UTEP's opening touchdown at the 12:49 mark on Vernon Frazier's 15-yard run was their quickest opening score since 2008 when it made a field goal with 12:58 left in the first quarter against Rice. The Miners scored at 12:05 two weeks ago against Houston. The first two Miner drives took a combined 1:48 on five plays and netted two touchdowns. Frazier's touchdown was his first since last year's Arkansas-Pine Bluff opener.
That includes the fans in the lower deck on the Tulane side. I hiked down the world's steepest stairs to check. This crowd is almost double the size of the one down the street at the sports bar watching LSU-Tennessee on TV.
There are 83 people in the lower deck on the UTEP side, six people in the middle deck and the upper deck is closed. There are 19 people in one end zone, 16 in the other. There is no view of the home-side middle and lower deck from the press box but I'll assume that would significantly add to the crowd.
An interesting matchup to watch Saturday, a big area of strength versus strength, will be when UTEP (2-3) punts the ball. Tulane's Derrick Strozier is 34th nationally and third in Conference USA in punt returns at 8.8 yards per attempt, The Miners lead the nation in punt coverage. Strozier's "good, he's quick," UTEP coach Mike Price said. "He's done a nice job." UTEP spent two of its three mid-week practice days working on that aspect of the game and punter Ian Campbell raved on the other players on his unit. "I'm blessed to have a great punt coverage team," he said. "I'm so psyched to be punting for this good of a punt cover team." A member of that group will be senior snapper Matt Camilli, who briefly was feared lost for the season when he left with a separated shoulder against SMU. Instead he'll be back against Tulane (2-4) and is slated to take every punt and place-kick snap. "It was frustrating being out but it's good to be back," the Las Cruces native said. "I've got my shoulder healed up and that's good."
During some weeks before road games, Price has loud crowd noise piped into practices to simulate what the team will face during the game. This isn't one of those weeks. This week against Tulane (2-4), when the actual crowd will be a few thousand, the challenge is just about the opposite. "The Superdome is a different place to play," Price said. "It's cavernous. When it's crowded and packed, it's one of the loudest places in the NFL. When it's not crowded and packed you can hear yourself think. It's just different." Tailback Joe Banyard isn't concerned. "We approach it like every game," he said. "Fans or not, we're there to win." One player who is excited about that is Ian Campbell, who has never punted in a dome. "There will be absolutely no wind," he said. "I'll be very much enjoying that. It's sea level so the air is not as thin as it is up here, but it was like that in Tampa and it went well. "I'm excited about this."
For those who didn't see andyspringer's response to my previous post, here it is:
"UTEP gets a commit from Conroe-area tailback
"Autrey Golden, a 5-foot-10, 190-pound running back out Willis High School in the Greater Houston area, has verbally agreed to come to UTEP next year. He is rated a three-star recruit by rivals.com and is UTEP's third commitment. He had 1,142 yards and 12 touchdowns on 152 carries last year and picked UTEP over several other offers, including one from Colorado State."
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