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Jay Drew
Jay covers BYU athletics for The Salt Lake Tribune. You can follow him on Twitter @drewjay.

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UTEP coach takes playful jab at BYU players' ages

It was only a matter of time before UTEP football coach Mike Price, who spent a lot of time in Utah as Weber State's coach from 1981-88, took a good-natured jab at some of BYU's idiosyncrasies. When he was at Washington State and his team was preparing to play BYU, Price once had a pair of students dress up like LDS Church missionaries and pretend they were spying on WSU's practices as a way to motivate his team.

The colorful coach had this line the other day, as reported by the El Paso Times: "Their offensive line is 6-foot-6, 315 [pounds] across the board, average age 32, four kids."

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Of course, because many BYU players serve two-year church missions, the team's average age is usually higher than its opponents.

Ironically, that may be different against UTEP -- at least among the players who will see the field on Saturday.

The Miners have 26 seniors who will be playing in their final games, while the Cougars have only eight seniors who play: receiver Luke Ashworth, offensive lineman Jason Speredon, defensive end Vic So'oto, linebacker Shane Hunter, cornerbacks Brian Logan and Brandon Bradley, safety Andrew Rich and kicker Mitch Payne.

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Here are my offerings in today's newspaper on the New Mexico Bowl:

* A look at the improvement of freshman quarterback Jake Heaps, and how much confidence coaches and teammates now have in him to lead the team.

* A notebook with various odds and ends, including BYU's agreement to play in the 2013 Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco, and quarterbacks coach Brandon Doman's thoughts about his future.

Here's columnist Kurt Kragthorpe's warning that past winners of the New Mexico Bowl haven't fared well the following season(s).

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Couldn't get in a lot of what Heaps had to say last week when I interviewed him for the aforementioned story.

Here's more:

On what it has been like for him the past few weeks since the Utah game:

"It has been really good. The guys are focused. It was a tough loss, coming off the Utah game. Utah is a great team, and they battled all the way through to the end, and it was a great game all the way around.

We are proud of ourselves, but obviously we would have liked for the outcome to be different. But I am really proud of our guys, the way we regrouped and refocused and have prepared for this bowl game."

On how much he is looking forward to playing in a bowl game:

"It's my first bowl game, it is an opportunity to go out there and experience what a bowl game is all about. Especially with the way we started off the season, it is great. To get to a bowl game is phenomenal, and we are excited to play in New Mexico."

On whether a bowl win would make it a successful season:

"Yeah. It definitely would. Obviously, our record would be 7-6 and not 6-7, so we would have a winning record. To us, it would be a huge accomplishment after the way we started the season. I am just so proud of our guys, for the way we have battled through adversity, and the way we have come together as a team."

On how he would describe the season so far:

"I guess you could say it is a rollercoaster ride. But it has been very rewarding. We really struggled at the beginning, but it has been really rewarding to see our guys come together, mesh like we have, and see how strong of a unit we really are. It has been so rewarding to see that, and we have a young team.

Hopefully we can send our seniors off on a right note, and get some more momentum that we can carry into the offseason."

On whether the Utah environment surprised him:

"It was what I expected. Obviously, I expected a lot. I expected it to be a great environment. I expected the fans to get after us and to really make it a fun game. And they really did. It was a really fun environment, and it doesn't get any better than that, playing Utah. For us it is just a great rivalry game."

On the improvement of the freshmen:

"I think all the freshmen have really stepped up. As the season has progressed, we have all progressed as it has gone along. We are getting more and more confidence. I am proud of all these guys for coming in and stepping up. It is not easy. A lot has been demanded of us right from the get-go. They've all handled it well, and I am really proud of them."



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