UTEP’s Blueprint: Central Florida Knights

worker at table.jpg

 

Anybody else noticed the on-field player behavior that seems to fester in the Southeastern Conference? You would think it was pro wrestling.

Take, for instance, the 2018 Egg Bowl between Ole Miss and Mississippi State. It was so blotted with shoving matches between plays, woofing, I haven’t seen so much bad acting since the latest Keanu Reeves movie. The game seemed an afterthought to the bush league antics. The spectacle was nearly unwatchable.

During bowl season, another showboat from the SEC bastion of poor sportsmanship, LSU, was offended that the University of Central Florida be allowed on the same field. Respect was nowhere to be found.ucf knights logo

Instead, LSU dragged UCF into a non-stop series of yapping and intimidation tactics. Such random pushing and lip service should be reserved for the halls of Congress. Made me yearn for the next Army-Navy game.

Perhaps one could see the LSU side of it: The Tigers started playing football in 1893, UCF in 1979. I’ve got boots older than that.

LSU, however, has 31,500 students, only slightly more than UTEP’s 29,000. UCF’s enrollment is 56,235, second only to the 70,000-plus ants crawling all over Arizona State’s campuses. UCF has more students than Michigan, more than A&M, more than Texas-Austin.

The UCF administration is pouring a river of money through the Knights’ football program. Given its growing fan base and the fact UCF is 25-1 the past two years, could this be a sign post for UTEP leadership.

Note to the SEC and its fans: You did not invent football.

Another thing: Next time an opponent takes the field at the Sun Bowl, no booing. It’s a bunch of 20- and 21-year-old student athletes, working their way through school, just as our players do at UTEP.

Show a little common decency and respect. You’re embarrassing yourselves and my alma mater.

Save your misguided hostility for the next presidential election, in 2020. Then, you will just blend in with the other nutjobs. —By Mark S. McDonald, Executive Editor

Applewhite Gets Fired – What it says about the parallel world of UTEP and UofH

Former UH Football Coach Major Applewhite
Former UH Football Coach Major Applewhite

University of Houston boxes Major Applewhite and, after only two season, sends him out to the Ship Channel, bon voyage.

In El Paso, UTEP Coach Dana Dimel must have greeted that off-season football news with a rueful smile and knowing nod. He not only has been there, done that, but has the souvenir tattoo to prove it.

In 2002, UofH ditched Dimel after his third season. He was 8-26 overall, but with Dimel recruits, Art Briles took the Cougars to a 7-6 record the next year, including a bowl bid.

Back to Applewhite: Despite an 8-4 regular season, he was shown the exit for three reasons … (1.) The Cougars lost four of their last five; (2.) The fifth defeat was a 70-14 egg laid in a bowl game vs. Army. Which brings us to a sticky wicket, the all-America defensive lineman, Ed Oliver.

The star defender is likely to be an NFL first-round draft choice in April. Given this probability, Oliver opted not to come back after a leg injury with a month left in the season. Video caught him in one pre-game froiic leaping to make one-handed catches, then showed him standing on the sidelines in street clothes. It gets worse.

In a late-season game, UofH provided sideline jackets for players. Oliver donned one for himself. “Those jackets are for players,” Applewhite reportedly said. Oliver puffed up, took it as a personal affront, and played the race card. Oliver is black, Applewhite is Caucasian.

At UofH, last thing any coach needs with the very hint of black-white overtones. UofH is not an easy place to win consistently, as history tells us and new coach Dana Holgerson is about to discover.

UofH has recent history with UTEP.

Not so many years ago, during the Mike Price era at UTEP, they were both in Conference USA, playing high-scoring contests that looked like video games. UofH, like UTEP, is a commuter school, begging an urban student body to support campus activities. Without home-grown talent, and interest from the Fifth Ward, UofH might as well go non-scholarship.

Applewhite knows better than to pick a fight he cannot win. Imagine Dimel or UTEP basketball coach Rodney Terry going into the barrios of El Paso, throwing tamales against the walls. Buena suerte with that, amigo.  —By Mark S. McDonald, Executive Editor

Hall of Pain – Miners Stop the Bleeding

UTEP fans in Houston last week shout their approval as the Miners beat Rice to end a 20-game losing streak.
UTEP fans in Houston last week shout their approval as the Miners beat Rice to end a 20-game losing streak.

Now that the UTEP losing streak is over, we can talk about it. Talk about it, in hushed tones, as it were a car wreck that happened years ago. Or, a marriage gone bad. A business gone bust.

Painful as it was, the Miners’ 20-game dry spell throughout 2017 and eight games deep into this season was a hangnail compared to other losing streaks. Rice has now lost nine in a row, Tulsa seven.

 

All-Time Losing Streaks
Northwestern (1979-82)        34 games
Virginia (1958-61)                 28 games
Kansas State (1945-48)        28 games
N.M. State (1988-90)            27 games
E. Michigan (1980-82)          27 games

 

For all-time Division-1, our Miners were not even in the same Agony Area. To qualify for the historic bottom five, you needed to lose 27 straight. Northwestern set the standard for Limbo Rock – “how low can you go?” – at 34 consecutive losses.

Even that, however, is nothing compared to the 47 straight defeats suffered by Waco University High, a regrettable string snapped earlier this season by a 37-0 win over Austin Travis.

According to our crack research staffers, the longest college losing streak they can find is an 80-game death march by Prairie View A&M, broken in 1998. A high school in Georgia once lost 82 straight, with no confirmed suicides. — By Mark S. McDonald, executive editor

Talent Search — UTEP Staff Seeks Big-Play Recruits

If UTEP coaches could sprinkle poofy dust over the current roster, they would instantly add two ingredients, both related – explosive, big-play pass rushers, and difference-maker ball-carriers and receivers who can change a game with one long gain.

In recruiting, the staff will be looking for these rare animals. They will have company, as every other football talent sharks swim in the very same shallow talent pool.

In the early going, senior wide-out Warren Redix,, a senior from El Paso Montwood, appears to have taken the lead with leaping catches that sparked workouts. Running backs Quardraiz Wadley, a junior from Kennedale, and sophomore Josh Fields

Josh Fields Americas High
Local talent Josh Fields from Americas High looks to blossom in 2018 and beyond

from El Paso Americas, showed glimmers of D-1 talent last season, when they were healthy.

As for a pass rusher, coaches don’t say much but look to the horizon, as if seeking a long, tall, fast, strong defender to cross the Franklin Mountains and make his new home at UTEP.

NCAA regs prohibit coaches from commenting on specific athletes until the early signing day in December. Staffers whisper that the recruiting class of 2019 could have more of what Dr. Dana Dimel orders.

The class is likely to feature eight offensive linemen, which the Miners will need to restock the shelves as seniors play out their eligibility. UTEP sources say they have solid commitments from five blockers who were sought by schools in the so-called Power 5 conferences. It would be safe to assume some of those prospects had been pursued by Kansas State, the most recent coaching stops for Dimel and others on the new UTEP staff.

Indeed, it raises eyebrows when recruiting coordinator Matt Rahl says the Miners have almost filled their quota for class of 2019 high school kids.

“We wouldn’t say no to a great player,” Rahl said, “but we will be looking mostly at JuCo kids to fill a couple spots. Then we are beginning to look at 2020, right now.” — By Mark S. McDonald, executive editor

Campfire Tales — New Colors (and Language) in Minerland

 

With a new head football coach Dana Dimel (L) and a new athletic director Jim Senter, UTEP fans can expect some changes. Start with the shade of orange for the helmets and game uniforms.

 

Shiny mine shaft nuggets from Camp Ruidoso:

* The 2018 are discouraged from fighting on the practice field. UTEP coaches want their charges to be competitive, but not combative, especially if a dust-up takes up practice time. “That’s not disciplined football,” Coach Dana Dimel hollered. Then, for emphasis, he said it a second time, with a little cherry on top.

“That’s undisciplined bull crap.” Players exchanged surprised glances after that one. Dimel takes a more measured approach when addressing his troops.

“If you use that (salty) language with your players, I don’t think you can get the best out of them.”

His predecessor Sean Kugler used language that would make a sailor blush. Fighting was more tolerated in the Kugler era, so long as players took each other on man-to-man, with no cheap shots.

* The Miners will wear different helmet adornments the first 2-3 games, then let the players choose the one they like best. Early returns indicate the players lean toward the oversized Miners pick.

* In recent years deception by the Miners offense was considered a sign of weakness. In keeping with this lunch-bucket approach, UTEP predictably relied on a power running game that was not powerful and rarely carried a kicker on scholarship. Despite the fact there are only a limited number of positions who can score points, Kugler left most of the kicking to walk-ons. Worked out just grand when the kicking game was vital to the Miners 2016 victory at UTSA. Other games, not so much.

New to the program this season, transfer kicker Mitchell Crawford from Queensland, Australia packs thunder in his instep. Crawford, who has two years eligibility left, reportedly led his Aussie football league in scoring. In Aussie rules, mate, they often kick the ball on the run, with either foot.

* What is not new is the dreaded rap music blaring during all practice sessions. A popular feature during college workouts nationwide, actually, it’s not music. it’s a bloody assault on the ears. — By Mark S. McDonald, executive editor