 11th (312.3). UTEP is sixth in total defense (410 yards allowed per game) while the Tigers are eighth (436.3). UTEP’s offense is second only to Tulsa in first downs (25.7 per game), while Memphis is 11th in C-USA (14.7).

• Miner quarterback Trevor Vittatoe, a senior, is among the top signal-callers in C-USA. Vittatoe has passed for 815 yards in three games, completing 59.5 percent of his passes and connecting for eight touchdowns (five of them in last week’s win over New Mexico State). Vittatoe ranks third in C-USA in total offense (298.7 yards per game). His primary target has been senior Kris Adams, who has 12 catches for 248 yards and three scores. Vittatoe passed for 319 yards against the Tigers last year at the Liberty Bowl.

• Through the first three games of his Tiger career, freshman quarterback Ryan Williams has passed for 507 yards, or 169 per game. As a freshman in 2001, Danny Wimprine averaged 148 yards per game.

• Senior Greg Ray and freshman Jerrell Rhodes combined for 167 rushing yards against Middle Tennessee. This marked steady improvement on their combined total against Mississippi State (46 yards) and East Carolina (93 yards). For the underdog Tigers to remain competitive this fall, these two ball carriers must make an impact.

• Tiger linebacker Jamon Hughes is third in Conference USA in total tackles, with 35. Safety Marcus Ball is tied for 10th with 23. Against the Blue Raiders, seven different Tigers had at least three solo stops (Hughes, Ball, Frank Trotter, Winston Bowens, DeRon Furr, Torenzo Quinn, and Corey Jones).

• Tiger coach Larry Porter speaks often about the importance of avoiding “self-inflicted wounds.” The Memphis win over Middle Tennessee last week was the first game in which the Tiger offense did not have a turnover since the 2008 St. Petersburg Bowl, a stretch of 14 games. Better yet, the Tiger defense forced four turnovers for the first time since the Middle Tennessee game in 2007.

• The last time Memphis opened with three of its first four games on the road was 2004. That team opened the season by beating Ole Miss in Oxford and started 3-1 on its way to an 8-4 season.

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