Listen quietly to Mike Price's press conference and you can hear it, faint but firm.

Tick-tick-tick.

In the movies, hearing a clock is a call to action, a sure sign there is a bomb to be defused. But here's a twist for you -- what if the audience wanted the bomb to go off?

What if, instead of the sweat-drenched hero breathlessly deciding to Cut The Red Wire, the movie had already run way too long and, as good a guy as the hero is, everyone was just uncomfortable with him still being around?

You get that sense in El Paso these days when it comes to Mike Price. The announced attendance of 25,483 at the Sun Bowl for UTEP's 31-24 loss to UCF was a cruel joke. At most it was one-third that number.

There is no nervous anticipation of how the hero can pull off the escape. All the drama bled out in the second act. There is no escape from 2-and-8.

Even at Price's press conference Monday there was a sense of everyone keeping up the smiles in the face of a bad medical diagnosis.

Price's smiles were the biggest of all -- they always are. In great contrast to Gary Nord, who looked a wreck near the end, Price still enjoys the company, even if it is the press corps. It has to eat at him, though, knowing his UTEP career will finish with a seventh-straight losing season. Nothing some fly-fishing along the Lochsa River won't handle.

While he's there he won't be pondering the fact that, in the modern era of college football, there has been only one UTEP coach who has moved directly to another head coaching job -- his boss, Director of Athletics Bob Stull.

Mike Price cut the wrong wire. But here's a double-twist for you -- at UTEP, they're all the wrong wire.

Roll the credits already.