Vitals: Tulsa Golden Hurricane At Texas-El Paso

Thursday, November 17th 2011, 6:21 pm
By: News 9

Grant Belcher,

Tulsa Golden Hurricane (7-3, 6-0 Conference USA) vs. Texas-El Paso Miners (5-5, 2-4)
Saturday, Nov. 19
Sun Bowl Stadium, El Paso

  Tulsa UTEP
Passing G.J. Kinne
190-294, 2400 yds, 21 tds
Nick Lamaison
111-189, 1528 yds, 11 tds
Rushing Ja'Terian Douglas
88 car, 744 yds, 3 tds
Joe Banyard
93 car, 690 yds, 4 tds
Receiving Willie Carter
57 rec, 826 yds, 6 tds
Mike Edwards
39 rec, 576 yds, 3 tds

Where to look for it:

TV: CBS Sports Network (Dave Ryan, Rich Rodriguez)
Radio: KRMG 740 AM/FM 102.3 (Bruce Howard, Rick Couri, Chris Kaiser)

Injury Report

Tulsa: DB John Flanders, DT Darell Zellars (academics, out for season) WR Damaris Johnson (suspended indefinitely)

UTEP: K Dakota Warren (groin, probable)  QB Nick Lamaison (groin, doubtful)  WR Anthony McGhee (disciplinary, out for season)

What you need to know

Tulsa's suspension of All-American Damaris Johnson and three losses in the first four games might have left a bad taste in some people's mouths. But two and a half months later, the taste in TU's mouth is a taste of the Conference USA title game. The Golden Hurricane is receiving a good amount of votes in the polls and would certainly vault well into the Top 25 with a win against Houston to finish the regular season. But there is still one game left to hurdle before that showdown, and despite the fact that Tulsa essentially hasn't been touched in C-USA play, they will certainly be taking the Miners seriously.

The trip to El Paso will be Tulsa's final road contest of the regular season, and it's actually a place TU has struggled recently. The Miners have won the past three games in El Paso, though not by much. Their three wins in the past three games have come by an average of just 2.6 points per game. The last time the two teams met in El Paso was in 2009, when UTEP came away with a 28-24 victory.

Though the Miners' aren't exactly stellar on either offense or defense, they do have some dangerous special teams players. Ian Campbell is the nation's second-leading punter at 46.8 yards per punt. Though the Miners haven't found themselves in too many close games, Campbell's expertise in field position can give them some advantages. The Miners also lead the nation in kickoff returns, averaging more than 27 yards per return as a team. Running back Vernon Frazier is a real threat, taking kicks back for an average of 32.2 yards each time.

Who to watch

UTEP starting quarterback Nick Lamaison was hit out of bounds on a play during the Miners' win against East Carolina last Saturday. Lamaison suffered a groin injury and did not return to that game. He is listed as doubtful this week against the Golden Hurricane. Assuming Lamaison doesn't play on Saturday, sophomore Carson Meger would take the reins. In Meger's short stretches of playing time this year, he has certainly looked more like a backup quarterback than a starter. He has more interceptions and sacks (three of each) than touchdowns (two) on 406 passing yards. The Miners give up almost three sacks per game as is, so the pass rush pressure from the Tulsa D-Line should affect him even more than it would Lamaison. If TU can rattle the young backup early, he could start focing some bad passes, leading to Tulsa interceptions.

On that same note, two Tulsa defensive backs have been a nightmare for C-USA quarterbacks this season. Senior Milton Howell and junior Dexter McCoil each have four interceptions on the year, which ties them both for second-best in Conference USA. Howell has four pass break-ups and three forced fumbles as well, while McCoil has more than 60 tackles on the season. The experience and aggressiveness of the Tulsa defensive backs, combined with a backup quarterback and an unpredictable offensive line, could spell disaster for the UTEP offense on Saturday.