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September 7, 2012EL PASO, Texas - The UTEP football team faces its first road challenge of the season Saturday against SEC opponent Ole Miss.
Although Ole Miss (1-0) hangs around the bottom of the power rankings in the SEC, they are still part of the nations toughest college football conference in the country.
Nonetheless head coach Mike Price and the Miners are putting last week's 24-7 Oklahoma loss behind them and are prepared to face the Rebels in Oxford Miss.
"We played hard enough last week and didn't win, we have to play that hard this week or harder to win," Price said. "We've got to play with the same spirit and determination because that has to be like us. That's our team attitude."
Not since 2002 have the Miners played back-to-back BCS conference opponents when they lost in week two to Kentucky 77-17 and lost to Oklahoma 68-0 the following week.
History is never on the Miners side when facing major opponents, but even the recent past has been washed away from the player's memories.
Last week starting senior quarterback Nick Lamaison played his second-worst game as a Miner (his worst was against East Carolina last season) going 6-for-23 for 39 yards and no touchdowns. The second-year starter could not find an open receiver with the Sooner defense draped over his receivers.
"We just got to keep confident and know we can execute," Lamaison said. "We've done a real good job this week and we have to translate that into the game and we'll be fine."
Unlike last season, Lamaison has the full strength of the offensive line and behind them he has homerun threat Nathan Jeffery. He said although he did not play well during the Oklahoma game, having the offensive line play well and the running carry the load, it took some pressure off the passing game.
"Running game always helps the pass game and vice versa," he said. "We're looking to get the second part of our offensive going. With the (line healthy) it gives me a ton a confidence, especially after what they did this weekend."
This week the Miners should have no problem putting up passing yards against Ole Miss who gave 247 yards through the air against Central Arkansas. Three of the Bears receivers pulled in 40 or more yards against the Rebels.
"They didn't have best week last week, but they will rebound and play us tough," Lamaison said. "They do a lot of different things (defensively) like Oklahoma, but we've found a way to simplify it so we're prepared and ready to go."
On the other side of the ball, the Miners have to worry about the duel threat Rebels quarterback Bo Wallace who put up 82 yards rushing and 264 yards passing against Central Arkansas.
"They got a good offense. They are real balanced in their running game. They ran 42 running plays and 24 of them involved their quarterback," defensive coordinator Andre Patterson said. "It makes it hard on us defensively because we have to account for the quarterback in the running game."
The UTEP defense had trouble scheming against a pass-first Oklahoma offense, but the Miners run defense played has looked much better this season giving up only 205 yards to the Associated Press No. 5 ranked Sooners.
Patterson said he is not worried about and one part of the offensive design of Ole Miss because they are so well balanced on offense, which could make it a tough game in the UTEP defense.
"They do a lot of the things with their motions and it messes with our eyes," Patterson said. "We have to see a lot of things and focus on the right things, that has been our emphasis this week."
The Miners now head east to face the Ole Miss Rebels at 5 p.m. local time on Sept. 8 in Oxford, Miss.
Sal Guerrero may be reached at reached at email@example.com or follow him via Twitter at @SalDGuerrero for all things UTEP sports. Make sure to follow Miner Illustrated on Twitter at @minermaniac for more up-to-date news and information about UTEP.