FACTS & STATS: Site: Robertson Stadium (32,000) -- Houston, Texas. Television: CSS. Home Record: UTEP 2-2, Houston 2-2. Away Record: UTEP 0-4, Houston 0-2. Neutral Record: UTEP 0-0, Houston 1-0. Conference Record: UTEP 1-3, Houston 2-1. Series Record: Houston leads, 5-4.
GAME NOTES: The Houston Cougars look to rebound as they return home to Robertson Stadium to host a Conference USA bout with the Texas-El Paso Miners.
UTEP finally ended a four-game losing slide and earned its first win in league action last week with a 24-20 triumph over the Tulane Green Wave. Coach Mike Price underwent the second longest losing streak of his tenure with the program as it team was bested by Wisconsin, East Carolina, SMU, and Tulsa prior to last week.
Houston had its three-game winning streak halted and lost its first C-USA game last week as it suffered a 72-42 beating by SMU. The Cougars gained 560 yards of total offense and limited the Mustangs to 384, but turned the ball over nine times. First year coach Tony Levine is 3-4 overall with a 2-2 record at home.
This will be the 10th time in history these instate rivals meet on the football field. Houston leads the series 5-4 and two of UTEP's victories came during the 1940s.
The Miners showed signs of life on the offensive side of the ball last week with 445 yards, which was their second highest total of the season. UTEP is producing a paltry 17.1 ppg heading into this game.
Although it came out on top last week, UTEP lost its leader when quarterback Nick Lamaison went down with a hamstring injury. Lamaison guided the offense by passing for 157 yards and two touchdowns on 11-of-16 efficiency before leaving in the second quarter. Carson Meger stepped in and went 9-of-14 for 71 yards. Lamaison is probable to return to the starting lineup on Saturday, although his recovery is far from over.
Jordan Leslie and Mike Edwards are the two primary targets in the passing game. Edwards caught two TD passes and finished with 82 yards on a game-high seven receptions in last week's win. Leslie was the bright spot of UTEP's loss to Tulsa with 218 yards and a score on 10 catches.
UTEP managed to gain 217 yards on the ground against Tulane last week as five different Miners gained 25 yards or more. The team's leading rusher Nathan Jeffery was held to four yards on five attempts in the contest.
UTEP surrenders 444.5 yards per game to opponents, but its scoring defense is much better due to its big play ability. The Miners are great at dislodging the ball from opposing ball carriers and already have forced 18 fumbles. They managed to record six interceptions as well.
Twenty different players have recorded at least 10 tackles on the year for UTEP. Josh Fely (72), DeShawn Grayson (55), and Drew Thomas (52) are the team's leading tacklers. Horace Miller is an aggressive pass rusher up front with a team-best six sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss.
The Cougars led the entire FBS in total offense and scoring offense last season, but it appeared like they would experience a rebuilding season after their season opening 30-13 loss to Texas State. However, the Cougars are ranked third in the FBS in passing offense (363.9) and seventh in total offense (537.7). The high-scoring numbers from last season have diminished due to Houston's 23 giveaways.
David Piland has been streaky under center for Houston this season, throwing for 2,264 yards, 10 touchdowns, and nine interceptions. Piland was intercepted twice last week before suffering a concussion which may keep him sidelined on Saturday.
Crawford Jones stepped in for the injured Piland last week and completed 17- of-33 attempts for 252 yards and three TDs with two interceptions. The senior never attempted more than two passes in a single game previously.
Houston's receiving corps features a pair of reliable targets in Dewayne Peace and Daniel Spencer. Peace leads the team with 42 receptions for 458 yards and two scores. Spencer has tallied 511 yards and three TDs on 36 receptions. Five other Cougars have more than 100 yards and a touchdown grab as well.
The rushing attack is the key to Houston's success. The Cougars improved to 6-0 all-time when running back Charles Sims records 100+ rushing yards two weeks ago. However, Sims was held to just 54 yards on the ground by SMU. He did manage to produce 114 receiving yards and score four times in the loss.
Although it allowed 72 points, Houston did not play horrible defense. SMU's defense scored three touchdowns and forced six other turnovers which gave the Mustangs starting field position in the Cougars' territory six times.
Everett Daniels led Houston with 10 tackles, 2.5 TFL, and one sack last week. D.J. Hayden made his second interception of the season and returned it 75 yards for a touchdown. Phillip Steward leads the team and is ranked eighth in the FBS with 76 total stops.
Although UTEP is coming off of a win, it was over a weak opponent at home. The Miners could put up a fight if Lamaison is healthy enough to be effective and Piland does not suit up. Houston should be able to fend off the visitors with Sims's playmaking ability.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Houston 42, Texas-El Paso 31Game Date and Time
Saturday, October 27, 4:30 p.m. (et)