Tulsa hopes to end another losing streak with win over UTEP

Updated: October 31, 2003, 11:38 AM ET

TULSA, Okla. -- Tulsa's victory over Texas El-Paso last year ended what was then the longest losing streak in the nation.

The Golden Hurricane bring another kind of 17-game streak to El Paso Saturday -- a string of consecutive road losses. They hope the Miners will oblige them again.

Tulsa hasn't won away from Skelly Stadium since defeating Hawaii 24-14 on Sept. 30, 2000. This year Tulsa has dropped road games to Arkansas, Boise State and Minnesota.

"The bottom line is, to get this program where we want it to be, we have to win on the road," Tulsa coach Steve Kragthorpe said.

A victory would be another notch for Kragthorpe in his nascent rebuilding job. Already, the Golden Hurricane (4-4, 2-2 Western Athletic Conference) have quadrupled their win total from last season.

Beating UTEP (2-6, 1-2) would also make Tulsa one win away from qualifying for a bowl, although it's likely Tulsa will have to win more than six games to continue playing in December.

"They're the most improved football team in our conference, if not in the country," Miners coach Gary Nord said. "Steve has done a great job with them.

"They played Boise (State) as well as anybody has played them this year. They had a chance to beat Nevada in the fourth quarter," Nord said.

UTEP is improving, too, after getting blown out in its first four games, including a 34-13 trouncing from Division I-AA Cal Poly. The Miners beat Sam Houston and won at Southern Methodist before losing a tight one to Louisiana Tech and avoiding a blowout at Hawaii.

UTEP has surpassed 200 yards rushing in each of the last four games, allowing freshman quarterback Jordan Palmer an easier time as he learns the college game.

Palmer, the brother of Heisman Trophy winner Carson Palmer, is also healthy again after missing two games with a hairline fracture in his shin and hurting his arm last week.

"The kids have settled down," Nord said. "Each week we're starting to get a little better. We're starting to run the ball and keep the pressure off the young quarterback."

The game will also be the first Tulsa, which has decided to bolt the WAC for Conference USA, will play against a team that's staying in the depleted league.

Kragthorpe doesn't expect that to add any extra motivation for the Miners.

"As far as I know I'm still playing in the WAC," he said. "That's how I approach it."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index