Mike Price's temp job as the head coach of the UTEP Miners starts on Saturday with a visit from CUSA Eastern contender Western Kentucky. The Hilltoppers present quite a challenge for the Miners, a few keys to a Miner win.
Where'd the offense go?
Western Kentucky's been a perennial offensive juggernaut in CUSA and nationally. That's not the case in 2017. The Toppers led the league in total offense the past two years and finished runner-up in 2014. This year in four games they're tenth. Quarterback Mike White's yards per game is down by almost 50, though he's still completing 66% of his passes. Where they've fallen off is replacing Anthony Wales' production. Wales averaged nearly seven yards a carry in 2015 & 2016. This year the Hilltoppers leading rusher averages half that.
Welcome Back Quardraiz Wadley
The sophomore from Kennedale is a revelation for the Miner running game. After two historically slim weeks where the Miners averaged less than two yards a carry, Wadley's boosted the Miner rushing attack to something at least comparable to last season's numbers. Last week against the Black Knights, Wadley gained 100 yards by halftime. If he can kickstart things Saturday again, he'll help UTEP's chances exponentially.
Let's have some fun
Hiring Mike Price signaled, at least we think that UTEP is going to turn up the volume offensively. Price made his bones as an offensive mind and play caller. His Washington State teams frustrated PAC 10 teams by stretching the field and exploiting market inefficiencies way before any of that was vogue. He, Dennis Erickson, John L. Smith and Joe Tiller pioneered the one-back spread, and their offensive innovations ran parallel to those of the Hal Mumme, Mike Leach tree. He's not going to install anything close to that at UTEP, but his sticking his nose into the offensive meeting room should benefit a struggling Miner offense. Look for a more wide open attack, and why not, UTEP has nothing to lose.
Notes and Numbers
Saturday marks the second meeting between WKU and UTEP. The Toppers won the only meeting back in 2014.
Western Kentucky has only traveled west of Dallas twice in their school history.
Steve Spurrier Jr. serves as Western Kentucky's quarterback coach.
The Hilltoppers have six straight seasons of seven or more wins, the longest such streak in CUSA.
Saturday is Homecoming for the Miners.
Quardraiz Wadley rushed for a career high 156 yards vs. Western Kentucky.
UTEP ranks 3rd in the FBS in kick-off defense.
UTEP's 262 yards of total offense against Army was their best output of the season.