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November 14, 2012
When the thought of the UTEP vs Southern Miss game this weekend comes to mind, the one word that describes it is, pressure.
Pressure has many different definitions but the one that fits Saturday's game best is used as a verb -- to force (someone) toward a particular end: influence.
When you look back, the Miners have had pressure on them the whole season.
You can say that the Miners were under a lot of pressure the first game of the year when they hosted then No. 5 (AP) Oklahoma and you could also say the Miners were under a lot of pressure when they hosted a floundering NMSU team looking to get their first win of the season.
Playing a season when you know that this is possibly your head coach's last season carries a ton of pressure. You don't want to see him end his tenure with a losing record his last year.
Pressure also comes in when you think about the players that are going to be around next year possibly under a new coaching staff. These guys want to prove that they belong and that whom ever comes in will watch the tape and want to keep them in the roles they are now in.
So if UTEP has been under pressure all year why is this week's game any different? The difference in opponents UTEP has played had at least one win under their belt.
Southern Miss does not and is 0-10.
They are the only FBS school left without a win. Just a day ago, Sports Illustrated posted an article shining a glaring light not only on Southern Miss but also directly in the face of the Miners. Hattiesburg is already a tough place to play but now you add national embarrassment to the mix and UTEP is in for a fight.
The Miners did show signs of life last week in a 34-21 loss with a surprising effort against the best team in C-USA, Central Florida. But now they are going to the compete at opposite end of the standings and as their record has shown all year, the Miners play up to the competition. The Miners have also played down to the competition as well.
Freshmen quarterback Blaire Sullivan will be making his second start in as many games and will need fight off the pressure of not only the Southern Miss defense but the pressure he will feel in leading the Miners to a win.
Coach Mike Price will be under pressure to get the win but will he give the ball to a more than capable Nathan Jeffery and finally let him shoulder the load of the offense and help take some of the pressure off Sullivan to make it easier for him to throw the ball down field.
The defense will be under pressure to continue their fine play this year and hold the Golden Eagles to the 17.9 point per game average that have them ranked 117th in all of the FBS.
But let's face it, the pressure is on everyone to come out of Hattiesburg with a win because the last thing you want to do is be forever linked to a Southern Miss trivia question:
Who did the Golden Eagles beat in 2012 to avoid a winless season?
Let's hope after this Saturday they can't insert the words "UTEP Miners" after that question mark.
Chad Middleton, also the producer for 600 ESPN El Paso's SportsTalk, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can follow him on Twitter at @chad600espn. Make sure to follow Miner Illustrated on Twitter at @minermaniac for more up-to-date news and information about UTEP.