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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 8, 7:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Vaught-Hemingway Stadium (60,580) -- Oxford, Mississippi. Television: FSN. Home Record: UTEP 0-1, Ole Miss 1-0. Away Record: UTEP 0-0, Ole Miss 0-0. Neutral Record: UTEP 0-0, Ole Miss 0-0. Conference Record: UTEP 0-0, Ole Miss 0-0. Series Record: Texas-El Paso leads, 1-0.
GAME NOTES: After earning a win in Hugh Freeze's first game as head coach, the Ole Miss Rebels attempt to keep that momentum going on Saturday night when they host the Texas-El Paso Miners in non-conference action.
UTEP took on Big 12 powerhouse Oklahoma in its season opener in front of its home fans and played about as well as anyone could have expected. The Miners got out to a 7-0 lead early in the first quarter when Nathan Jeffery returned a block punt for a touchdown. They kept the game close throughout, but Oklahoma tacked on a pair of touchdowns in the fourth quarter to pull away and win, 24-7.
The Miners are looking for a change of fortune on Saturday night. They are winless in 16 games on the road against teams from a BCS conference.
Ole Miss took on Central Arkansas in its home opener and actually found itself down by a touchdown, 20-14, midway through the second quarter. From there however, the Rebels played well, scoring 35 unanswered points before claiming the 49-27 victory. Although the win came against an FCS school, Ole Miss is already halfway to matching its entire win total from a season ago when it went 2-10.
These two programs have met only once before, facing off in the 1967 Sun Bowl where UTEP claimed a 14-7 victory.
The Miners struggled against one of the best defensive units in the nation last week, collecting only 255 total yards and failing to score an offensive touchdowns.
The passing attack was nothing short of terrible. Nick Lamaison completed just six passes on 23 attempts for 39 yards. His performance made way for backup Carson Meger to get some time under center, although he didn't fare much better (1-of-3 for nine yards).
Seven different receivers caught a pass for UTEP in the game, although nobody caught more than two. Kevin Perry had the team's longest gain (13 yards).
Without question, the running game was the highlight of the team's offensive performance. Nathan Jeffery was outstanding, carrying the ball 21 times for 177 yards for his first-ever 100-yard performance.
The Miners defense played much better than the offense, holding Heisman- caliber quarterback Landry Jones to 21-of-36 passing for 222 yards. The unit allowed 427 total yards, but kept the Sooners off the scoreboard for the majority of the game.
Linebacker Josh Fely led the team with 12 tackles and also had a pass break up. DeShawn Grayson (nine tackles) and Marcus Bagley (eight tackles, one TFL) were also all over the field.
UTEP sacked Jones three times on the afternoon, with Bagley and Roy Robertson splitting one and Germard Reed and DeAndre Little each recording their own.
After a slow start in the opener, the Ole Miss offense started clicking on all cylinders as the game went on. In the end, it collected 565 yards of total offense, its most since Sept. 25, 2010 against Fresno State.
Sophomore quarterback Bo Wallace was spectacular, completing 20-of-24 passes for 264 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He also did plenty of damage on the ground, leading the team in rushing with 82 yards, finding the end zone once.
Backfield carries were shared by Randall Mackey (15) and Barry Brunetti (eight), who combined for more than 100 yards rushing. Brunetti found the end zone in the fourth quarter on an 11-yard run.
Donte Moncrief was the primary beneficiary of Wallace's passes, leading the team with eight catches and 104 yards, including a 53-yard touchdown late in the third quarter. Korvic Neat (six rec, 75 yds) and Jamal Mosley (four rec, 79 yds) also had nice days in the receiving game. Philander Moore made just one catch but it was for a 25-yard touchdown.
The defense did not perform especially well considering it was facing an FCS opponent, allowing 347 yards and 27 points. The unit did however force an interception and a fumble, the latter of which was recovered in the end zone by Ja-Mes Logan for a touchdown.
Linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche was the unit's top performer, recording eight tackles, three tackles for loss, and a sack. Joel Knight (a sack) and Dehendret Collins (two TFL) each made seven tackles. C.J. Johnson and Uriah Grant also recorded sacks for the Rebels. Frank Crawford made the interception.
UTEP scored 26.6 points per game and put up 380.5 total yards per game in 2011, so the poor performance against Oklahoma can be chalked up as an exception against a great defense. There's no doubt the unit will be able to put up better numbers against Ole Miss, which showed some weakness against a much worse opponent. Wallace and company have proven that there are plenty of viable weapons in the Rebels' offense, and even against a Miners' unit that looked good at times against Oklahoma, they will scrape together enough points to move to 2-0
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Ole Miss 24, Texas El-Paso 20
09/05 10:36:26 ET
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