Last Week's Column

Crystal ball says Miners on right track to bowl


With UTEP having this weekend off I thought it would be a good idea to get an assessment from my crystal ball on how the Miners’ football season is going. I took the orb out of its drawer, held my nose and put the question to it.

“My, my,” it said in its usual obnoxious tone, “here you are again. Now what?”

I kept my cool. “Well,” I said, “how do you think the Miners will do the rest of this football season?”

It shook its head and said, “Didn’t I tell you at the start of the season they could win six games and get to a bowl? You didn’t believe that Sports Illustrated article that said the Miners would win 10 games and sweep Conference USA, did you? Not even you are that dumb.”


I WAS READY to explode but held my temper. “Go on,” I said.

The crystal ball straightened up with a haughty look and said, “Things never go exactly as one expects but my prediction is still on track. I thought the Miners would go into conference play 2-2 and they should have. They would have beaten Buffalo if those $##@#$ referees hadn’t stolen the game from them.

“I said that then the Miners would win at least four more games after that to become bowl eligible. I thought they would lose to Houston and beat Memphis and it turned out the other way around but the outcome was the same so far as the standings are concerned. Now all they have to do is win four of their remaining six games to go to a bowl. Can they do it? Sure they can if they ever learn how to catch a ball and their coaches get on the ball.”


IT CLEARED its throat and went on. “The Miners have a good running game and quarterback Trevor Vittatoe is looking good again. Quarterbacks get too much credit when a team wins and too much blame when a team loses. There’s a lot more to passing than throwing a ball. Receivers have to run the right patterns and catch the ball. And coaches have to call good plays. So often coaches come up with bad game plans or lousy decisions in crucial situations. I won’t even mention forgoing field goals, passing instead of running and vice versa, etc.

“A lot of what’s happened to Vittatoe has happened to what’s his name with El Paso’s other favorite team, the Dallas Cowboys. Oh, yeah, Tony Romo. Receivers run wrong patterns, drop the ball, coaches call bad plays and Vittatoe and Romo get blamed. Like one of my fans, Alton Setliff, says, the Dallas coaches have practically ruined Romo by killing his freewheeling ways and trying to make something of him he isn’t.


“BUT GETTING back to the Miners, the game against Tulsa this coming Wednesday is a big one. If they beat Tulsa Wednesday, and they certainly can, they’ll be in great shape. The schedule has been horrible for them, having to play undefeated Texas and undefeated Kansas. Buffalo was tougher than anyone thought and Memphis was too big for them. The remaining teams are more in their category. Besides Tulsa, they’re Alabama at Birmingham, Tulane, SMU, Rice and Marshall. The Miners have the talent to beat all of them. Just give the ball to Donald Buckram, catch Vittatoe’s passes, have the coaches call good plays and you can make your reservation to a bowl.”


MY CRYSTAL ball is not only obnoxious, always bragging or making excuses, it’s also lazy. “Now, can I go back to bed?” it asked. “You’re a slave driver. I need my rest.”

I shook my head, picked it up and shoved it back in its drawer.

But I must admit it left me feeling a lot better about the future of the Miners this year.


Veteran sports journalist and author Ray Sanchez welcomes suggestions for his column. Contact him at (915) 584-0626, by e-mail at or online at