We're dredging up the kind of history no one wants to remember. We owe it you, our valued readers, to give a thorough and complete accounting of such history, the good, the bad, and most certainly the ugly. Welcome to our new series, Bad Beats, the epic beatdowns in the history of Texas College football. Relax, everyone gets a turn.
UTEP took a 3-0 lead over the Utah Utes in the first quarter of their September 22, 1973 matchup. UTEP boasted a barefoot kicker with the name of a linebacker, Bronco Belichesky. Belichesky booted a 34-yarder to get the Miners off on the right foot. The Utes spent the remainder of the game making UTEP pay for taking the lead and apparently held the Miners responsible for not only the field goal but also the gross national debt of several South American countries.
The Guy Before LaVell Edwards
Who coached the Packers before Vince Lombardi? Who coached Alabama before Bear Bryant? We'll wait.
I can tell you who coached BYU before the great LaVell Edward; his name was Mark Hudspeth.
Hudspeth took over the Cougars in 1964 and led them to their first-ever WAC title in 1965. A year later BYU finished 8-2. Then the roller coaster took a downward path. After several mediocre years, Hudspeth resigned his position at BYU and his assistant, Edwards came on to take over.
At his resignation, most considered Hudspeth, the most successful coach in BYU history. His departure was a surprise to most. Apparently, he wasn't forced from his post. A week later Hudspeth arrived in El Paso to assist his old college coach Bobby Dobbs with the Miner program. Dobbs, who was in the last year of his contract, may have worked out a deal with Hudspeth to insert him into the head spot after Dobbs' exit. Oddly, in 1972, Dobbs announced that if his team lost to New Mexico in October, he'd resign his position. The Miners lost and Dobbs true to his word, resigned, turning the direction of the football team over to Hudspeth.
Hudspeth led the 1972 winners to one of only two wins on the season and set about prepping his squad for the 1973 season.
In hind site, he needed more time.
To build his team Hudspeth followed the Dobbs blueprint, bringing in transfers from the junior college ranks. He put that blueprint on steroids, adding in 32 such transfers. The Miners also welcomed 40 freshmen to El Paso in anticipation of the '72 season.
Hudspeth took a very Charlie Weiss-like approach in his assessment of the Miners. According to Hudspeth the 1971 squad gave up, they couldn't score, and their defense was a "sieve." He vowed to UTEP fans, "we won't embarrass you this year."
In the context of the futility of the '72 team, that quote is high comedy.
Cursed from the Start
Heading into its second game of the season, Utah sat 0-1, and in the minds of their coaching staff, the contest with UTEP was a must-win situation. The Utes lost a hard-fought opener to Texas Tech.
If Utah faced a do or die situation, UTEP was trying to survive. UTEP pinned its quarterback hopes on former UCLA quarterback Greg Cockayne to spearhead the Miner offensive attack. Cockayne left UCLA for a brief stint at a junior college after losing the starting job to Mark Harmon the star of NCIS. Against Idaho, in the Miners' first series and on the first pass of the season Cockayne dropped back majestically and lofted a pass into the waiting arms of Idaho's Ross Nelson who promptly took the ball 38-yards for a touchdown. By mid-October Cockayne moved to safety.
The Miners' preseason hopes with all the new faces were exploded by Idaho 62-14. A week later UTEP welcomed Pacific to the Sun Bowl. Belichesky kicked three field goals, but couldn't muster nine more, and the Tigers won 34-9.
If hope was lost, it was lost with good reason. Opponents outscored the Miners 96-23. The bright spot was a kicker. UTEP's defense surrendered 989 yards in two losses. Their offense managed to scramble together 400 yards in the same time. At least Belichesky was having himself a year. He set a school record with a 52-yard field goal against Pacific.
The ineptitude of the previous two weeks felt like a fresh breeze compared to the hell that awaited UTEP in Salt Lake City.
By game three Hudspeth's charges had abandoned the run and gone to a very progressive pass-first offense. The move was a novel idea, especially for a team that had great difficulty throwing or catching the ball. Against Utah the failure of the offense was complete. Miner quarterbacks threw five interceptions. When the Miners managed not to throw an interception, they were content to drop the ball so the Utes could pick it up, something UTEP did three times. No, UTEP couldn't overcome that eight drives doomed by turnovers.
Utah, on the other hand, enjoyed the generous bounty more than a Sister Wives marathon. We're assuming the primarily Mormon population of Utah enjoys Sister Wives and has cable. Perhaps this is an incorrect assumption. The Mormon's are probably cord cutters. Our bad.
The largest opening crowd in Ute history witnessed their team run off 55 straight points to cut into, then obliterate UTEP 3-0 lead. Belichesky kicked another field goal, to rally the troops to within 48, but Utah went ahead and sealed the win with 27 unanswered to finish the game.
In the ultimate dick move, Utah quarterback Dan Payne called several timeouts in the fourth quarter and scored the last touchdown with zeros left on the clock. Well done Dan. We all needed that 82nd point.
On the game UTEP defeat was complete. The Miners rushed for -11 yards on 38 attempts. Their high flying passing approach looked more like the Hindenburg, with just 130 yards to show. The sieve that was UTEP's defense yielded 561 yards, including 368 on the ground.
The Miners finished the 1973 season 0-11. They were outscored by an average score of 49 to 12. The University reassigned Hudspeth to an administrative role after the '73 campaign. He finished 1-14 during his UTEP tenure.
For our Miner friends who endured the 2017 winless campaign, remember, it can always get worse.