The Oklahoma Sooners open the 2012 football season on the road next Saturday as they travel to El Paso to meet the Miners of UTEP. UTEP coach Mike Price believes the entire community is gearing up for an exciting football game.
"It should be sold out,” said Price. “Our kids are ready. Our fans are ready and very excited. Ticket sales are going wonderfully. And I'm excited too. I think it's a great opportunity. It's probably one out of every 100 games but your still telling me there's a chance.
"We're just a bunch of West Texas kids, pencil neck West Texas kids that play hard and will represent our school with courage and everything. It will be a lot of fun and a great opportunity. Sometimes the best team doesn't win. Usually the team that plays the best wins."
The Miners are coming off a 5-7 season a year ago, their sixth straight losing record. Price believes that opening with a team the caliber of Oklahoma can generate a lot of enthusiasm that could help propel them through the season.
"It helps immensely in their off season conditioning,” said Price. “It helped in the spring and summer and going into fall camp. They want this opportunity. They want to perform up to their very best. It is different than opening up against Stoney Brook last year. It's different than opening against Arkansas Pine Bluff. Those teams came in here and almost beat us. We were supposed to be better than them. So, we've been on the other end of it also.
"If we were playing them the third or fourth game, maybe we could sneak up on them a little bit, but it's their opening game also so everybody is sky high. Everybody will give their very best in that first game. No matter who you are playing, it's just fun to play that first game."
Price believes that he has the makings of a pretty good football team in 2012. He says things are headed in the right direction for the miners.
"I think, for the first time since I've been here [we have] depth,” said Price. “We have a lot of depth. We have a lot of good running backs. We have two quarterbacks that have both played and started for us. We have a real good quarterback in Nick Lamaison, who is picked as a preseason all conference player. We have a running back that broke Earl Campbell's records while he was in high school. And we have two or three guys behind him.”
Last year Lamaison threw for over 1,700 yards, 12 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions. It appears that UTEP needs a great deal of help along the offensive line. But, Price says the line has improved along with other offensive positions.
"We have depth on the offensive line. I think our tight ends are good. We are getting better at wide receiver, that's been a question mark for us. We have recruited well at that position and have picked up some good guys to help fill that out.
“And I think we are two deep on defense. I think we are really solid right now. The important thing for us to do is to stay healthy, stay fresh, and take one game at a time. Oklahoma isn't the only difficult team on our schedule. We also have Wisconsin, Ole Miss and New Mexico State, which is only 30 miles down the road. Losing to those guys can make it the biggest game on the schedule. So, our first four games are very competitive. We need to stay healthy. And if there are any injuries they need to happen in the stadium on game day and not at practice."
Price is realistic when looking at the Sooners. He knows his Miners will have their hands full on Saturday night.
"I just think they are loaded at every position,” said Price. “I have no idea of what they are going to do on defense because it will be a mix of Mike [Stoops] and [Tim] Kish. It's kind of a mixed bag for us. We don't really know how they are going to defense us. We have a pretty good read on what they do offensively. That's because of what they do offensively is really good. You have an idea of what Oklahoma is going to do because they do it so damn well. It's all precision and choreographed and looking really good.
"Defensively I'm not sure what scheme we're going to see, but that's OK for a first game. That means we have to prepare for everything. That's a good thing for the offense. We have to plan against all the blitzes. You don't know if it will be an off or even defense. Mike Stoops and Tim Kish are great defensive coaches, so we know they will be really good."
It’s a late one for the Sooners and Miners on Saturday night, kick off is 9:30 p.m. central time.