Until their second game, when they got waylaid by Houston 54-24. Buckram, who buried the then-No. 12 Cougars with 262 yards and four touchdowns in '09, was out with a knee injury.
Buckram has played four games, gaining 225 yards on the ground. His backup, Joe Banyard, has 395 with five touchdowns. Those two, alternate quarterback James Thomas II and others, combined to run for 184 yards against Tulane on just 31 attempts.
"I was pleased with the running game," coach Mike Price said at his press conference in El Paso. "If we had the ball more in the fourth quarter we would have run it more. . . . Buckram is back to where he was at one point, and Banyard has been tremendous all year. We can still use the running offense the rest of the year."
Vittatoe has thrown all but 10 of the Miners' 277 passes, completing 54.7 percent for 1,848 yards and 15 touchdowns, with seven interceptions. He now has 11,531 yards for his career, passing Cincinnati's Gino Guidugli for fourth place on the C-USA list.
But he is having his own injury problems, which may help explain his 102-yard performance against Tulane. That is no small issue this week.
"He has to practice more than he did last week. I'm not going to hold him back," Price said. "He suffered another ankle sprain . . . and we're going to get that X-rayed today. If practice is closed this week, you'll probably know his ankle isn't too good."
As prolific as Vittatoe has been, he has yet to experience a break-even season. But that's not all his fault - it's tough to keep up with a porous defense.
The Miners haven't held opponents below 30 points a game since 2005. They have held four teams under 300 total yards this season - but as illustrated, those teams weren't very good. Against UAB and Tulane, the Miners have yielded 515 rushing yards, 961 total.
A few key plays held the Miners back against Tulane, including a penalty that negated a Marlon McClure punt return, Vittatoe's third-quarter fumble and an interception in the fourth quarter.
Yes, the Miners are frustrated, but Price thinks they can channel that into a winning effort against Marshall. With that probably comes their first bowl appearance since 2005.
"We're 5-3, and our players don't have to be reminded that six comes after five," Price said. "There's nobody that thinks we don't have a chance to beat [Marshall]."
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130 or dougsm...@wvgazette.com.