Petrino eyes first win against mentor Price

One of Bobby Petrino’s first college coaching jobs was under

Mike Price.

The two have also coached against each other three times, all

when Price was the head coach at Washington State and Petrino a

rising young assistant coach with a knack for teaching offense and

quarterbacks.

Price has yet to lose to his former pupil, though the Texas-El

Paso coach fully expects the toughest test of that to be Saturday,

when the Miners (6-4, 3-4 Conference USA) take the field at No. 14

Arkansas.

The Razorbacks (7-2, 4-2 Southeastern Conference) are on a

three-game winning streak, having won at South Carolina last week.

Led by quarterback Ryan Mallett, Arkansas is second in the country

in passing offense at 353.9 yards per game.

”That was a big game, but every game to us is a big game now,”

Mallett said. ”We’re desperate to win. We have been for 3-4 weeks

now.”

It’s an offense Price knows well, having hired Petrino two times

at Weber State. The first time was when Petrino has a graduate

assistant and quarterbacks coach in 1984, and the second was from

1987-88 when Petrino coached wide receivers.

”They’d have trouble against the New York Jets or the New York

Giants,” Price said. ”They might have a chance against the

Jets.

”They are really, really a good college football team.”

As much praise as Price offered toward Petrino, going as far as

to say his son called Petrino the best coach he’s ever been around,

the Arkansas coach reciprocated nearly as much in return.

”He taught me a lot about quarterback play,” Petrino said of

Price. ”He was really the first guy. When I grew up, we ran the

option and got beat up a bunch. He was the guy that was a big part

of throwing the football in the western part of the United

States.”

The Miners started the season 5-1 before a three-game losing

streak in October dampened any hopes of contending for a conference

title. They did, however, rebound with a 28-14 win against Southern

Methodist last week, becoming bowl-eligible for the first time in

five years. It’s only the seventh time in the last 40 years that

UTEP has won six or more games.

That early success has kept Arkansas mindful of the Miners’

ability, as well as the overall importance of Saturday’s game. The

Razorbacks still have conference games at Mississippi State and in

Little Rock against LSU, and if they and Auburn were to win out,

there is still a chance they could earn an at-large BCS bowl

berth.

Petrino said the late-season nonconference game comes at a good

time for Arkansas, which is playing its sixth straight week after a

loss to then No. 1 Alabama on Sept. 25. The Razorbacks have won

four of five during that stretch, with their only other loss this

season coming at Auburn on Oct. 16.

”The league games are so intense and we’ve had a good grind

ahead of us,” Petrino said. ”It challenges you a little bit, too.

It challenges you to have maturity in your preparation, have

leadership within the team and stay focused like you always

do.”