Warning Signs

Published 2:11 am Friday, November 27, 2009

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Not only can you throw the records out the window in this one, you might want to shut the door and lock it as well.

Despite the Texas-El Paso Miners 3-8 record, Marshall Thundering Herd head coach Mark Snyder isn’t fooled. He said there are a lot of other numbers that speak even louder.

“They are the best 3-8 team in the country and the film doesn’t lie,” said Snyder. “If we think we are going to walk in there and they are going to rollover, we are wrong.”

Email newsletter signup

Here’s a look at some of UTEP’s other numbers.

UTEP is just 2-5 in the West Division of Conference-USA, but those two conference wins have been over nationally ranked Houston 58-41 and 28-24 over high-powered Tulsa. Both wins came at home in the Sun Bowl where the Herd visits Saturday.

The win over Houston came a week after a 64-7 loss at Texas.

The Miners have thrown scares at other teams as well. They lost 38-33 to UAB, 35-31 to West co-leader SMU and 30-29 last week at Rice.

“They stubbed their toe a couple of times, but they have played a lot of good football. They beat Houston. We will have our hands full,” said Snyder.

Quarterback Trevor Vittatoe is 196 of 369 for 2,791 yards and 12 touchdowns. He has been picked 13 times.

The top targets are Jeff Moturi with 46 receptions for 795 yards and three TDs and Kris Adams with 37 catches for 483 yards. Five other receivers have double figure receptions.

“Moturi has been there forever. He can catch the football,” said Snyder. “They can really run the football. They can throw it, too. That’s what makes them so dangerous. We want to establish the line of scrimmage.”

The ground game hasn’t suffered with so much success in the passing attack. Donald Buckram has 251 carries for 1,569 yards and 17 scores to lead C-USA in rushing. He also had 27 catches for 388 yards.

Although the offense has score 306 points, the defense has allowed 381 or almost 35 per game. The Miners don’t have one area that is better than the other. They permitted 2,264 yards rushing and 2,516 through the air.

Despite the troubling numbers, Snyder said the Miners are not as bad as it seems.

“They are athletic. The come from everywhere. It’s all or nothing with these guys. They may hit you in the backfield or they may give up the big play. That’s their style. It’s a 3-4 defense and they give you a lot of different looks,” said Snyder.

Marshall comes into the game 6-5 and bowl eligible after stunning SMU 34-31 last week. The Herd is 4-3 in the East Division and would like to finish the season with a win after going 4-8 last year.

“It was good to be home and get a victory against a very good SMU team. The thing that was most pleasing to me was that our young guys stepped up, contributed and showed what our future holds,” said Snyder.

Herd running back Darius Marshall is expected to play after missing last week with an ankle injury.

The teams have split their two meetings. UTEP Won 31-3 in 2005 at home and the Herd returned the favor at Edwards Stadium the following year 49-21.

Saturday’s kickoff is 3 p.m. EST.

Marshall-UTEP Preview

Marshall (6-5, 4-3) at UTEP (3-8, 2-5),

3 p.m. EST Saturday

Line: UTEP by 1.

Series: Tied 1-1.

Last meeting: 2006, Marshall 49-21.

What’s at Stake

Marshall beat SMU to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2004. The Thundering Herd will need to win their first November road game since 2005 to finish the regular season over .500. UTEP looks to snap a four-game losing streak in its season finale. RB Donald Buckram, who owns the single-season school record with 1,569 yards, leads Conference USA and is second nationally in rushing.

Key Matchup

Marshall’s offense vs. UTEP’s defense. Even without two key starters, Marshall amassed 475 yards last week. TE Cody Slate (knee) is done for the season and RB Darius Marshall (ankle) did not play against SMU. UTEP is 109th nationally in total defense (442.7 yards per game) and scoring defense (34.6 points per game).

Players to Watch

Marshall: Filling in for Slate, TE Aaron Dobson had four receptions for 127 yards against the Mustangs.

UTEP: LB Bernard Obi has three sacks in the past two games, including a pair in UTEP’s 30-29 loss last weekend.