Mike Price devotes half an hour every Monday to answering questions, but he couldn't didn't know how to address the biggest one: What has gone so wrong with the UTEP football team's offense?
"I can't put my finger on what the heck is going on with that," he said of a team now in a three-game losing streak in which it has not scored more than 24 points in a game. "We should be better than this. We had 85 plays (in the 16-12 loss to Marshall), we had the ball much longer than they did.
"We didn't produce nearly the points we should have when we have the athletes we have, the possession we did and we had field position."
Price also devoted part of his Monday press conference to explaining some game-management decisions that he says he got wrong.
First, there was the attempt to block a short, tying field goal with 1:47 left that ended with a roughing-the-kicker penalty.
"That was our usual left block," Price said. "Two guys laid out like they always do. We should have just jumped straight up and let them tie it. But we called the regular left block like we always do, it just wan't executed."
Then Price opted to challenge, saying the ball was tipped, which would have negated the roughing. Unfortunately for UTEP, that involved using the final timeout.
"That was my first mistake," Price said. "If I had to do that again I probably wouldn't have used the challenge. The players were emphatic, 'We tipped the ball, we tipped the ball.' The official said he didn't hear it, he didn't see it. It was inconclusive, it wasn't obvious. As it turns out, it was a waste."
It was a pivotal waste, as on the ensuing drive UTEP reached the Marshall 31-yard line before Trevor Vittatoe was hit on second-and-10, knocking the ball loose just as he began his throwing motion for what ended up being a fumble and a 9-yard loss. If UTEP had a timeout they would have used it to challenge the call of a fumble, and at worst even if they had lost they would have stopped the clock with around 50 seconds to play.
Instead, they eventually spiked the ball to set up fourth-and-19.
"That was my fault," Price said, acknowledging UTEP should have run a third down play to try to get some of the 19 yards back. "I couldn't tell if it was an incomplete pass or a fumble recovery. I had a lot of trouble getting the referee's attention. I was at midfield trying to get his attention, 'Is it a fumble?' I was watching the clock and we lost 20 seconds. I didn't know exactly where the ball was.
"I knew it would be fourth down (if he spiked it), but I didn't know if it would be fourth-and-20, fourth-and-15, fourth-and-10. I called the spike. (Vittatoe) didn't do it on his own."
Price said Pierce Hunter and Marlon McClure were both open deep on the play. He emphasized, though, that the situation after the fumble was foggy.
"It was so confusing because of the officials not visiting with me," he said. "I couldn't get the right information. Most of the time, you get instant replay (a booth review) if you are getting along with the official but he stayed clear of me."