|Big moment for UTEP in Sun Bowl|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 05 September 2008 06:55|
Best known for winning the 1966 NCAA basketball championship - when it was still named Texas Western - UTEP has fielded mostly losing teams since 1914, hardly daring to even dream of the success of programs such as perennial power Texas.
Until Saturday night that is, when the No. 10 Longhorns (1-0) make the 580-mile trip west to the one pocket of Texas in the Mountain Time Zone, where the whole city is gearing up for their arrival.
If ever the Miners (0-1) had a chance to make a statement as a football program, an upset Saturday night in front of a sold out Sun Bowl and a national cable television audience would do it.
``We're just excited,'' UTEP coach Mike Price said. ``They've played before loud crowds, but not loud and wild crowds. ... It's going to be a fun, fun weekend for UTEP.''
UTEP has always been an also-ran, battling for attention in a state that produces more major-college players than any other. And the inferiority complex spreads much wider than the playing field, threading throughout a city of more than 600,000 that often feels ignored by state leaders catering to the influence of Dallas, Houston and Austin.
Price was one of the few to inject real energy into the program when he arrived before the 2004 season and promptly led the Miners to consecutive winning seasons.
But even that faded with losing seasons the past two years, and his current seven-game losing streak that includes last week's 42-17 loss to Buffalo.
Given that fade, Texas looks more like an opportunity for a whipping than an upset.
``Since I've been here, it's the best team we've ever played,'' Price said. ``There's always a chance. That's why they have scoreboards.''
All UTEP fans want is that chance.
Miners fans have been waiting for this game since May 8, 2006, when the schools announced a two-game series. Saturday night will be the first meeting since 1933, when UTEP was still known as the College of the Mines. The Miners travel to Austin next season.
El Paso is flush with Texas fans, but many of them probably will support the hometown team at the 51,500-seat Sun Bowl that sold out weeks ago.
And why shouldn't they? They've stuck with the Miners through the lean years, when sad sack teams played in front of half-empty stadiums, as well as the few good ones when they were winning and still largely being ignored by the rest of the state.
Longhorns coaches don't really even recruit El Paso. Texas doesn't have any players from the city and the one blue-chip recruit signed from there in the last few years, defensive tackle Andre Jones, left UT after a felony robbery arrest last year. He never played a game for Texas.
Just playing the Longhorns is monumental. Beating them would be a dream.
``For the first time for us coming to (El Paso), so many people want to come down,'' Texas linebacker Rashod Bobino said. ``You're going to have not only people in the stands, you'll have people in the mountains.''
He's right. The stadium, built right into the mountain range, has have a standing-room only section. Some fans try to scramble up the hillside for a free view of the game before they usually get the boot by stadium security.
``They are talking about it being the best environment there in school history,'' Texas coach Mack Brown said.
The excitement could wear off fast. The Longhorns smashed Florida Atlantic 52-10 in the season opener.
Quarterback Colt McCoy passed for three touchdowns and ran for another and joined Vince Young as the only Texas QBs to run for 100 yards and pass for 200 in multiple games. The defense, still young in the secondary, held the Owls to 53 total yards in the second half.
Brown's biggest concern Saturday night may be time change and trying to keep his players awake and sharp.
Kickoff won't be until be about 8:15 El Paso time, or about 9:15 back home in Austin, meaning the game won't end until well after midnight for the Longhorns.
``That's well past my bed time,'' offensive coordinator Greg Davis said.
Brown recalled the Longhorns' 2000 trip to Stanford, a game that also started very late and No. 5 Texas lost in an upset.
``Some of the young ones are tired by game time because they're emotionally out of it because they've been excited all day,'' Brown said.