Top memorable moments in Price’s coaching history

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Mike Price coached at UTEP for nine years before returning as interim coach in 2017.

Adrian Broaddus, Editor-In-Chief

Interim head coach Mike Price is now embarking on his third week with the Miners, and although he hasn’t helped the team record a win, he has helped the team regroup from the departure of former head coach Sean Kugler and grow more as a team.

Before his return, Price was one of the most storied coaches in program history, being the second coach to lead the school to three bowl bids in 2004, 2005 and 2010, and also the second in total wins with 48 from 2004-2012.

Here’s a look back at some of Price’s top moments while he was head coach for the Miners:

Going from 2-11 to 8-4

Under head coach Gary Nord, the Miners were abysmal, posting a 6-30 record from 2001-03. Along with the decision for the program moving from the Western Athletic Conference to the Conference USA in all sports, the Miners decided to hire Mike Price, the former Washington State head coach, to help revitalize their program.

During his inaugural season, Price coached the Miners to a shocking 8-4 record and a bowl appearance. The team struggled at the beginning, but went on a seven-game winning streak to close out the year. Sophomore quarterback Jordan Palmer emerged as a threat through the Miners’ passing game toward the end of the season and the team made a complete 180-degree turnaround.

Although the Miners lost to Colorado in the 2004 Houston Bowl, 38-28, they earned their first-ever ranking in the AP Poll during the season, ranked at No. 23. Price was a finalist for the Eddie Robinson Award and the Paul “Bear” Bryant Award for Coach of the Year.

The defining 2005 team

In 2005, Price had gotten his feet wet with the program and now it was full steam for the Miners.

They kick-started their campaign with a huge win over New Mexico State, Houston and New Mexico at the start. They climbed up the rankings again and were ranked No. 24 nationally.

However, they fell to UAB just as the Miners had established themselves in the polls and then lost their last game to SMU. Nonetheless, the Miners still received a bowl bid for their record, and traveled to the GMAC Bowl to take on Toledo, which they lost 45-13.

The back-to-back bowl-berth seasons were the first time in 50 years that the program had achieved such an accomplishment, which then led to a contract extension for Price.

2006 talent

Although the 2006 team barely missed what could have been a three-peat of a bowl appearance, the Miners had one of the most talented teams in years. They were fifth in the nation in passing offense with 312 yards per game and 18th in the nation for passing efficiency with a 149.25 rating under quarterback Palmer.

Price also coached standout receiver and returner Johnny Lee Higgins, who became the Miners’ first All-American in six years. He was second in the nation in receiving yards per game, averaging 100.9 per contest, and third in all-purpose yards with 156.1 per game. He also finished as the C-USA Special Teams Player of the Year due to his electric punt returns.

Other top talents on the team included Troy Collavo, safety Quintin Demps and placekicker Reagan Schneider.

Palmer, Higgins and Demps all ended up having careers in the NFL.

Upset over No. 12 Houston

It seemed as if the 2009 Miners were going to make another bowl appearance under Price. Take away inconsistencies within the team and add wins over Buffalo, UAB and Rice, and the Miners could have been a bowl-bound team.

However, one of the best games, possibly in a decade, the Miners had was when they knocked off No. 12 Houston, who was undefeated at the time and chasing national recognition under standout quarterback Case Keenum.

Price’s running back Donald Buckram rushed for 262 yards against the Cougars to help lift the Miners over Houston, 58-41, which was the school’s first win against a ranked team since 1997. Buckram finished the season with 1,594 yards and broke the UTEP season rushing record that had held for more than 60 years.

2010 bowl appearance despite a plethora of injuries

At the start of the 2010 season, it looked like it was going to turn into another disappointing season by Price after a big loss to Houston in the second game of the season.

However, Price coached his team to a four-game winning streak against New Mexico State, Memphis, New Mexico and Rice.

Then, they dropped three in a row to UAB, Tulane and Marshall, which was credited to the team’s inconsistency.

They had bowl game hopes on the line when they squared up against SMU for the last game of the season, which they won 28-14. They then took on BYU in the New Mexico Bowl, but lost 52-24.

Price coached another gunslinger in Trevor Vittatoe, who broke Palmer’s school records for career passing yards (12,439) and touchdown passes (97). Vittatoe also set school records with his 12,291 yards of total offense.

Price also boosted this team in defense efficiency, only allowing teams to garner less than 300 yards of total offense and eight of 13 teams to 24 points or less.

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