By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – While the effort was good and the game was close, the UTEP Miners were unable to dig a path to the end zone last week, and a 24-7 home loss to No. 4 Oklahoma went down as a moral victory.
So years from now, when Nathan Jeffery gathers grandchildren around and tells them of that night in El Paso, it will be a story of coming close without a happy ending.
In an offense known for its passing success under UTEP coach Mike Price, Jeffery rushed for 177 yards on 21 carries – 8.4 yards per carry – against the Sooners.
However, neither Jeffery nor any of his teammates on offense were able to cross the goalline. They struggled in the passing game and are looking for more than a one-dimensional performance Saturday night against Ole Miss at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. UTEP’s only touchdown came with 9 minutes, 20 seconds left in the first quarter when it took a blocked punt the distance.
“I did well but I wish I had done better. I could have finished better. I did well, I can’t argue, but we needed to score more touchdowns,” said Jeffery, who was named Conference USA’s offensive player of the week.
Jeffery might have scored that touchdown in the fourth quarter – the Miners trailed just 10-7 after three quarters – but he left the game with a groin injury. He practiced this week and is expected to play against Ole Miss.
“We’re going in with a little chip on our shoulder and that’s good. We feel like we should have won (against Oklahoma). We should have finished, we should have scored touchdowns,” Jeffery said. “Our intensity level is higher. We’re trying to finish more.”
A sophomore, Jeffery was named this summer to the watch list for the Doak Walker Award which honors the nation’s top running back. His Oklahoma game included a 71-yard run.
Central Arkansas rushed for 96 yards on 24 carries in the first half against Ole Miss but managed just 4 yards on 11 carries in the second half.
The Miners are confident they can have success with Jeffery. It’s the passing game they’re trying to spark this week.
UTEP completed just 7-of-26 attempts for 48 yards against Oklahoma, and its wide receivers came under fire. The Miners’ wide receiver coach is Guy Holliday, formerly of Mississippi State.
UTEP’s Nick Lamaison, the preseason All-Conference USA quarterback, was just 6 for 23 passing.
“I hope we can throw the ball better. I don’t know if playing (Ole Miss) will help us throw the ball better, but I know our receivers can play better, and I know Nick can play better,” Price said.